Another oil disaster waiting to happen…

The Chukchi Sea, Alsaka will soon be stripped of it's natural beauty by oil giant Shell.

Isn’t Climate Change affecting the Arctic enough? Evidently not as Oil Company ‘Shell’ are planning to exploit the region even more. Transnational Company Shell is prioritising its economical advantages rather than considering the lives of all people and wildlife within the area. It would seem logical that a country or area rich in resources would have high economic growth. However, they are more vulnerable to exploitation from countries that are poorer in resources (Rajan 2011). Earlier this week oil giant Shell was given the green light by the ‘Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’, to drill oil from the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. This seems highly controversial that the United States has granted rights for the Dutch Company to extract oil from the area.  Who gives the USA the privileges for a final decision when Canada, Norway, Russia and Denmark also have land rights to the Arctic? Or should not the Arctic Indigenous cultures be allowed a say on an event that will damage their lives more than any other country?

Image of Shells proposed drilling platform.

Increasing demand each year for oil has caused companies to move to remote areas of the world to exploit their resources (Rajan 2011). Greenpeace activists stated that drilling into untouched waters and inhabited areas will destroy the planet’s last few places of wilderness. With Indigenous voices unheard in global debates and wildlife/land having no say, environmentalists ‘Greenpeace’ are fighting for their rights. On the 21st February 2012, BBC reported that eight activists climbed to the rooftop of London’s National Gallery. The iconic location was chosen due to a Shell meeting being held at this venue. Protestors brought with them a forty metre banner stating ‘It’s no oil painting’ which they hung across the National Gallery and a life size electric polar bear which captured the attention of many passersby.

The electric Polar Bear Paula attracted attention from the public.

Why should we let a company who is prone to disasters destroy the Arctic?  Not only would they damage the environment and wildlife they would slowly kill the Indigenous culture. In 2011, Shell caused major oil spills in the North Sea and close to the Niger Delta. Tony Okonedo a spokesman from Shell stated that the Nigeria oil disaster was the worst oil spill of the decade with over 40,000 barrels of crude oil contaminating the coast of Nigeria. Envisage the pristine waters and white ice sheets covered in black oil and polar bears fur tainted with oil residue due to Shells new project. If an oil spill occurred in the Alaskan region a clean-up programme would almost be impossible. Due to Shells new remote location it lacks equipment and infrastructure to clear up a spill. Deep oceans, dark days and extreme climates would also make emergency responses more difficult. This time consuming response would cause oil to be trapped in ice sheets and travel thousands of miles around the globe; killing ecosystems on its way (Aronson 2011).

This episode of Geopolitics can only teach academics that all Indigenous communities deserve a voice and none should be marginalised in any activity in the environment. Greenpeace are still continuing their protests to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic, however, it can be seen that Shell is planning to start work from July 2012.


Aronson, R. B., Thatje, S., McClintock, J. B. and Hughes, K. A., 2011, Anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems in Antarctica, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1223: 82–107.

Rajan, S.C., 2011, Poor little rich countries: another look at the ‘resource curse’, Environmental Politics, 20(5), 617-632.

Okonedo 2011, Nigeria on alert as Shell announces worst oil spill in a decade. Available: Last accessed 25th February 2012.

Greenpeace Activists, 2012, Greenpeace activists scale National Gallery’s roof. Available: Last accessed 25th February 2012.

Picture 1- Last accessed 27th February 2012.

Picture 2-

Picture 3- Last accessed 27th February 2012.


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