Tag Archives: Greenpeace

Amusing Monday: On location with music for a warming Arctic Ocean

As chunks of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier break off and crash into the sea next to him, Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi plays on, performing a piece he wrote for this moment.

As seen in this video, Einaudi’s piano is situated on a floating platform surrounded by small pieces of floating ice. He came to Norway this past June on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise to make a statement about the need to protect the Arctic Ocean. The composition, “Elegy for the Arctic,” fits the time and place.

“The ice is constantly moving and creating,” he told Sara Peach, a writer for Yale Climate Connections. “Every hour there is a different landscape. Walls of ice fall down into the water and they create big waves.”

Because of global warming, the Arctic is losing its ice, changing this remote ecosystem. Environmentalists are concerned about the increasing exploitation of minerals and fish in this fragile region. Greenpeace is among the groups pushing for international protections.

Supporting the cause, Einaudi performed with his grand piano on an artificial iceberg, 33 feet by 8.5 feet, made of 300 triangles of wood attached together.

“Being here has been a great experience,” he said in a Greenpeace news release issued at the time. “I could see the purity and fragility of this area with my own eyes and interpret a song I wrote to be played upon the best stage in the world. It is important that we understand the importance of the Arctic, stop the process of destruction and protect it.”

“If you haven’t heard the music of Ludovico Einaudi, then it’s probably because you don’t know it’s by Ludovico Einaudi,” writes Tim Jonze, music editor for The Guardian. “For years, his muted piano music has been stealthily soundtracking TV shows and adverts, seeping into our collective consciousness while the mild-mannered Italian behind it stayed out of the limelight.”

He has written songs for numerous soundtracks, including the trailer for “The Black Swan.” He has collaborated with other artists in theater, video and dance. Besides a long list of albums, his credits include multiple television commercials in Europe and the U.S.

In March, Einaudi released a music video, “Fly,” for Earth Hour (second video on this page). In my annual story about Earth Hour, I noted that the event may be losing its appeal in the U.S. but is still going strong in other countries. See Water Ways, March 16.

In the third video on this page, Einaudi discusses his latest project, an album titled “Elements.”

Arctic drilling: strange politics and inspiration

UPDATE, Aug. 17

Arctic drilling may be delayed until next year, because Shell’s oil-containment vessel is still not ready, according to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.

“I will hold their feet to the fire in terms of making sure that we are doing everything we can to abide by the standards and regulations we have set, and to make sure that the environment and the Arctic seas are protected,” Salazar said during a press conference in Anchorage.

A shell spokesman expressed hope that the drilling would still begin this fall.

For details, see the stories by Lisa Demer of the Anchorage Daily News and Olga Belogolova of the National Journal.
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UPDATE, July 31

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is not sitting around waiting for Shell to begin its drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. Greenpeace biologists have reported the presence of a soft coral at the drill site. I’m not sure how significant this is, but Julie Eilperin of the Washington Post has the story. Greenpeace has the photo.
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UPDATE, June 29

Shell's drilling vessel Kulluk leaves Seattle Wednesday. / Photo by Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Interior released a five-year plan for oil and gas leases yesterday, as two Shell exploratory rigs headed out of Puget Sound on their way to the Alaskan Arctic.

The Shell drilling vessels Kulluk and Noble Discoverer were headed for Alaska’s Dutch Harbor, where they will wait until the ice clears in Beaufort and Chukchi seas. See Vigor’s news release about alterations made to the two rigs.

In a news release with links to the plans, David J. Hayes, deputy secretary of the Interior, said :

“We are committed to moving forward with leasing offshore Alaska, and scheduling those sales later in the program allows for further development of scientific information on the oil and gas resource potential in these areas and further study of potential impacts to the environment. We must reconcile energy resource development with the sensitive habitats, unique conditions and important other uses, including subsistence hunting and fishing, that are present in Alaska waters.”

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UPDATE, June 27
This week, the Obama administration will announce a five-year program for offshore oil-leasing. It will include targeted areas for exploration and drilling in Alaska’s Arctic, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said yesterday.

Salazar said permits to allow Shell to conduct exploratory drilling in the Arctic, as we have discussed in this blog, are likely to be issued soon.

Associated Press writer Dan Joling does a nice job explaining Salazar’s comments. See Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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UPDATE, June 22
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has arrived in Alaskan waters. Photo posted on Twitter.
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UPDATE, June 12, 3 p.m.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has left Seattle on its way to the Arctic, according to ongoing reports on Twitter. As of 3 p.m., the ship is just crossing the Edmonds-Kingston ferry lanes.
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UPDATE, June 12, 2:30 p.m.
I’ve added maps of the two drilling areas at the bottom of this post.
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After anchoring for nearly a week in South Kitsap’s Yukon Harbor, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza on Friday moved over to Seattle, where it now waits for Shell’s oil-drilling rigs to shove off for Alaska.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza was anchored in Yukon Harbor for nearly a week.
Photo by Tom Warren

Shell obtained an injunction (PDF 32 kb) against Greenpeace in hopes of preventing environmental activists from boarding its oil rig and unfurling banners or causing more serious damage.

Shell is clearly concerned, as outlined in legal documents (PDF 60 kb) in support of the injunction:

“After obtaining multiple approvals from various federal agencies, and after completing preparations that have been years and billions of dollars in the making, Shell intends to lawfully, safely, and responsibly carry out an exploration drilling program on its leases in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the summer of 2012.

“Greenpeace intends to prevent Shell from doing so, and has initiated tortious and illegal actions to accomplish this publically-stated intent. Greenpeace’s past and present actions establish that Greenpeace can and will engage in dangerous and illegal activities that place human life, property, and the environment at risk, all in an effort to impose its will and to capitalize on publicity generated by its antics.”

Greenpeace says its goal is to shadow the oil rigs and document the activities from miniature submarines to help the public understand the dangers that drilling poses to the fragile Arctic ecosystem. See Kitsap Sun, June 4.

For environmentalists, the biggest question is: How did this drilling ever get approval? Why did a Democratic president allow Shell to get all the permits necessary to explore for oil in the Arctic, after strong opposition through the years succeeded in keeping drilling rigs out of the Arctic.

Shell was strategic in its approach, as described in a well-researched story by John M. Broder and Clifford Krauss for the New York Times:

“Beyond the usual full-court lobbying effort, Shell abandoned its oil industry brethren and joined advocates pushing for a strong response to climate change.

“Ultimately, Shell won the backing of a president it had viewed warily during the 2008 campaign. While he signaled conditional support for the proposal years ago, Mr. Obama came under pressure from rising gasoline prices and the assiduous lobbying of a freshman Democratic senator from Alaska eager to show he could make things happen in Washington.

“The move also provides the president a measure of political cover. ‘Alaska tends to be a litmus test for the energy debate,’ said Amy Myers Jaffe, director of energy policy research at Rice University. ‘When Romney says the president is anti-drilling and causes high gas prices, Obama can turn around and say, “I approved drilling in Alaska.”’”

By executive order, Obama set up a special interagency commission to oversee “the safe and responsible development of onshore and offshore energy resources and associated infrastructure in Alaska.”

Obama’s steady pressure in favor of drilling in the Arctic (“It’s not deep water, right?”) eventually overcame concerns within his own administration, despite warnings from the commission investigating the BP oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the NY Times article:

“The commission’s final report said that for Arctic drilling to be done safely, ‘both industry and government will have to demonstrate standards and a level of performance higher than they have ever achieved before.’ …

“The government strengthened its Arctic research programs to better understand the impact of increased industrial activity in the northern ocean. Those and other concessions seemed to placate officials at the permitting agencies, who were navigating between their regulatory duties and the president’s obvious desire to drill.

“Shell’s permits came in a rush. Interior approved exploration in both seas by last December. Response plans were endorsed in February and March of this year. The EPA’s appeals board cleared the final air permits at the end of March — just as the whaling season got under way. NOAA came through with a marine mammal permit in early May.”

As far as I can tell, Shell is waiting only for its final drilling permits from the Department of Interior and for the ice to clear in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Shell's oil-drilling rig Kulluk prepares to head for Alaska. This photo was taken last year on its way into Seattle.
AP file photo, 2011

As Shell’s oil rigs prepare to pull out of Seattle, Alaska’s governor and the state’s two U.S. senators recently visited Seattle to take a look at Shell’s oil rigs on the eve of the historic drilling activity, as reported by Jennifer A. Dlouhy of the Houston Chronicle.

Dlouhy quoted Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, as expressing confidence in Shell’s ability to drill safely: “I think they know as well as anybody that there is no margin for cutting corners.”

The article also included environmental concerns about an oil spill in the fragile Arctic ecosystem, which could be worse than the Exxon Valdez in Prince Williams Sound, where oil is still showing up 23 years after a multibillion-dollar cleanup.

“If there is a spill in the Arctic, the oil and damage will almost certainly degrade slower and last longer,” Richard Steiner, former marine conservation professor at the University of Alaska was quoted as saying.

A new story out this morning in Macleans magazine includes an interview with Peter Voser, chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, who touches briefly on this summer’s drilling in the Arctic:

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Update from Thursday’s video

For those who missed it, this week’s “Amusing Monday” came early on Thursday, when a fake video was posted on YouTube claiming to show a party being held to celebrate the sendoff of oil rigs to the Alaskan Arctic.

It seems like a funny and creative stunt, even knowing that it had nothing to do with Shell. But I do believe that it damages the credibility of those involved, especially those who had some credibility to begin with.

Greenpeace bloggers played an important role in trying to convince people that the video was real. Here’s a portion of the post by Guy Usher:

“So I just spoke with one of our experienced oil campaigners at Greenpeace International and did a little digging, to find out a little more about the guests at Shell’s swanky event.

“The Chief Engineer of the Kulluk (who was the guest of honor) worked for Mitsui. You know what else Mitsui built? The Deepwater Horizon. And they paid a $90 million fine for the BP oil spill.

“The late husband of the woman who got sprayed in the face worked for Sedco. That’s Sedco as in Transocean-Sedco (or, as of 2003, just Transocean)—which owned the Deepwater Horizon.”

Well, the woman who played the wet, offended woman was actually Dorli Rainey, an 84-year-old activist who gained national attention when she was pepper-sprayed at an Occupy Seattle rally.

The video above provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to create the hoax along with a little political commentary.

Passion for whales links woman to Sea Shepherd

A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Izumi Stephens

A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.

If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet, often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front, behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.

Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar attacks.

Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson frequently returns to this region.
Continue reading

International Whaling Commission has its hands full

UPDATE, Friday, June 25
“There are no winners and losers in this,” said Sir Geoffrey Palmer, New Zealand’s former prime minister. “It ain’t over til it’s over, and even then it ain’t over. There will be a pause. We will resume discussions about this next year,” he told The Associated Press.

As the IWC meeting ended today, Greenland’s native population was granted permission to hunt a few humpback whales for the next three years, expanding the list of species the Greenlanders are allowed to kill under the license of subsistence hunting.
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UPDATE, Wednesday, June 23
Whaling moratorium talks break down — so whaling nations will continue to set their own limits. Changes in the governance of the International Whaling Commission will be considered. See report in Reuters.
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UPDATE, Tuesday, June 22
A Norwegian delegate to the International Whaling Commission, Karsten Klepsvick, told Reuters reporters today that the compromise being debated behind closed doors will fail:

“As we can see it today, we do not believe these negotiations will succeed. There are at least eight, ten stumbling blocks, but the main stumbling block is that those who are against whaling seem to be willing to accept nothing but nil (quotas), and we cannot accept that.”
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The future of the International Whaling Commission — and perhaps even the survival of certain whale species — rests on decisions being made this week in Morocco.

While I have no personal insight into this story, I think it’s worth summarizing activities swirling around the meeting that began today. If you haven’t heard, a controversial proposal by IWC Chairman Cristian Maquieira would lift the ban on whaling for Japan, Iceland and Norway. In return, the three countries would come back into the fold of the IWC, with new quotas officially imposed by the commission to reduce recent harvest levels.

Maquieira says his plan could save thousands of whales a year. (Check out an article Maquieira wrote for the BBC or read a press release (PDF 40 kb) issued by the IWC.) As the annual meeting of the IWC got under way today, Maquiera was not present due to illness, according to reporter Arthur Max of the Associated Press.

Deputy Chairman Anthony Liverpool opened the meeting then quickly moved the discussions behind closed doors for two days of negotiations among the strident anti-whaling countries as well as those that insist that whaling is a long-held cultural right. It’s in those meetings that things may come to a head.

Currently, Japan, Iceland and Norway set their own whaling quotas. Japan claims an exemption in the IWC Charter that allows for the taking of whales for scientific research — even though nearly all the whale meat ends up in the commercial market. Iceland and Norway operate under a process that allows formal objections to the whaling moratorium.

In a surprise move leading up to today’s meeting, Greenpeace, the Pew Environment Group and the World Wildlife Fund said in a joint statement (PDF 420 kb) that a compromise on quotas is possible but only if six essential elements are met:

  1. End all whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary near Antarctica.
  2. All whale products must be consumed in the country for which the hunt was authorized.
  3. Catch limits must be calculated by the IWC’s scientific committee to assure appropriate management procedures.
  4. Harvest of threatened, endangered or vulnerable species would not be allowed.
  5. Scientific whaling beyond the limits set by the IWC would not be allowed.
  6. Contracting governments must agree not to operate under objections to the agreement as originally allowed in the IWC Charter.

Meanwhile, other environmental groups argue that it is wrong to kill whales and that any compromise serves to reward the whaling countries for bad behavior. As Nikki Entrup of Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society told John Vidal of The Guardian:

“It would be a fundamental mistake now to reward those three whaling nations who have continued to ignore the international consensus on commercial whaling and are opposed by millions of people around the world. What kind of message does that give out to countries like Korea who used to whale? I urge Greenpeace to withdraw their position. They want to do the right thing in principle but more whales are killed in the northern hemisphere than in the south.”

Japan has hinted that it might pull out of the IWC if member nations can’t abide its whaling activities. Meanwhile, Australia has filed an action against Japan in the International Court of Justice, saying Japan’s actions are a direct violation of the international whaling ban in the Southern Ocean.

International politics and intrigue run thick through this whole story. Check out last weekend’s Times of London for an investigative report accusing Japan of bribing officials of other countries to come to the IWC meeting and support whaling.

It will be interesting to see if members of the IWC can find a way to make the organization relevant again.