From the Drake passage en route to Antarctica

Protecting the oceans and standing tall for our marine environment

By Sally Campbell

I received a shock last week when I read in the paper that I am considered a member of a terrorist organisation, because I support an environmental group, namely Greenpeace. How many of us on Arran support environmental organisations? Historically, the first thing Nationalistic or Populist organisations/governments do is outlaw potential threats to their ideology. Is economic growth, short term profits and the carbon economy at all costs, part of the strategy for the next years? That will be a threat to us all and it is the marine environment that gives life to us all. I ask myself will I be on a list of potential trouble-makers? Perhaps nothing changes here I hear you say!

In response to Greenpeace being included on a ‘Counter Terrorism Policing’ briefing on extremist groups, together with CND, Extinction Rebellion, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Stop The War as well as a long list of racist right-wing groups, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, responded:

“Tarring environmental campaigners and terrorist organisations with the same brush is not going to help fight terrorism. It will only harm the reputation of hard-working police officers. There is nothing extremist about people from all walks of life taking peaceful, non-violent action to stop climate chaos and ecological collapse. The absurd irony is that this programme is aimed at the first-ever generation of school kids who have understood the existential threat we face and have taken to the streets asking for more action. How can we possibly teach children about the devastation caused by the climate emergency while at the same implying that those trying to stop it are extremists?”

Greenpeace is in the forefront of standing up for the environment and especially at this time for the Oceans, the lungs of our world. We live on Arran surrounded by the Ocean. At the present time both the Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise, the two ocean going vessels of Greenpeace, are on their way to Antarctica:

A quote from Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign:

“Almost 200 years ago a ship drifted through the fog of the straits of the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago, on the southern tip of Argentina and Chile, through which Greenpeace’s ships the Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise sailed this week. That ship was the HMS Beagle and on board was a young, self-funded, and independent-minded naturalist who went on to challenge established understanding and shape the way we interpret complexity and sequence in the natural world. His name was Charles Darwin.

Darwin’s journey around the world on board the Beagle lasted almost five years, while Greenpeace’s pole to pole journey from the Arctic to the Antarctic has taken just under one. But, like the Beagle, Greenpeace scientists and crews have been on a journey of research and discovery, and hosted scientists whose work is helping us to understand our environment, and we want to change how people see the natural world.

We embarked on this journey to highlight the wonders of the oceans and the threats they are facing, with a mission to tell stories that would reach millions of people, and galvanise them to demand better from our leaders: to demand a Global Ocean Treaty to protect our blue planet. Right now, as we sail towards Elephant Island north of the Antarctic Peninsula, we are embarking on the last leg of this Pole to Pole expedition, but it is not a ‘lap of honour’. We have not won yet and we still have the final and most difficult leg to come: winning a Global Ocean Treaty at the UN. We have hard negotiations ahead of us, and business and political interests that do not want us to succeed. But we have a movement of millions, a global organisation with dynamic and skilled people committed to challenging the status quo, and we have a plan for how we can succeed together this year.”

Frieda Bengtsson added, “If there is anything I take with me from 2019 to 2020, it is the feeling of how powerful we are when we use our collective strengths and skills to fight for what we believe in. For everyone who has been involved in this campaign in any way in 2019: thank you. You all create the hope and the power that we need to win over our detractors in 2020.”

At this moment in time, only 1% of our global oceans are protected. Overfishing, plastic pollution, oil drilling and climate breakdown are gutting our oceans of life and destroying delicate ecosystems. It is this tragedy we need to act on before it is too late. The oceans are warming, less oxygen is dissolved in warmer water, acidity promoted by dissolution of carbon dioxide and resultant carbonic acid is rising, driving plankton changes, so food for marine animals and birds becomes problematic; international illegal overfishing, deprives coastal communities of their primary food source and the wider ecosystem of renewable energy for the future.

Greenpeace has recently worked with the creators of Wallace and Gromit to make a powerful short film about the impact reckless industries are having on ocean life. It tells the story of a turtle family trying to get home, in an ocean that desperately needs protection.

The plight of sea turtles represents the suffering of our oceans as a whole. Like the turtle family in the film, sea turtles in real life are under intense stress from destructive industries. Six out of the seven sea turtle species are threatened with extinction due to the pressures of multiple ocean threats.

And it is more than just turtles at risk. Studies have shown marine life is disappearing at twice the speed of life on land. To secure a strong treaty, we need as many people as possible to show the world why our oceans matter. It is up to us, that is you and me, to be active in this fight. We can all become environmentalists together!

Sally Campbell
January 2020

Featured image of waves in Drake Passage, Antarctica. Photo credit Andrew Peacock