The year 2013 was not a good one for the Greenies. Corporations and consumer groups in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere showed an increasing willingness to “grow a pair” and stage counter campaigns against baseless environmental NGO attacks aimed at killing jobs and destroying their bottom line. On the legal front, courts and legislatures in countries as diverse as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom dealt stinging blows to Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherd Society, and by extension other militant groups of their ilk. But the most dramatic (and humorous) developments were the two maritime disasters that occurred at literally polar opposite ends of the earth.
First we had the drama in September when the naval arm of Greenpeace learned the hard way that poking a bear (this time it was the Russian Bear no less) is not such a good idea. The Greenpeace campaign vessel Arctic Sunrise had been cruising the Russian Arctic for weeks, spoiling for a fight. And it was a fight they got – much more so than they had bargained for.
For weeks the Arctic Sunrise played cat and mouse with the Russian Navy, during which time the Russians gave the Greenpeace vessel every opportunity to turn back from her disruptive course. The Russians tried everything from verbal warnings, to international diplomatic appeals, to physical warnings (i.e. firing warning shots). Displaying great restraint, the Russians even went so far as to allow the Greenpeace vessel to depart Russian waters peacefully following an inspection, literally letting them off with a warning. But Greenpeace would have none of it. Calling the Russian Navy’s bluff, two wannabe thugs (Sini Saarela from Finland and Marco Paolo Weber from Switzerland) pulled a Crazy Ivan and attempted to force their way on board a Gazprom oil platform. The Russian Navy finally said “enough” and seized the Arctic Sunrise. What followed was a drama not seen in the annals of the Greenies since the French sunk the Rainbow Warrior in 1985.
The Russian Navy towed the Arctic Sunrise to Murmansk, where all 30 crew members were incarcerated without bail. Christened the “Arctic 30” by the Greenpeace propaganda machine, their travails became the stuff of Greek tragedy. Or at least that’s the way Greenpeace made it seem. Hearing the way Greenpeace told it you would have thought these delinquents had been tossed UNDER the gulag. The whining and sniveling that emanated from their “tuberculosis ridden” prison ranged from “I’m a vegan and I’m starving to death” to “The Russian prisoners’ second-hand smoke is making me sick” to “We’re just innocent ‘activists’ being persecuted for our beliefs.” Perhaps, if Greenpeace was not willing to face the often harsh realities of the Russian justice system, they should not have committed crimes against the Russian people.
While the loony left the world over proceeded to wail and gnash their teeth, the moderate and reasonable among us could plainly see that “innocent” people don’t commit criminal trespass and piracy on the high seas. And that’s just what the Russians, at least temporarily, charged them with: piracy. Russia’s opinion that such hijinks on the high-seas amount to piracy is not unique. In fact, the premise is shared by one of the most liberal legal bodies in the world: The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On February 25, 2013 a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (a cousin of Greenpeace) was a pirate organization. The opinion in the case brought by Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), written by Chief Judge Kozinski, stated, “You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.”
Ultimately, and sadly, the Russians dropped the piracy charge and reduced the charge to hooliganism. But all was not lost, as the pejorative term “hooligan” defines the Greenpeacers almost as accurately as pirate does. I mean, what image comes to mind when one hears the term “hooligan?” My guess is a bunch of unruly, drunken soccer yobs who, in their berserker type rage, commit acts of vandalism, start fights, and generally raise a ruckus. Hmmm, sounds like the crew of the Arctic Sunrise alright.
In the end, right before Christmas the “Arctic 30” (along with other pillars of Russian society like the punk rock band Pussy Riot) were released under an extremely generous, broad-based amnesty law. Some observers have interpreted the new law as an attempt to temper foreign criticism of Russia's human rights record in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, believing there was little doubt that Western governments and human rights groups would have taken advantage of the opportunity to draw attention to the plight of such high-profile prisoners. But maybe the Russians just grew tired of the high-pitched whining noise coming from the Greenies and their ilk.
So that about wraps up maritime drama number one, except for one last thing. Remember the imprisoned Greenie who whined about starving to death because she was a vegan? Well she just happens to be “first climber” Sini Saarela. You’ll never guess what happened to ole Sini. She just finished second in the Guardian newspaper’s online "Person of the Year" poll, coming in right behind NSA traitor Edward Snowden. Happy New Year, Sini. What a way to close out the year!
So now it’s on to maritime drama number two. And for that we must travel south, way south, to the other end of the earth. This is where we’ll find a ship full of 74 global warming scientists, journalists, and tourists, (who actually paid for their passage) whose ship is stuck in, wait for it…. 5 meters of Antarctic ice. They went in search of evidence of the world’s melting ice caps, but instead found the Antarctic ice thicker than usual for this time of year.
The MV Akademik Schokalskiy was on an expedition, led by Australian Professor Chris Turney from the University of New South Wales, to document “environmental changes” at the South Pole. Turney was hoping to reach the base camp of Douglas Mawon, one of the most famous Antarctic explorers, and repeat observations done by him in 1912 to see what impact climate change had made. But instead Turney and his crew found themselves stranded on Christmas Eve surrounded, to be sure, by lots of bemused penguins.
Rest assured, though, that Turney is in good Greenie company as he and his 73 compatriots await rescue by several other ice breakers who are all, as of New Year’s Eve, wait for it…. also stuck in the ice!
The most notable of the stranded passengers is Australian Green Party Senator-elect Janet Rice, who was photographed up early one morning doing some stretching on the top deck of the ship. Rice is an Australian politician, member of the Australian Greens, former Councillor and Mayor of Maribyrnong, environmentalist, facilitator and one of the founding members of the Victorian Greens. Also among the stranded passengers are six Kiwis - ornithologist Kerry-Jayne Wilson, University of Auckland doctoral student Colin Tan, historians John and Barbara Tucker, and two chefs. The famous Australian mountaineer Greg Mortimer is serving as the mission’s co-leader.
While the drama in the Arctic has come to a close, the drama in the Antarctic remains to be played out. While the predicament of the “Antarctic 74” (my term) is most definitely of great concern, can it be denied that it was the result of nothing less than their unabashed hubris? The climate change crowd has so bought into its own rhetoric that they can only see that which they wish to believe. Imagine their shock when they fully expected to find melting polar ice caps and found themselves instead stranded in thick ice flows caused by unusually cold and nasty weather.
Surely the “Antarctic 74” will eventually be rescued, if not by ship then by helicopter. But had they taken off their translucent green rose-colored glasses and gone on their journey with a more balanced view, perhaps they would not have endangered themselves, not to mention the crews of the vessels now trying to save them.
And so it ends for 2013. And how will it go in 2014? My prediction is the Greenies will continue with their myopic crusade at all corners of the globe. But it will be especially interesting to see if they temper their antics just a bit with the two foes who this year called their bluff: The Russian Bear and Mother Nature.