That Cairn social media gagging order in full

Posted by bex — 22 July 2011 at 12:26pm - Comments
Cairn's tugs drag icebergs out the way of its Arctic oil drilling rig
All rights reserved. Credit: Will Rose / Greenpeace
Cairn tugs drag icebergs out of the way of its Arctic drilling rig

A lot of people on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere have been asking us a lot of questions about the interdict (injunction) - most of which we can't answer; we're gagged from saying anything that might be interpreted as asking others to do certain things on our behalf. We're so gagged that we probably can't even tell you what those certain things might be, in case that's seen as suggesting you do them.

So, in the public interest, we've decided to publish the full interdict (pdf). Feel free to download it, share it and discuss it; we'd be interested to hear your thoughts (although obviously we may not be able to reply).

If you trawl through it, you'll see that it's extraordinarily vague and wide-ranging; note the prohibition on "disseminating, printing, uploading, sharing, copying or otherwise publishing any images, photographs, pictures or other material", and the fact that Greenpeace International is also interdicted - despite the fact that it was Greenpeace UK that occupied Cairn's headquarters.

You'll also see that it reveals far more about Cairn than any of our polar bear pictures did.

Perhaps predictably, it reveals the company's profound lack of understanding of social media. But much more interestingly, it shows that Cairn is genuinely scared. The company is "apprehensive" that we took pictures inside their building that, if disseminated, will cause Cairn "considerable financial harm".

In short, they're scared that we found something they don't want you - or their investors - to see. Which surely means they're sitting on something they don't want you - or their investors - to see.

That 'something' is almost certainly the document we went in to look for: their Arctic oil spill response plan.

For those of you who have just come to this campaign (thanks to Cairn), Greenpeace has been working to get Cairn to open up their oil spill response plan to public scrutiny for some time now.

We're doing this because it's enormously important: Cairn is the first company to drill for oil above the Arctic circle and other, bigger oil companies are lining up to follow. Right now, we're facing a new oil rush in one of the most ecologically sensitive places on Earth, by the kind of people who see the melting of Arctic sea ice as a business opportunity.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic is a massive gamble with our planet, on two counts:

1. Cairn is drilling in sites that are as deep as the Macondo well that ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico. If an oil spill, leak or blowout happens in the Arctic, the freezing temperatures, narrow operational window and remote location mean that it would be almost impossible to deal with - and the damage to the natural world - and the local economy - will be catastrophic.

2. More oil means more intense climate change, which in turn will batter the Arctic - and the rest of the planet. It's easy to forget the extent to which climate change has already transformed the top of the world, but Johann Hari puts it well in this piece (worth reading in its entirety) on his journey to the Arctic:

The last days of the Arctic as we know it appear to have begun. Since the year I was born, 1979, nearly 40% of the Arctic's summer sea ice has melted into the oceans, and the rate is accelerating. One day – some scientists predict around 2015, others say 2030, and a few hope for 2070 – there will be nothing in summer but a silent stretch of water at the top of the world. The North Pole will be a point in the open ocean, accessible by boat. Perhaps somebody will found Sir John Franklin Shipping, in memory of the man who died in an unrecognisable landscape trying to reach this spot. The Arctic as it has existed for all of human history will be over.

(He wrote that a couple of years ago. It now looks as though scientists then were under-estimating the speed at which the sea ice is melting; recently, some have suggested that we may see a summer sea ice-free Arctic as soon as next year.)

Cairn is drilling for oil in one of the most ecologically sensitive and pristine environments left on Earth. It's risking our global commons for the sake of its own bottom line. It's refusing to tell the world what it would do in the event of an accident that could irreversibly transform the Arctic. And now it's gagged us with a draconian court order that impinges on fundamental freedoms of expression.

Feel free to have a word.

Here's that interdict PDF again.

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