Six activists with the environmentalist group Greenpeace International have occupied a Russian oil rig to protest drilling in the Arctic. The rig belongs to the Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, which is set to become the first company to produce Arctic oil through drilling operations in the Pechora Sea. We go to the rig to speak with Greenpeace’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, just as he and other activists are being hosed by the rig’s crew in an effort to thwart their protest. Naidoo says the group is being sprayed by ice cold water by Gazprom employees as they remain on the rig. “We want to draw global attention to what is the defining environmental struggle of our time, and time is running out for us to avert catastrophic climate change,” Naidoo says. “That’s why we are here.” Greenpeace is promoting a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly that would protect the Arctic region from any drilling or unsustainable fishing. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We’re turning now to the Arctic, because we just got Kumi Naidoo on the phone. He’s one of six activists with Greenpeace who have occupied a Russian oil rig to protest drilling in the Arctic, the rig belonging to Gazprom.
Kumi, can you tell us what is happening? When we tried to reach you a few minutes ago, we got a message saying you couldn’t talk, you were being sprayed by water cannons.
KUMI NAIDOO: Yeah, we are being—we are being sprayed by a high-pressure hose. We’ve been holding on for the last three hours. But you probably can hear the hose, a heavy [inaudible] spray. We are in a tent. We simply want to make the point that drilling in the Arctic is completely reckless and will accelerate catastrophic climate change. But we are terribly anxious now because they are spraying us heavily with water hoses. And it’s really hard to hang on to the little tent where we are taking refuge.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Kumi, who precisely is spraying you with the water hoses?
KUMI NAIDOO: The employee—employees and the security of Gazprom. Gazprom is the oil company that is probably going to be, if we don’t stop them, the first company to start drilling oil in the Arctic. And they’ve been at us now for over an hour, so we’re really struggling to stay up here on the rig at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re on the deck of the Gazprom oil drilling rig, where they’re shooting you with water cannons?
KUMI NAIDOO: Gazprom doesn’t actually have a license to drill at the moment. It expired 12 days ago. They do not have an oil spill response plan. In fact, what they have is even worse than Shell, and that’s saying a lot. And in the next couple of days, the Arctic Sea minimum ice figure will be released, and that will show that protecting the Arctic North is seriously important. And that is why we are campaigning to declare the Upper Arctic a global sanctuary as a global commons. And we are working together with the indigenous peoples of northern Russia, who agree that they should not be drilling in the Arctic.
AMY GOODMAN: How long do you plan to stay there?
KUMI NAIDOO: Well, it looks like they’re going to drive us down pretty soon. We’re pretty much hanging on with the heavy, heavy cannon water being sprayed on us. We’re going to try and stick around as long as possible, but at this rate, I can’t say whether it will be an hour or more. But our action is peaceful. We want to draw global attention to what is the defining environmental struggle of our time, and time is running out for us to avert catastrophic climate change. And that’s why we are here.
AMY GOODMAN: Kumi Naidoo, please be safe. He’s executive director of Greenpeace, and he is hanging from a Russian oil rig to protest drilling in the Arctic. Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy giant, is set to become the first company to produce Arctic oil through drilling operations in the Pechora Sea. Greenpeace says they have enough supplies to last them for days. Whether they can hang on is another question. Greenpeace is promoting a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly that would declare the Arctic a global sanctuary to prevent any drilling, as well as unsustainable fishing there. Again, Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, a well-known South African environmentalist. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.