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Shell and the Arctic

Shell burns priceless art in latest Greenpeace film
Fire Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign has teamed up with award-winning British creative agency Don’t Panic, and famous British montage artists Kennardphillipps, to create its next video targeting oil giant Shell and its plans to drill in the icy waters of the US Alaskan Arctic this summer.

The video shows three iconic landscape artworks burning away to expose jarring dystopian replacements by British montage artists Kennardphillipps.

In the new artworks, the scenes have been transformed by real-life drilling infrastructure, devastating oil spills and explosions. According to Greenpeace, ‘it gives the viewer a powerful sense of what Shell risks by drilling in the Arctic’.

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A song of oil, ice and fire


Imagining what we know

The famous artworks torched by Shell include ‘Pearblossom Highway’ by David Hockney, ‘Christina’s World’ by Andrew Wyeth and ‘An Arctic Summer: Boring Through the Pack in Melville Bay’ by William Bradford.

‘We sorted through hundreds of photos of oil accidents. We have superimposed these real oil spills onto the American dream and the pristine icebergs of the Arctic.

‘The poet Shelley wrote that as artists and writers, ‘we must imagine what we know’. We have tried to imagine through images what we know about oil exploitation. We must imagine what we know about Shell. We know that whatever the consequences to life, they are drilling for one thing – dollars.’

Artist collective Kennardphillipps

Shell and LEGO

Greenpeace and Don’t Panic’s first film collaboration, ‘LEGO: Everything is NOT awesome’, was seen by more than 7 million people on YouTube after it launched in June 2014.

In just three months, the film helped spur LEGO to end a 50-year marketing relationship with Shell, and made headline news all over the world. It went on to win a prestigious Webby Award in 2015.

Shell opposition

In March the Obama Administration decided to validate Shell’s drilling lease in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea so, as long as it acquires the right permits, it can start exploratory drilling this July.

But a movement of nearly seven million people is standing up to oppose Shell’s plans. Just over a week ago, ‘kayaktivists’ came together in Seattle for a three-day ‘festival of resistance’ and many more protests are expected in the next few months.

‘Shell could be risking disaster by drilling for oil in Arctic waters in less than six weeks. We made this video to expose that, and show how its plans affect all of us too – because the impact of climate change affects the places we all live in.

‘If Shell drills in the Arctic it could devastate this iconic and beautiful place, and its incredible wildlife, like polar bears and narwhals. All the evidence shows Shell can’t drill for oil safely in the Arctic. The extreme conditions mean it’s when, not if, a spill will happen. Shell has a huge PR machine behind it, but it didn’t count on millions of ordinary people standing up to protect the Arctic. We need everyone to watch and share this video, to show Shell it won’t get away with destroying the world we love.’

Elena Polisano, Arctic campaigner, Greenpeace

Offshore drilling risks

Climate change is melting the Arctic sea ice at an alarming rate, and this March the Arctic experienced the lowest sea ice maximum ever recorded.

As the ice recedes, it becomes easier for oil companies to reach further into the Arctic and extract the vast reserves of oil and gas buried beneath the ocean floor.

But the extreme Arctic conditions, including giant floating icebergs and stormy seas, make offshore drilling extremely risky.

Earlier this year, researchers concluded Arctic drilling is incompatible with limiting global warming to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a target agreed by most governments.

Operational failings

The US administration itself acknowledged a 75% chance of a large oil spill over the lifetime of the wells. Alarmingly, scientists say that an oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up, endangering the Arctic’s unique wildlife.

Shell’s past attempt to drill in the Arctic in 2012 was plagued with multiple operational failings culminating in the running aground of its drilling rig, the Kulluk. Shell will return to the remote Chukchi Sea this summer with the same contractor, Noble Drilling, which pleaded guilty to eight felonies following its last Arctic venture.

For more information about the financial and environmental risk Shell faces in the Arctic, read Greenpeace’s Frozen Future: The gaps in Shell’s Arctic spill response and Frozen Future: Shell and the US offshore Arctic reports.

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