Earlier this month, 20 Greenpeace activists were arrested for trying to prevent Scotland's Cairn Energy from its outrageous plan to drill for oil in the Arctic. Sickened by the risks the oil industry is ready to take with our planet, and greatly inspired by the dedication of my colleagues, late last week Greenpeace campaigner Ulvar Arnkvaern and I decided to become prisoners number 21 and 22.
For the act of boarding Cairn's oil rig (or hanging off it in a pod for 4 days as was the case for 2 of our activists) some of my colleagues were held for nearly 2 weeks in Nuuk's (Greenland's capital) Institution Prison, before being deported. Their brave actions caused the oil company to delay its dangerous plans by 5 days.
In addition to demanding an end to dangerous deep water oil drilling in the pristine Arctic, my colleagues also arrived with the very reasonable request that Cairn make its spill response plan public.
A spill response plan is the document that an oil company must draw up explaining how it would clean up a spill. These plans are nearly always made public, but Cairn insists upon keeping this one secret claiming the Greenland authorities won't allow its publication. Yet publishing spill plans is standard industry practice and legal experts have made it clear to Greenpeace that Cairn could easily publish if they wanted to.
We believe that Cairn is refusing to share its spill plan for the simple reason that cleaning-up an oil spill in the Arctic is impossible. Cairn needn't take our word for it -- recently released confidential UK Foreign Office documents, obtained under Freedom of Information, show that the British government also believes that an Arctic oil spill would be extremely tough to clean up. As stated in an email exchange between British government officials and UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne: "It is difficult to get assistance in case of pollution problems in such areas, and near impossible to make good damage caused." Another document reports: "The Arctic ecosystem is particularly vulnerable, and emergency responses would be slower and harder than in the Gulf of Mexico due to the area's remoteness and the difficulty of operating in sub-zero temperatures."
By last week more than 50,000 people had written to Cairn Energy's bosses asking them to make their spill plan public (I am told that an estimated 25,000 more have gone to the site www.greenpeace.org and signed since my arrest). I decided to carry this list of names with me as we set out for the oil rig last Friday.
As our little Greenpeace zodiac made its way to the 53,000-ton oil rig, Cairn staff were informed of our intention to present them with this list of names, but instead of welcoming us and engaging in conversation, they chose to douse us with a freezing jet of water fired from a powerful water canon. We were then arrested once we finally made it to the top of the 30-meter ladder.
Arctic drilling is a threat not only to polar bears, whales and millions of birds who for centuries have called the area home, but also to Greenland's economy and the stability of the entire region. A spill could destroy this entire way of life.
But this is not just an issue for those who care about the northern tip of the world. What happens in the Arctic effects all life on this planet. By continuing our reliance on oil, we increase the carbon emissions scientists says will lead to dramatic changes in the weather patterns of our planet -- changes which already cause an estimated 300,000 deaths a year.
I am convinced that drilling for oil in the Arctic is one of the defining environmental battles of our age -- it is a fight for sanity against the madness of those who see the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice as an opportunity for profit. Hunting for the last drops of bitterly expensive black gold at the very ends of the Earth is unnecessary, a huge gamble for the planet, and must be stopped.