Greenpeace vs. Shell Oil: the Portland edition
July 30, 2015 1:38 PM   Subscribe

A standoff between Greenpeace and Shell Oil is happening right now high above the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. Yesterday, using mountaineering equipment, thirteen protestors lowered themselves down from the magestically large St. Johns Bridge in a bid to prevent the passage of Shell's icebreaking ship MSV Fennica, which had been undergoing repairs in Portland and was scheduled to depart to assist Shell's oil drilling activities in the Arctic. The protesters have supplies to stay awhile. For now, the ship has turned around and a judge has ruled that Greenpeace will be charged $2500 for every hour the protest continues.
posted by lisa g (91 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
[A few comments deleted - let's rewind and start off without an instant derail.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:00 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm on my phone, but a bunch of the hangers did a reddit AMA a day or two ago, if someone wants to link to it.
posted by andoatnp at 2:00 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not particularly given to one side or another's arguments, but do note with an ironic smile that the boat, when finally getting past the blockage will make up for lost time by burning more oil.

Blocking access is a particularly obnoxious form of protest. And the same juxtaposition as defending free speech, ie. the person whose rights you defend may be belligerent and hold vile ideas, in spite of that they speech is worth defending, same with blocking access, once your decide to block access to anything, you automatically waive my possible support.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:03 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here is the danglers' Reddit AMA.

Also: The bridge activists are being supported by a flotilla of "kayaktavists" in the water below. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, representing Oregon, writes today that "It's Time for Shell to Abandon Its Irresponsible Arctic Drilling Plans." Up in Alaska, KUCB reporter John Ryan notes that Shell has a short time frame until late September to use the Fennica, which is carrying a piece of equipment required for Shell to have federal permission to drill into oil-bearing layers of rock.
posted by lisa g at 2:04 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just like Greenpeace to attract a bunch of hanger-ons.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


I think this is likely to be completely fruitless, but I am so filled with despair about the fact that anyone could look at the near complete loss of summer ice in the Arctic due to climate change and think "Oh good, we can drill for more oil" rather than "Holy shit, we are fucked, put the oil back in the ground." I don't think this will accomplish anything, but I totally understand why people will try anything at this point.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2015 [60 favorites]


The comments on any news article are, of course, not enlightening. However, I would like to salute commenter "Amerikkka_Conservative" for the phrase "Hippie Wind Chimes". I did chuckle.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:10 PM on July 30, 2015 [32 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan of Greenpeace, typically. I disagree with some of their politics, and most certainly some of their more extreme tactics and missteps.

That said, I have a whole hell of alot of admiration and respect for the individuals who are dangling from a bridge to stop things from getting worse. That shits crazy, and I'm glad that they're doing a crazy, nonviolent thing for those of us who aren't able or can't

I think this is likely to be completely fruitless […]

I was thinking the same thing…but even living here in town, I had no idea that particular boat was docked here, or what was going on. Its bringing quite a bit of national coverage to the issue, and they're doing it (IMO) in a really attractive way. I mean, they look like little christmas ornaments or something hanging up there.

Its quite a picture, and tomorrow morning, if they're still up there, I'll be taking my young son down to see it. And I'll try, in my best most patient way, to explain to him why on earth those brave motherfuckers feel the need to strap themselves from such heights and stop such big boats from causing so much damage. Then we'll read the Lorax over and over and over again.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:10 PM on July 30, 2015 [67 favorites]


I don't think this will accomplish anything, but I totally understand why people will try anything at this point.

I agree that it won't significantly affect the amount of oil that gets extracted in this particular case, but I always see value in people bringing media attention to these issues, normalizing protest actions, inspiring future activists, and putting the spotlight on harmful activities. Seeing something like this makes me feel like I need to be doing more politically to combat ecological destruction - I find it inspiring. If nothing else, this has been quite effective at getting people to talk about Arctic oil drilling (or even to consider it at all). I don't think protest will solve our ecological problems, but it's still an improvement over just not thinking about those problems at all, which is the usual status quo (at least for the media).
posted by dialetheia at 2:17 PM on July 30, 2015 [36 favorites]


Delays really seem to impact Arctic drilling, though - it's tricky, the weather's rough, a lot of stuff can go wrong. "Maybe we can delay this boat for a while and it won't arrive in time to start by the last possible date, and that will buy us another year to organize" isn't a totally ridiculous premise. I'm not generally much on blockades because I've seen them get cleared away too often, but a short term one with a simple goal doesn't sound like the world's worst idea.
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2015 [40 favorites]


Unfortunately for this effort the powers that be are very serious about keeping the waterways functional. By statute the movement of shipping often has complete priority over traffic or any other bridge usage. There is little that will prevent a functional draw bridge from shutting down a city if a raising is scheduled, for example.

Good that they're making headlines but it's not going to stop a ship canal for long.

Now if they do prevent it for a year the rising sea may prevent anything big getting under that fixed bridge.
posted by sammyo at 2:31 PM on July 30, 2015


a judge has ruled that Greenpeace will be charged $2500 for every hour the protest continues

What can we even say to this?

A small and elite group of sociopaths is willing to destroy life on this planet for their own personal gain. They'll stand by and watch billions of humans suffer and die and millions of species go extinct forever if it means they can make some more money selling oil while it happens.

They should be tried for crimes against humanity, but instead, the legal priorities of our times mean that the only people who will be punished are the people trying to stop them.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2015 [82 favorites]


~a judge has ruled that Greenpeace will be charged $2500 for every hour the protest continues

~What can we even say to this?


I suppose we could ask the judge how cozy and warm Shell's pocket is?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:42 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have super mixed feelings about this. I want to cackle with glee and go give a bunch of money to Greenpeace, but it's not going to stop the drilling this summer.

First of all, they're not going to stop drilling. Both rigs Shell is using this summer - the Noble Discoverer and the Transocean Polar Pioneer - are, according to Rigzone, onsite and drilling (1, 2). (Or, at least, setting up for drilling operations as I note there's no current water depth yet.) Also all of the support vessels are there including 1 other icebreaker (the Fennica was 1 of 2).

Second of all, by delaying the icebreaker they are also delaying an important piece of safety equipment, the capping stack. While Shell cannot drill into into any oil/gas strata until they have it, they certainly can drill as far as they can, which they have to anyway, and in the meantime if necessary I guarantee a whole team of people are going to figure out how to get the capping stack onsite. I've seen oil companies blow $50,000 to airdrop a $10.00 part on a rigsite - this is a multibillion project that's already undergone substantial delays, they're going to figure out how to get the capping stack there. If anything stops it from getting there, it will be the oil industry itself due to the massive number of layoffs in the last 9 months - it may turn out they don't have the brain and/or man power to get this done. (This is Shell's very bad day as they also announced they are cutting 6500 jobs*. Also I'm kind of wondering how the capping stack ended up on this particular vessel - was that a calculated move to prevent something like this or as a proactive PR move?)

I hate the idea of safety equipment being delayed for 2 reasons: 1) It's fucking safety equipment. That's not just the environment being put at risk, it's also people's lives. And 2) It may cause a temporary cap being put on the well. I hate temp caps - it can result in unusual pressure situations, which are dangerous. Unusual/un-predicted pressure situations can result in blow outs and dangerous pressure drops, and this is a true exploration environment in which there is much to be learned. (The obvious reply - so don't fucking drill there - is not at the moment the situation, although obviously the Greenpeace protesters are trying to change that.) So delaying the boat, which on the surface seems kind of senseless and also dangerous, kind of angers me** despite my desire to cackle with glee.

But as dialetheia said, the attention is super important, and I prefer activity there in a populated area instead of trying to protest in the frigid waters of Alaska, where people could get hurt/dead a lot more easily and there isn't the population to give it a lot of attention. So I'm glad this is happening now in Portland instead of a bunch of kayactivists in Dutch Harbor. I really, really hope Shell hasn't sunk any pipe yet and this gives people the chance to organize some better things as Frowner brought up, but it's highly probable that Shell'll get the well(s) at least partially started.

*Alas, most of my contacts that would let me know exactly what the state of drilling is are no longer in their positions.
**But really, Obama opening things back up and granting the conditional approval this year is the true source of my anger.
posted by barchan at 2:54 PM on July 30, 2015 [27 favorites]


The drilling rig Polar Pioneer was slightly delayed by protestors last month in Seattle, and is already gone north.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:01 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If Shell chooses to put lives and the environment at elevated and unnecessary risk by proceeding without essential safety equipment, that's on Shell, not on Greenpeace.
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2015 [32 favorites]


I heard about this on a local bike-related listserv because for a while the police were blocking ALL bike/ped traffic across the bridge. It's the only bridge in that part of town - a serious inconvenience for people who use active transportation because the police didn't know the law. Automobile-normative thinking. Fortunately, that has all been sorted out and there's now access on one side of the bridge.

Me and my partner will take our kayak out tomorrow if they're still going, and hopefully give some kayaktivists a shore break.

They picked a fantastic bridge for a protest. The St. Johns bridge is extremely photogenic - very popular with photographers and souvenirs. Think "I [bridge] St. Johns" on the shirt of every third person in the neighborhood. The protesters are out there changing the world in a beautiful way. And they're doing it with nothing more than ropes and human-powered boats. It is a sight that warms my squishy heart.
posted by aniola at 3:07 PM on July 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


You're exactly right, Vulgar Euphemism. I should have mentioned that. However, they are legally allowed to do so; in our minds the difference may be clear, but that doesn't mean it gets murky from a publicity standpoint, and in this extremely polarized environment, an incident could blow back the wrong way toward the protesters.
posted by barchan at 3:13 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yesterday it took about 25 minutes to get from my house and over the bridge—it usually takes about 4. There were police cars blocking lanes on both sides of the bridge, which caused the usual problems with drivers merging lanes. Turns out that St Johns Bridge is really bouncy and it was pretty disconcerting being stuck on the thing and bouncing up and down.

Today was a different story: there were still police cars in lanes on either side of the bridge but there were no delays at all. Which was nice.
posted by TheDonF at 3:18 PM on July 30, 2015


A small and elite group of sociopaths is willing to destroy life on this planet for their own personal gain.

It is a public traded stock. Do you have a Vanguard 401K? There are millions of people participating in the small elite group psychopaths. 3.83 billions shares are out there in the global economy being passed around.
posted by bukvich at 3:19 PM on July 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


Good that they're making headlines but it's not going to stop a ship canal for long.

I donno, the Port of Portland has been having some serious problems lately, and traffic coming in and out is waaaaaay down. They really don't have as much supremacy as they once did. Yeah, they get the right of way when boats do come cruising through, but that has not been happening on the regular lately. But even a few years ago things were much busier here in town. I can imagine more action being taken against both Greenpeace and the actual protesters, but that pressure can't really come from Hapag-Lloyd or Hanjin anymore. Those are two big voices out there, that could apply some serious pressure, but they both pulled out of PoP this last year.

I mean, its not nothing, but the PoP isn't really the political heavyweight it once was, and its been dropping balls left and right…not really sure how much political capital they have to spend in this town right now. Their PR is baseline bad, and getting this situation resolved to their favor would piss off quite a few people in this town.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:25 PM on July 30, 2015


Also, the protesters are letting other boat traffic through; so while and inconvenience for shippers…i mean, it hasn't changed our scheduled imports over the past couple days at all.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:25 PM on July 30, 2015


a judge has ruled that Greenpeace will be charged $2500 for every hour the protest continues

What can we even say to this?


"The protesters are sure lucky the judge ruled for a fine rather than that their lines should be cut".
posted by sideshow at 3:29 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Props to the police for saying they won't disrupt the blockade.
posted by aniola at 3:31 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


They're gonna hang for this.
posted by Kabanos at 3:34 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ugh, Shell. There's a whole coalition of environmental orgs fighting this -- organizing, protesting, lobbying, the works. If you don't like Greenpeace, give to the Sierra Club or another similar org to support the work (and all the other work they do, of course).
posted by Ragini at 3:35 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


A small and elite group of sociopaths is willing to destroy life on this planet for their own personal gain.
Drivers?
posted by klanawa at 3:36 PM on July 30, 2015 [24 favorites]


Props to the police for saying they won't disrupt the blockade.


Looks like the Coast Guard and police are going to now, though.

U.S. Coast Guard: Police Will Remove Protesters Hanging from St. Johns Bridge
posted by Tiye at 3:37 PM on July 30, 2015


From someone on the side of the river (auto-play video/audio)

Current live stream of removal of protesters
posted by Tiye at 3:41 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Needs Pied Piper compression algorithms.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:47 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder what Greenpeace will do if the largest oil by rail terminal in the U.S. is built in Vancouver. I can't wait to find out.
posted by shenkerism at 4:03 PM on July 30, 2015


It's in the Coast Guard's mission statement:
The U.S. Coast Guard's mission is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests — in the nation's ports and waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.

It's right there. Right next to the bit about U.S. economic interests: the public; the environment. There's hetero-normativity, automobile-normativity, and there's this. They're making the wrong decision, like the police did when they didn't realize they should be keeping the bridge open for all people, not just the ones in cars. What they're doing - stopping this protest - it may be normalized, but it is not ok.
posted by aniola at 4:16 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


What they're doing - stopping this protest - it may be normalized, but it is not ok

The Coast Guard's mission is also to provide for navigational safety. And you're not going to get them to allow protestors to shut down a major waterway by appealing to the environmental virtuousness of the cause: that direction has to come from way higher up the chain of command than the local guys at the Coast Guard station in Portland.
posted by suelac at 4:32 PM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Utter brilliance by authorities to shut down a major bridge right as rush hour kicks off on a 100+ degree day.

Almost poetic, really.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:49 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


This leaves me with some questions of law here. Perhaps there's a lawyer around?

1) They're being held in civil contempt by a district court in Anchorage. But the incident is occurring in Portland, hanging from an Oregon DOT-owned bridge, and the parties in question are Shell Offshore, a Delaware corporation, and Greenpeace, Inc., a California corporation. So what happened there? It looks like Shell venue shopped for an agreeable court. Does that just... work? Is there a reason why it's supposed to work that way? Will the fine stick, or will the judge back away from the contempt order when this is over?

2) The order (here) more or less implies that the court didn't imagine the situation would drag on much past Saturday, because it's written like, "I'm going to count to three, and if you don't comply, I'm gonna come over there." That either it would resolve, or they'd all go back to court on Sunday. But let's pretend they don't. There are all sorts of rulings on reasonable limits to incarceration for civil contempt, right? Something like, no reasonable possibility of compliance after 30 days? Does that apply here? Let's say the order doesn't get amended by the court, and they just keep going for 30 days. Does the current situation basically max out at $6.6 million dollars in fines? And then what? I suspect Greenpeace could raise $6.6 million dollars.

3) I saw a law textbook that pointed out that civil contempt and criminal contempt are substantially different, and civil contempt doesn't offer the contemnor (new vocabulary word for me) the same criminal protections like protection from being punished twice for the same offense or right to a trial or cross examination of witnesses. Also, it seems like this precludes the issuance of a bench warrant which would cause the US Marshals to go pick the protestors up, right? But then they'd "get their day in court." So is the current situation basically legally engineered to coerce them to leave, punish them in a way that they're defenseless from, and still ensure that they can't appear in court and call, say, Shell as a witness where their attorney could conceivably throw a real punch?

4) I recall that in San Francisco, people who illegally climb the Golden Gate Bridge (happens all the time) get charged with misdemeanor trespassing, and they get a really nasty scolding by a judge. But it's not really a big deal. Ultimately, is that kind of how this ends for the protesters themselves also? How serious is the crime here?

This is all pretty academic, as the Governor just authorized the USCG to close the bridge and the State Police to move in to support them. I guess they're going to try to pull the protesters back up. I suppose there are more questions like what obligation the Coast Guard has to guarantee the safety of the protesters who aren't in any serious danger while they're in control of their own lines, but probably will be by being taken by force. But probably they'll be okay.

It's just curious to me, because the legal move Shell pulled off seems like it was tailor-made to favor them only. Is that a new trend, or has the court system been shaped to favor them this way for some time? Or are there a ton of missing pieces that a layman can't see that make this a pretty fair situation?
posted by kochbeck at 4:55 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


once your decide to block access to anything, you automatically waive my possible support.

This is a silly position. People and entities block access to things so frequently that it's trivial.
posted by threeants at 5:37 PM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Weirdly I was at the Shell UA office on Monday and no-one was talking about this at all. I mean it didn't even get mentioned that they had two rigs drilling/about to drill up there. Very odd. Of course, when I go back next week I'll probably have to talk to my friends on the janitorial staff to find out what's going on
There'll be no-one else there ...
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:55 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you look at the order, it is Docket No. 190, which means that 189 other documents were filed before this order. All of these filings have happened since the start of the case on April 7, 2015. Among the arguments you can see posted on PACER (the electronic system that allows access to federal court filings) seems to have been one about jurisdiction. Point being, both sides seem to have been arguing hard and fast multiple issues and the bottom line is that this Federal judge ruled at least preliminarily against Greenpeace. Greenpeace decided to ignore the rulings while also seeking an appeal to the 9th Circuit.

They are now being fined as being in contempt, which is pretty common for disobeying even bad orders up for appeal. We might weigh these decisions based on the backdrop of the case and the court might be wrong on the legal merits, but don't start hating on the judge unless you want to read all 190 of the entries, research all the legal issues raised, and find them flawed based on solid legal training. The judge's job is to apply the law, good or bad, although where a judge had discretion (like on contempt amounts, most likely) judge the judge. Does it help to know that this judge was appointed by Obama, works to help public radio, the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault? (read her Senate nomination Questionnaire)

It's entirely possible that the law really is against Greenpeace on this and they've decided to say screw it, the system is just broken. Not the first or last time the law needed changing.

This is in keeping with the fine tradition of civil disobedience which has consequences, usually good for society, bad for the individuals engaging in the disobedience. If you don't care about the law and find what Greenpeace is doing to be a good thing, best thing you can do is raise awareness and donate money.
posted by Muddler at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well, the boat just made it under the bridge.
posted by Secretariat at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2015


I drove from NW Portland towards the bridge at about 4:00 to see what I could see - a distance of maybe three miles. The round trip took two hours - all the surface streets in this neighborhood are literally choked with traffic. I assume that a lot of this has to do with the protest and the bridge closure.
posted by bendy at 5:59 PM on July 30, 2015


It's entirely possible that the law really is against Greenpeace on this and they've decided to say screw it, the system is just broken. Not the first or last time the law needed changing.

Grassroots political activism? It's so hard! It takes work because not everyone agrees with you and needs convincing, everyone still gets a say and it takes years of dedicated, grueling work that may not even pay off in the end.

Symbolic stunts are just so much easier! You go there, do your shit, get arrested, pay the fine and move on to the next one! No muss, no fuss, no progress to keep track of or even get disappointed by the lack of. What you do for the issue at hand is effectively completely and utterly redundant.
posted by Talez at 6:08 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


once your decide to block access to anything, you automatically waive my possible support.

Right? It was bad enough having to stand on the bus, but then I got to the lunch counter...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:13 PM on July 30, 2015 [31 favorites]


^^^^^Fuck yeah, ChurchHatesTucker!
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:24 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


If they want to stop drilling in the arctic they should be blocking the cars on the bridge not the icebreaker going under it.
posted by humanfont at 6:25 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know what was up with the paraglider this morning?
posted by fiercekitten at 6:27 PM on July 30, 2015


I admire how beautiful the banners were yesterday. I went around the long way this morning when the bridge was closed earlier so I didn't see them today. I am currently camped out across the river from my house. I could go around, and eventually probably will, but all the other crossings are super messed up, so I am hanging tight eating Chinese food and drinking beer in a (the?) Linnton bar. Things got a little chippy in here when an unqualified-green peace supporter got rather patronizing towards some other patrons as we all watched the coverage. The coast-guard vs kayaker steer roping was very popular entertainment here.
posted by janell at 6:28 PM on July 30, 2015


I consider myself to be an environmentalist but stopping drilling in the arctic is not really the same thing as the struggle to treat black people like human beings.

There are actually very few parallels between the two movements.
posted by Avenger at 6:33 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


If they want to stop drilling in the arctic they should be blocking the cars on the bridge not the icebreaker going under it.

I look at France's CO2 per capita numbers and think "you fucking idiots you sold us out thirty years ago acting as unwitting pawns for fossil fuel companies". But stunts are much more fun than productive and incremental change.
posted by Talez at 6:36 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]




.
posted by lester at 7:05 PM on July 30, 2015


If they want to stop drilling in the arctic they should be blocking the cars on the bridge not the icebreaker going under it.

Oil drilling is really a demand problem -- lower demand enough and high-cost drilling (like in the arctic) will end. The comment above where someone spent two hours driving three miles to the bridge in order to see the protest underlines this -- our dedication to burning fossil fuels is so intense that no number of photogenic protestors hanging from bridges is going to make an impact.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:20 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are actually very few parallels between the two movements.

Which is a damn shame, because when sea levels rise and Hurricane Katrina and Sandy-level storms become yearly events, it's going to be communities of color most disproportionately affected. The environmental justice movement is what, I hope, will help bridge these two very intersectional struggles.
posted by mostly vowels at 7:30 PM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Grassroots political activism? It's so hard! It takes work because not everyone agrees with you and needs convincing, everyone still gets a say and it takes years of dedicated, grueling work that may not even pay off in the end.

Symbolic stunts are just so much easier! You go there, do your shit, get arrested, pay the fine and move on to the next one! No muss, no fuss, no progress to keep track of or even get disappointed by the lack of. What you do for the issue at hand is effectively completely and utterly redundant.


It's a false dichotomy. Symbolic stunts can have a symbiotic relationship with broader streams of activism. Women chained themselves to the White House fence back in the 20's - this did not bring legal challenges, door-to-door canvassing and speeches in support of sufferage to a crashing halt. Most of the great moments of the Civil Rights Movement were, in point of fact, symbolic stunts. What, you think that a million black people marched on Washington DC because they said oh, we'd like to walk somewhere, y'know, let's just throw a dart at a map? Symbols have power.

I forget what thread it was in - I thought it was the Bernie Sanders one from a week ago, but couldn't find the quote - but people on the Blue have pointed out that this sort of thing doesn't happen because, oh, people just decided they were bored. There was planning that went into this, including, presumably, people sitting in a room asking each other, "will this set back the movement as a whole? What are the potential unintended consequences?" There's a weird tendency to forget (perhaps conveniently) that most of the people involved in this sort of thing are professionals working off a plan. They're not just waking up one morning and decided to lower themselves off a bridge.

I doubt they'll seriously inconvenience Shell. But it might well spark a national conversation about this, which is a useful thing, especially as election season is heating up. What will Hillary, Bernie, and the Foaming Idiot Clown Brigade say about this? What pressure can be put on them? What facts can be thrown up for the citizenry as a whole to look at while the spotlight is on this issue?
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:36 PM on July 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


Well that sucks that the boat kept on going, but those folks hanging from that bridge were valiant eco-warriors, and I am proud to be from Portland on this day.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:40 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oil drilling is really a demand problem -- lower demand enough and high-cost drilling (like in the arctic) will end.

In the past year, crude oil has gone from 90 dollars a barrel to 45. How much further do we need to cut demand before artic drilling stops, exactly?
posted by pwnguin at 7:43 PM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


"I consider myself to be an environmentalist but stopping drilling in the arctic is not really the same thing as the struggle to treat black people like human beings.

There are actually very few parallels between the two movements"

I'm biased because of where I live, but
n the US gulf coast, these issues are often the exact same thing. I could show you photographs of our last environmental rally, where "black lives matter" was one of the signs held 100% in earnest.

And because US oil production supply chains often run through the gulf coast, a new supply, perhaps the arctic?, means brand new pipelines and storage facilities and new disposal pits for byproducts, which will disproportionately impact black, brown, and native towns, don t worry.

I could introduce you to some genius clean energy engineers from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who got into the business, and are now building solar power plants in West Africa, precisely because of what the industry has done to their communities. Pretty sure they would appreciate the Greenpeace action, spiritually and financially.

Actually, stopping the Bakken oil boom would have kept several African american river towns ( st rose, convent, Ironton, davant) out of the bullseye of pipelines, pet coke disposal piles, and storage tanks; not to mention the waste pits and injection wells...

Furthermore, black, brown, and native communities have often been forced to live in lower lying areas, and thus made more vulnerable to rising seas...

If I were on my computer I would link to the deep south center for environmental justice. Dr Beverly Wright, the leading scholar, would most definitely have an interesting response to your comment.

I think there s an ok but out of date review paper called "Just Oil?" That outlines the history of oil and gas development and its environmental racism...

And you need to read about Shell s fight to erase the town of Diamond....

But if you re talking about how the way that people of color who fight for clean air, clean water, or clean land are often not called "environmentalists" and their environmental organizations are often excluded from foundation funding....yeah, that is a huge problem, and a huge problem on the gulf coast. Our environmental movements are plagued by separate and unequal foundation support.

I think that, way beyond, and after the failure of, the "green jobs" push, there s been some soul searching around the internal racism of the professionalised enviro movement by national environmental groups, and the analysis is called "Green 2.0". Also a good read.

So, there are more than a few parallels, I would say.
posted by eustatic at 7:45 PM on July 30, 2015 [30 favorites]


Delays are good for the simple reasons that Arctic drilling is a very time-sensitive and situational process, Shell is hurting for profits, oil remains cheap (and low profit), and the longer the delays the less time they have to set up their exploratory rig and even less time to do actual legal drilling.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:22 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Symbolic stunts are just so much easier! You go there, do your shit, get arrested, pay the fine and move on to the next one!

Look on the bright side- at least THIS time they managed to do a publicity stunt that didn't involve desecrating a Native American religious heritage site!

This time.
posted by happyroach at 8:46 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, there are more than a few parallels, I would say.
posted by eustatic at 7:45 PM on July 30 [7 favorites +] [!]


Um, no? White college-educated kids trying to save whales is not the same as Rosa Parks?

It's funny: environmental racism is definitely a thing -- black and brown bodies do disproportionally suffer the effects of pollution and climate change -- and yet we don't see Greenpeace chaining themselves to the driveway of your local paint factory (or tool and dye plant, or slaughterhouse, etc.), which is likely located in a black or Hispanic neighborhood, and which likely has released thousands of gallons of pollutants into the local water table.

Greenpeace doesn't do that because it's not sexy and photogenic and it doesn't grab headlines. They want to save the whales, the polar bears and possibly the Inuit (but only the cool Inuit who live in peace with Mother Earth, not the shitty Inuit who hunt whales and seals). In other words, white kids are gonna white kid.

And they ain't Rosa Parks.
posted by Avenger at 8:52 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


a judge has ruled that Greenpeace will be charged $2500 for every hour the protest continues

What can we even say to this?


"Don't fight it, son. If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating!"
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:33 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am so in awe of the People that do this. This takes so much courage and commitment - more courage and more faith than I will ever have.
posted by gt2 at 9:43 PM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I haven't followed Greenpeace for a while, but this was spectacularly well done, for reasons that are completely inseparable from its extreme photogeneity. News services were inexorably drawn to this eye candy, giving it a degree and breadth of coverage their corporate overlords normally would never give to an environmental matter. They simply couldn't resist. Thus millions of people had their attention directed to the actuality of this new arctic drilling model who otherwise wouldn't have been reached. And some of them are going to think about it. Gorgeously done.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:27 PM on July 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


In other words, white kids are gonna white kid.

From reading the Reddit thread, it looks like there are PoC involved, as well as white people.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:45 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Looks like this bridge is heavily guarded by concern trolls. Grassroots activism? Wait until the environmental community hears about this exciting idea!
posted by LarsC at 11:11 PM on July 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


Here is an (incomplete) list of places below sea level. I second eustatic in saying that my concern about climate change is rooted in social justice. The people who drown as the waters rise will again not be people who consider themselves white. The people who suffer from heat and dehydration as the temperatures rise will again not be people who consider themselves white. The people who starve as the oceans can no longer provide the protein they depend on will again not be people who consider themselves white. Climate change is the social justice concern of our generation. It's already too late to stop it from having disastrous impacts on human lives. But it's not too late to prevent the end of human society as we know it. Or you could just lecture people about how they're doing it wrong.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:04 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Remember when Occupy Wall Street was just a symbolic gesture that nobody thought would bring about any real change? And look at what the political discussion has been in not just the U.S., but multiple countries, for the past few years.

Symbolic gestures work. These aren't hollow movements. Geeze, liberal pessimism is so ridiculous sometimes.
posted by gucci mane at 4:14 AM on July 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


What is happening in this thread?

Yes, political organizing around environmental issues has a long history. This Greenpeace action is just one of many tactics that the environmental coalition fighting Shell is employing.

And yes, people of color and race issues have traditionally been ignored by environmental activists, which is appalling. That is changing, slowly and with just about as much white obliviousness as you'd expect. There are many things that I wish were happening differently, but rest assured that you are not the first to raise these issues, and many, many people are thinking about, discussing, and working on them.

If you disagree with any or all of these methods, I suggest getting involved with your local environmental organizations.
posted by Ragini at 5:55 AM on July 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm finding all of the "this environmental stuff is a white people thing" commentary here and elsewhere very interesting.

Because the Boards of Directors of the corporations within the petroleum industry are surely models of racial diversity.

And because of everything that eustatic said.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:37 AM on July 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are millions of people participating in the small elite group psychopaths.

This old bullshit argument does not smell any better as it ages. Nobody has any control over what their 401(k) invests in. Their only options are to participate and gain employer matching funds, or not. They are not for the most part willingly supporting Arctic oil drilling.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:43 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


A small and elite group of sociopaths is willing to destroy life on this planet for their own personal gain.

Drivers?
posted by klanawa at 6:36 PM on July 30 [19 favorites +] [!]


I'm a sociopath for having a job that isn't accessible by public transit and for not having the luxury of moving closer to it? I'm a sociopath for driving the smallest most fuel-efficient car I can afford?
This is what slows down positive change. Folks on the same side of an issue attacking each other.
posted by rocket88 at 8:25 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Blocking access is a particularly obnoxious form of protest.

I agree, those Tiananmen Square students should have just stepped aside and let the tanks pass.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


We took our girls down there yesterday evening, and it was a good opportunity to try and explain the idea of protesting to a six-year-old.

i.e. How they know they won't really be able to stop the ship in the end (and they know they'll probably go to jail, which is especially perplexing), but they're still trying to let as many people as possible know about something they think is bad, so maybe some of those people can help them change it.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:18 AM on July 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Blocking access is a particularly obnoxious form of protest.

Sometimes, being obnoxious is meaningful and important.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:58 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I drove from NW Portland towards the bridge at about 4:00 to see what I could see - a distance of maybe three miles. The round trip took two hours - all the surface streets in this neighborhood are literally choked with traffic. I assume that a lot of this has to do with the protest and the bridge closure.

No, by 4:00 all the west approaches to the bridge are backed up for a mile on both St Helens and Germantown Rd. It's just the way things are now. I'm not saying that rubberneckers (ahem) didn't make it worse, but your experience didn't much differ from the ordinary case by that time of day.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Sometimes, being obnoxious is meaningful and important.

Yeah. Blocking access is just a terrible and insupportable way to gain attention for a cause!
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think we need to start making analogies with the civil rights movement to argue that blockades are legit. Indigenous people, in particular, have used blockades (as here) to push back against resource extraction, dumping and land theft.

I think that when folks talk about how blocking access is inappropriate, they're misunderstanding inequality of power. (And, IYAM, misunderstanding the violence and threat of violence that actually underpin any political situation - every concession by the powerful to the mass is basically because they're afraid that the mass will rise up, even if the decision is formally reached by vote or negotiation. Power gives nothing.)

Corporations, the police and the army move very fast, because they have money, access and nothing better to do with their time - the army doesn't have to stop to find childcare or to work its day job. Corporations, the police and the army have connections and power in the courts and in the government - it's always that the CEO went to school with the judge's daughter and in any case the judge is gunning for a fat consulting gig when he leaves the bench. Ordinary citizens don't have those resources. A corporation can swoop in and level a mountain before the lawsuit is finished; the miners can be dying of lung diseases long before the lawsuit pays out any damages. Blockades are one strategy where all you need are some jailable bodies, and not even too many of those - and in this country, you're still unlikely to be shot or kidnapped and beaten to death, even though that might very well happen to you if you were standing up to a US corporation somewhere else.

Also, a strike is a kind of blockade - if the bus drivers are on strike, aren't they de facto preventing people from getting places? Ultimately, material resistance is blockade, because that's all we've got. It's one way that ordinary people can cause enough inconvenience to elites to make it worth the elites' while to negotiate.
posted by Frowner at 11:53 AM on July 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


> I don't think we need to start making analogies with the civil rights movement to argue that blockades are legit.

I dunno. Some people seem to not get their legitimacy. Or maybe they just don't agree. Some people think anything that is "obnoxious" (as they define it, of course) is an illegitimate tactic, and I think that's not very strong reasoning.

FWIW, I do think that blockades and sit-ins and a lot of other forms of protest that are way more "obnoxious" and disruptive are legit.
posted by rtha at 12:17 PM on July 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


I want to second Frowner and mention another example I have some knowledge of, a recent attempt to build a taconite mine in WI (Penokee Hills) that would have devastated local water quality and completely wiped out the wild rice in the region which depends on a fairly small range of pH values. The mining company was trying to railroad through the approval process and get the mine built before anyone local was able to go through the motions of trying to stop it. Active occupation and use of the land in question under treaty rights was integral in slowing the exploration and licensing process enough to make time for the legal questions to get through and eventually the DOE and local authorities killed the project because yeah, it was going to destroy the local water table and cripple entire communities for a bunch of shitty iron we'd be selling to china anyway. Blockades don't replace traditional political action through the approved channels and what not, they augment them. They're a way to buy time when you don't have the money or power to game the system as a major actor can.

I've found it useful to point out to people complaining about their being inconvenienced by people blocking a road or whatnot in protest that those people are spending their day standing outside, in the middle of a road yelling with the sole goal of making someone notice them at risk of being arrested. If they had a better or more effective option, wouldn't they take it? Maybe they have a point to make.
posted by neonrev at 12:21 PM on July 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


This old bullshit argument does not smell any better as it ages. Nobody has any control over what their 401(k) invests in. Their only options are to participate and gain employer matching funds, or not. They are not for the most part willingly supporting Arctic oil drilling.

Apparently I did not make my point very well or I am not understanding yours.

Anybody with a web browser can look at the following link and see who is the largest shareholder of the largest oil company: NASDAQ XOM Institutional Holdings.

The largest shareholder by a large margin of the largest oil company is the Vanguard investment company. Our pension funds OWN them. If they are not serving us well, can they be made to serve us better? You can write the CEO of Shell and somebody will return your letter. If you have mad skillz you can organize a boycott of Shell's consumer products. You can join with the Sierra Club and nine other environmental groups who are litigating to put a stop to this. Reuters article. Of course you can also GRAR on the internet but that ain't gonna do jack.
posted by bukvich at 3:27 PM on July 31, 2015


I'm a sociopath for having a job that isn't accessible by public transit and for not having the luxury of moving closer to it? I'm a sociopath for driving the smallest most fuel-efficient car I can afford?

It does highlight an important part of this issue. Without fracking, oil sands and the arctic we end up with many people unable to afford transit, heat and facing poverty. The Obama admin has done a lot with fuel economy standards, massive increases in solar capacity and price drops for solar and battery tech, investments in electric vehicles; but we're still many years from being free from oil. Attempts to portray this as an easy moral choice seem to ignore the complexities of the problem.
posted by humanfont at 5:18 PM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


The easy moral choice is investing the money being wasted on drilling in the Arctic on already available renewable technologies that can indeed meet the needs of everyone. Germany just had a record performance of 78% renewable energy. We're at 13%. We're not even trying.

And again, those people who struggle to afford energy now are the people who will struggle to find a place to live, struggle to pay for air conditioning, struggle to find clean water, and struggle to find sufficient protein in the not too distant future. Ending our reliance on fossil fuels will prevent their suffering in the future.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:27 PM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


And before the hate MeMails start coming, yes the 78% performance in Germany was a single daily total, and in 2014, Germany's overall performance was 28%. Germany is also a whole lot colder and darker in the winter than, for instance, Texas.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:30 PM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Energy is not (only) electricity. In fact, electricity is typically only 20 to 50% of total energy usage, and the probably the easiest type to find alternative methods of generation.

For comparison, in 2007 Germany's total primary energy consumption was about 38% petroleum, 23% coal, 23% natural gas, and 16% everything else.

Electricity and heat generation was about 36% of all energy use, but as in most countries without huge oil reserves, petroleum contributes less than 5% to that. Transportation on the other hand, is nearly 100% oil, in Germany and everywhere else.
posted by Bangaioh at 3:46 AM on August 1, 2015


It would be interesting to see more recent data than 2007 as I think much of the change to renewables in Germany has been in the past 10 years. It would be very easy for Germany (and the US) to continue their conversion to renewables and begin using more electric cars, which would obviously be charged off the renewable grid.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:25 AM on August 1, 2015


Speeding up the switch to renewable energy sources needs to happen, but so does mitigating the ecological impacts of those renewables. Hydroelectric power doesn't cause climate change, but dams are terrible for rivers, fish, and usually for the local people living in places that will be inundated, for example. Wind, solar, hydro, and other renewables are still better than fossil fuels overall, but I am personally dubious that we can realistically keep consuming energy at our current rate over the long term, regardless of the source.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:28 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I of course agree that the freshwater ecosystem effects of hydro suck, and I don't believe it is a major portion of Germany's strategy.

Wind and solar technologies cntinue to improve, as do the battery and other energy storage technologies necessary for full switching to renewables. In any case, we in the US have not even given renewables a shot. We've just decided that fracking and drilling are easier.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:32 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


And of course conservation has to be a part of it as well.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:32 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Germany has increased coal consumption by 13% in the last 4 years. Meanwhile US use has dropped over the same period. When Obama took office coal accounted for 48% of our electric supply, now it accounts for 38%. In Germany coal accounts for 45% and the government wants to build 16 new coal power plants.
The suggestion that the US isnt even trying seems to ignore the facts. US efforts under Obama made possoble huge price reductions in solar and battery tech. Look at this graph of the growth of Solar energy in the US. Notice how it turned into a hockey stick after Obama was elected.
posted by humanfont at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2015


As the article I linked noted, Germany has increased coal consumption because they decommissioned a number of nuclear plants in response to public fears after Fukushima.

I think that perception of the rise of renewables in the US may vary based on regional patterns. Here in Georgia, the home of Southern Company, it was not possible to get financing for home solar panels until this year. I don't disagree that things are getting better, in that more solar and wind are happening, but at the same time, we have a huge push for mountain-top removal mining, fracking, and off-shore drilling when we should be leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I'm thinking here's Germany with these advanced new reactor designs that make Fukushima look like it was built by cavemen and might this not be a baby/bathwater situation? And thinking thus, I read this. So, um, never mind.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:05 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have they published any technical details about this stunt? I would love a little write-up where one of them goes, "Here's how we scouted the bridge, we put these anchors here and here, this is what I took down with me, ..."
posted by d. z. wang at 1:39 AM on August 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


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