Expert's Warning Affirms Arctic 30's Clarion Call: Oil Spill 'Inevitable'

As the fate of the Arctic 30 protesters has become a point of international outcry, their message—when they staged their peaceful action atop a Russian drilling platform—lives on: We must “Save the Arctic.”

Validating the environmentalists’ warning that gas and oil drilling in Arctic waters is a clear threat to the pristine wilderness, an oil spill expert told the Guardian Tuesday that should drilling continue there, a major spill is “inevitable” and would cause untold damage to the ecosystem.

“It is inevitable you will get a spill – a dead cert,” Simon Boxall, an oil spill expert from the University of Southampton, told the paper. “I would expect to see a major spill in the not too distant future. I would be astonished if you did not see a major spill from this.”

As Boxall explains, compounding any spill are the frigid temperatures, which prevent the oil from naturally breaking down as it does in more temperate waters where bacteria help digest the oil. “In the Arctic the oil does not break down in this way – it can take decades before it breaks down,” he warns. “Nature will not help us.”

Further, Boxall notes, the drilling industry is one fraught with mistakes. “Corners are cut, money is saved in small ways. Then it can go wrong and end up costing a huge amount of money, like in the Gulf of Mexico,” he adds.

Boxall’s warning confirms the message of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists who defied Russian authorities in September when they boarded a Gazprom oil platform in an act of civil disobedience against Arctic drilling.

“Peacefully protesting for the protection of the pristine Arctic is not a crime, it is a great service to mankind,” said Ben Ayliffe, Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner, in a statement condemning their imprisonment.

The protesters were hoping to bring awareness to the devastation caused by an “inevitable” spill as well as the additional 520 million tons of carbon pollution the drilling would add to the atmosphere each year. 

“In an age of cynicism and political apathy in many countries, the activists did something about an issue they care passionately about,” Ayliffe added. “They saw that oil platform as a threat to a fragile, beautiful environment. They protested peacefully, driven by their convictions, and for that they are being unjustly punished.”

After two months of detention, a St. Petersburg court ruled Tuesday that 9 of the Arctic 30 can be freed on bail following the release on bail of three Russian activists Monday.

The Guardian reports:

However, on Monday 59-year-old Australian citizen Colin Russell had his detention extended following the rejection of his bail application on the grounds that he could flee the country or interfere in an investigation—a ruling Greenpeace’s Mads Christensen called a “scandal” that “bears no relation to the administration of justice.”

In a statement following the news of Russell’s rejected application, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace said:

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Greenpeace is providing live updates as the hearings progress.

Those named as being bailed on Tuesday are: Ana Paula Maciels, 31, from Brazil; Miguel Hernan Perez Orsi, 40, Argentina; David Haussmann, 49, New Zealand; Sini Saarela, 31, Finland; Paul Ruzycki, 48, Canada; Camila Speziale, 21, Argentina; Tomasz Dziemianczuk, 36, Poland; Francesco Pisanu, 38, France; Cristian D’Alessandro, 32, Italy.

And the three Russian detainees granted bail Monday are Andrey Allakhverdov, Ekaterina Zaspa and freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov.