During a protest against the drilling for oil in the Arctic by the Russian company, Gazprom, 30 Greenpeace activists and journalists were arrested after their boat was boarded and seized by armed Russian border police.
The Arctic 30 were initially charged with piracy, a charge that could have resulted in them being imprisoned for 15 years. The charges have since been changed to hooliganism, which could still see them facing seven years in prison, some also may be charged with the more serious offence of “endangering the lives of Russian officials”. The activists are now imprisoned in St Petersburg and are reported to be kept in terrible conditions.
Global warming has resulted in the melting of the polar ice caps. It is estimated that the Arctic could be ice free during the summer in thirty to forty years’ time. This would be a disaster; rising sea levels would endanger coastal communities around the planet and global warming would be speeded up.
The melting of the polar ice caps is opening up shipping routes and allowing greater access to natural resources in the Arctic. Instead of seeing it as a warning sign, it is being greeted with greedy jubilation by oil and gas companies. EU Commission High Representative Catherine Ashton has even welcomed the opening up of new shipping routes tellign the European Parliament that ‘it offers great potential’.
Akin to the scramble for Africa in the 19th century we are now seeing a race to the Arctic with big business, and the governments that act in their interests, falling over themselves to exploit the newly discovered natural resources in the Arctic regardless of the cost to the environment and humanity.
The arrest of the Arctic 30 is part of a generalised increase in repression in Russia. The Putin regime is attempting to silence all opposition; we have seen this with the conviction of members of the punk group Pussy Riot as well as the stepping up of repression against gay rights activists and introduction of homophobic laws.
The Arctic 30 must be released and all charges to be dropped, otherwise the green light will go out to other governments to do the same and for Putin to step up repression against protestors within Russia.
This race for the Arctic must ended through a mass movement from below. Instead of exploiting more fossil fuels we need to break with the madness of the profit at all costs logic of capitalism and invest massively in renewable energies and internationally plan the transition to a fossil fuel free economy.