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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


Travel With Greenpeace: Oil Rig Climbing in Greenland

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Greenpeace, Greenland, oil drilling, environmental activism, energy, air and water, environment, Keith Goetzman,

Greenpeace is at it again, getting in the way of what some would call progress: Yesterday, four daring and well-trained Greenpeace activists climbed and occupied an oil rig in Greenland’s Baffin Bay to halt exploratory drilling by Cairn Energy, Environment News Service reports. If they hold out long enough, they may disrupt drilling plans for another year.

I recently tipped Utne.com readers to a commentary by Icelander Miriam Rose on the rush to extract resource riches from Greenland. But Greenpeace’s action shows that not everyone is willing to sit by and watch it happen. Greenpeace and other environmental groups contend that drilling in Baffin Bay is particularly risky because of its northern clime and sensitive ecosystem.

The protesters had been at the scene for days, staying outside a perimeter guarded by the Danish military. (Greenland is an autonomous state under the Danish crown.) They evaded the Danish military in a crafty predawn move on the rig, speeding to it in inflatable boats and quickly scaling to suspended climbing platforms. I know that more and more people are doing good green works on adventurous eco-vacations, but these guys take the cake. Here’s a video report from Sim McKenna, a U.S. Greenpeace activist who’s spending his “holiday” dangling from a rig over choppy ocean waters:

UPDATE 9/2/2010: The activists were forced to end their occupation by “harsh arctic weather conditions” after about 40 hours. “We stopped this rig drilling for oil for two days, but in the end the Arctic weather beat us,” McKenna said in a statement via satellite phone from the rig before being arrested. “Last night was freezing and now the sea below us is churning and the wind is roaring. It’s time to come down, but we’re proud we slowed the mad rush for Arctic oil, if only for a couple of days.” Soon after this news was reported, an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, located just west of the recent Deepwater Horizon spill site, exploded.

Source: Environment News Service, Greenpeace