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Arctic drilling affects more than the Arctic, say Greenpeace campaign particpants

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Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 15.17.42Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic: May 28, 2015

Representatives from six of Canada’s First Nations are currently taking part in a Greenpeace campaign with a message that Arctic drilling has the potential to negatively  impact communities far beyond the North.

“We know that the ongoing use of oil as a source of fuel is perpetuating  global warming or climatic change which effects all citizens of North America, and the world, including my small little community,” said Candace Campo, a business owner from the Sechelt First Nation in the western Canadian province of British Columbia.

Campo is one of six First Nations participants involved in the 10-day “People vs. Oil” tour aboard the the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza. The campaign launched on May 19 and is stopping at coastal B.C. communities to talk about concerns over Arctic drilling.

Shell project reignites concerns

Royal Dutch Shell received conditional approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to drill in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska this summer.

It’s a controversial decision sometimes pitting those in the North who welcome the potential for jobs, infrastructure and economic development such projects bring, against those who say the environmental risks of Arctic drilling are too high.

Campo says even  though her community is  located on the southwest coast of B.C., the potential for more direct impact from increased shipping activity to and from the Chukchi site, is raising concerns.

“The transport of oil down the coastline through British Columbia to the United States, that’s what is slated,” she said. “If we were to have an oil spill in the Salish Sea, that could very much impact my own community.”

Decision ‘disturbing’ to First Nations, says campaign participant

In a press release earlier this month, BOEM’s director said the agency had carefully weighed the safety issues around giving Shell the go-ahead.

“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives,” BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said.“As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards.”

But campaign participants said this was not enough.

Victor Thompson, a musician and cultural singer from B.C.’s Haida First Nation, also a participant in the Greenpeace tour, said his first reaction to the the Chukchi Sea drilling approval announcement was one of being “disturbed.”

“We can all fight as one against the oil rigs,” Thompson said. “If there’s an oil spill on Haida Gwaii it can wash up on our shores and wreck our traditional ways of living.”

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

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