A song of oil, ice and fire

Posted by Ellen Booth — 27 May 2015 at 3:03pm - Comments
Still image taken from the film 'A song of oil, ice and fire'
All rights reserved. Credit: © Greenpeace / KennardPhillipps
British artists KennardPhillipps have created a new version of the painting 'An Arctic Summer: Boring Through the Pack in Melville Bay' by William Bradford. It shows an oil pipeline spill and rig explosion.

What would our world look like if the oil industry gets its way in the Arctic? That’s what we faced up to as we created our latest short film to challenge Shell, which could begin drilling in Arctic waters in just five weeks’ time.

‘A Song of Oil, Ice and Fire’ exposes how Shell’s greedy plan to drill for oil in the Arctic will jeopardise this unique place. It features classic American landscapes and reimagines them as destroyed by Shell and the oil industry. We wanted to evoke a powerful sense of what Shell is prepared to risk just to line its own pockets.

Because while Shell sees a profitable future in Arctic oil, it’s just the sort of long-term dirty energy project that needs to be dropped if we hope to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

And Shell’s plans are so risky they could devastate the Arctic and endanger its incredible wildlife like polar bears and bowhead whales. Millions of people who live there depend on a healthy Arctic, but experts agree an oil spill would be almost inevitable. The chance of one occurring over the lifetime of Shell’s leases is 75%, and that’s from the US government’s own analysis. We can’t take that kind of risk with the Arctic - we need to  leave the oil under the seabed.

I can’t count the number of oil disasters on land and at sea that the oil industry is responsible for. From tanker spills to rig explosions, refinery fires and pipeline leaks; the damage wreaked over decades is global and on an epic scale. And Shell could continue this same pattern. Consider its past attempt to drill in the Arctic in 2012 which was plagued with multiple operational failings culminating in the running aground of its drilling rig.

To visualise this threat, renowned montage art duo Kennardphillipps searched through thousands of real-life photos of oil disasters and used them to create three new landscapes which are at the heart of our film. They are alarming reinterpretations of artworks by Andrew Wyeth – Christina’s World, William Bradford – An Arctic Summer: Boring Through the Pack in Melville Bay and David Hockney – Pearblossom Highway.

Side by side the original artworks and the oily reinterpretations offer a dystopian mirror. But while it’s a story of despair it also speaks of hope. Shell thinks it has bought a pass to plunder the Arctic’s precious resources, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a growing international movement of people resisting Shell at every turn. Already six volunteers scaled its oil rig and camped out on it for nearly a week as it travelled across the Pacific, shining a media spotlight on Shell’s reckless Arctic ambition. In Seattle, where Shell chose to base its Arctic kit, local people in hundreds of kayaks and canoes took to the water to tell the company it’s not welcome in their city.

Shell really didn’t count on millions of ordinary people standing up to protect the Arctic. Watch and share the film to show Shell that the world is watching – and we are determined to protect what we love, and save the Arctic from Shell’s risky gamble.

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