On September 19, 2013, thirty Greenpeace activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise vessel on the Pechora Sea were arrested by Russian coast guards for protesting oil extraction activities. The crew members were charged with hooliganism, a crime punishable by seven years in prison in Russia. The activists have been released on bail but are still waiting for the date of their trial to be announced.
The harshness of the charges placed upon the Greenpeace activists may reflect the Russian government’s attempt to keep the drilling activities under wraps. Though the activists were arrested shortly after arriving at the Gazprom oil rig which they intended to scale to hang a banner, their protest was not unsuccessful.
Gazprom, Russia’s largest energy company, will be the first in the world to attempt oil drilling above the Arctic Circle. Greenpeace has shed light on a topic that was little known to the public; that drilling in the arctic is hazardous to the environment and those who reside there. Global warming has already taken its toll on the icy waters. Greenpeace and other scientists are certain that exploiting the region further will cause irreparable damage.
The story finally gained considerable coverage from mainstream media in November 2013, though the majority is from news outlets based outside of the U.S. Initial coverage of the story was slim, being reported only by Greenpeace itself and a few other international sites. Before the publicity Greenpeace created, there were virtually no online reports regarding the dangers of oil drilling in the arctic.
Agence France-Presse, “Russia Charges All 30 Greenpeace Activists with Piracy,” Raw Story, December 1, 2013, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/03/russia-charges-all-30-greenpeace-activists-with-piracy/.
Fiona Harvey and Shaun Walker, “Arctic Oil Spill Is Certain If Drilling Goes Ahead, Says Top Scientist,” The Guardian, December 1, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/19/arctic-oil-drilling-russia.
“LIVE — Latest Updates from the Arctic Sunrise Activists,” Greenpeace, December 1, 2013, http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/From-peaceful-action-to-dramatic-seizure-a-timeline-of-events-since-the-Arctic-Sunrise-took-action-September-18-CET/.
Shaun Walker, “Greenpeace Activist Arrested in Russia Raises Alarm over Arctic Sunrise,” The Guardian, December 1, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/17/greenpeace-activists-warn-arctic-sunrise-risk.
Student Researcher: Ana Berninger (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)