I Must Do Something

On May 16, I joined hundreds of Seattle kayakers protesting the presence of Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer. It was in our port to be retrofitted for drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea—a place that is only navigable about four months of the year. Named after the native peoples living on the Siberian edge of the sea, Chukchi is home to polar bear, whales, walrus, and numerous other northern marine mammals.

Chukchi Sea map (Wikipedia)

Chukchi Sea map

A month later (June 17), the gargantuan, newly outfitted rig was towed north out of Puget Sound. During that month, concerned citizens kept a continued presence of resistance around Pier 5—night light flotillas, blocked work zone access, and a kayak blockade to prevent the June 17 launch.

Kayak blockade

Kayak blockade

Protestors were arrested, including one Seattle City Councilor. They delayed the launch, but ultimately three huge tugboats and two U.S. Coast Guard defender class escorts overpowered the opposition and moved the yellow and blue monstrosity out of its temporary port. Nine hours later it passed in front of our Whidbey Island neighborhood.

Shell Drilling Rig Being Towed By My Home

Shell Drilling Rig Being Towed By My Home

I took the camera and ran to the beach stairs, then sat stunned on our landing as I took in the scale of corporate momentum versus the size and attention of protestors. I felt grief, despair, and anger as I watched that rig go by. I walked back to the house hardly knowing how to carry on with my Wednesday summer evening plans: ordinary life in a safe and beautiful setting.

Shell Drilling Rig silhouetted against Olympic Peninsula

Shell Drilling Rig silhouetted against Olympic Peninsula

And yet, when I drop into my deeper self, I know my action of opposition is not based on winning or losing. It is based on a moral imperative to stand for what my heart knows is “right.” I must hold the ambiguity of caring fiercely while not holding onto outcome. I must feel despair and still feel awe the next morning when a doe and her twin fawns wandered through our front yard.

Dawn welcomes a doe and her twin fawns in my front yard

Dawn welcomes a doe and her twin fawns in my front yard

Shell had spent over $5 billion dollars on its Arctic drilling program by 2012. (Wikipedia source) That year was the first it actually began drilling and it was fairly disastrous. Challenging weather conditions severely hampered drilling and then at the end of the year when Shell’s Kulluk oil rig was being towed to Washington state to be readied for the 2013 drilling season, a severe winter storm grounded it near the eastern end of Kodiak Island.

Shell's Kulluk Drilling Rig washed ashore in a storm (Reuters News Service)

Shell’s Kulluk Drilling Rig washed ashore in a storm (Reuters News Service)

But Shell is determined to make this work. They received conditional approval to drill in the Chukchi Sea by President Obama’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in early 2015. Other permits will be needed before actual drilling commences—like the aforementioned permits for air travel in the drilling space and certification of oil spill equipment. But the Polar Pioneer is on its way and scheduled to move into the Chukchi Sea by July 1, 2015 where it will be moored and begin to drill exploratory wells.

As a citizen deeply concerned about the technological feasibility of drilling where oil response equipment is severely limited, and a spill under the ice would be a “catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen.” (Niel Lawrence, Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Alaska Program), I must do something. As a citizen who believes that continuing the big oil pursuit of more fossil fuels moves our planet closer to a point of irreversible climate change, I must do something.

 So, I am writing a letter to President Obama and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management encouraging a cessation of all drilling in this region. And I am keeping alive the dialogue in my community about global climate change challenges and alternatives. And I am sharing this story with you. When I know what else to do, I will do it.

7 replies
  1. Julie Glover
    Julie Glover says:

    Beautifully said. As always. Perhaps we step into our deepest selves when, our hearts breaking, we stand up for what we love.

  2. Sara Harris
    Sara Harris says:

    Thank you, Ann. I, too, am looking to listen for “what” and “how.” I feel very heartened by Pope Francis’ Encyclical this week. Perhaps awareness can keep growing!!

    • Anne Stine
      Anne Stine says:

      Each act, whether body , speech or mind matters, dear Ann, matters. I was so inspired by what you and y our kayak did, and I have confidence that it makes a difference, as does each expression of our wish to protect what is most precious. That Shell rig, while a monster, will at some point disappear, and the enduring power of our beloved mother earth will continue on, way past the life of ‘polar pioneer’.
      Yesterday 9 of us took part in the radical Joy for Hard Times 6th annual Global EArth exchange. We went into an area in our own Cascade Siskiyou National Monument here in S. Or., where logging, grazing, fire and salvaging had completely devastated this area. However a small pristine creek whose source was in the side of a hill, ran thru the middle of this area, bringing hope, and a very powerful statement that no matter what happens, t his earth continues on, without skipping a beat. We too are going on, no matter what comes out way, we will keep going, with all the ways our voices come forth.
      with love and respect…. Anne

  3. Debbie Dix
    Debbie Dix says:

    I truly appreciate your fierceness on behalf of our planet, and the ways in which you demonstrate your commitment. Thank you!

  4. Jude Rathburn
    Jude Rathburn says:

    Thank you Ann, for caring so much about the Earth and all her creatures. I will join you in writing to President Obama and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to encourage an end to the drilling in this region. I will also send blessings to all those who will be affected by the drilling and ask that the perpetrators find the wisdom to know the harm they are doing to our earth. Please do not lose hope. Please do not give up. Please continue to speak for the earth. Thank you. With love and respect – Jude

    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Dear Jude,
      Thank you. Part of the elder journey is to be able to hold the enormous ambiguity of the world with steadiness—allowing oneself to both feel despair and then find hope in the resilience and teachings of nature. A bow of appreciation for your support and encouragement. I will continue to speak for the earth until, as poet Mary Oliver writes, “she take me back so tenderly . . .”

  5. Jan Bourdon
    Jan Bourdon says:

    Dear Ann, I have always admired your deep sense of commitment to our beautiful earth and everything you do to keep her healthy. I just joined the Great Old Broads for the Wilderness and you epitomize their mission and goals. I know several of the Great Old Broads were out there kayaking with you during your protest with Shell Oil. All of us are with you in heart and spirit, we all care deeply and will use our “grassroots” energy to help.


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