Climate showdown on the Willamette in Oregon

This web exclusive appeared July 31, 2015 on hcn.org:

It feels a bit like a picnic until the Coast Guard starts lunging at boats with a hooked metal pole.

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Dozens of colorful kayaks and canoes on Portland, Oregon’s Willamette River have been chasing shade under the St. Johns Bridge all day, their floppy-hatted passengers laughing and shouting slogans. People are crammed so tight on one side of a nearby floating dock that it lists to the side and water laps onto its boards. Some cheer, while others hoist speakers on lengths of PVC pipe, blasting the union anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”

Aside from a woman proudly holding a placard that reads: “Thank an oil company for all your protest/activist equipment,” it seems pretty clear which side most of the crowd favors. Thirteen Greenpeace activists dangle in climbing harnesses dozens of feet below the bridge. Their porta-ledges and stuffsacks, packed with days’ worth of supplies, are decorated with long red and yellow banners and giant signs reading “SHELL NO!” and “SAVE THE ARCTIC!” They and the kayaktivists, as the boaters have come to be called in recent months, are here to try to block the exit of the icebreaker MVS Fennica, which carries a key piece of safety equipment Royal Dutch Shell will need in order to move forward with oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea, off the north coast of Alaska. And at 7:30 that morning, they had already succeeded in turning it back once from the Columbia River, its gateway to the Pacific. “That was a little bit yay,” Sue Lenander, a 350.org member who came down from Seattle to join the flotilla, tells me. “But we can only fight them off for a day or two. It’s just a matter of time.” More…

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