When Shell Oil’s massive arctic drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, floated toward the Port of Seattle’s Terminal Five on May 16, Seattle’s former mayor, Mike McGinn tweeted, “It’s like the deathstar landed in Seattle.” Based on the reactions of his fellow army of “kayaktivists,” he was not alone in that feeling.
Kayaktivists is name given to the protesters who created a flotilla of personal kayaks in an effort to interfere with the docking of the Polar Pioneer. In their multi-colored plastic, petroleum-based products, they created a spectacular visual and the best protest Seattle has seen in some time. After all, when the peaceful portion of your protest ends on the water, those who want to break windows or start fires have nothing to do.
And the Polar Pioneer really was like the Death Star—if the Death Star had been baby-duck yellow, square instead of round, and focused on finding energy sources for the benefit of society rather than for obliterating planets. But for Seattle’s ShellNO campaigners, the baby-duck yellow feat of human engineering does represent a planet destroyer. For them it is symbolic of a climate change that is sure to destroy the planet, making their tiny, seemingly harmless flotilla of multi-colored kayaks the aquatic equivalent of a squadron of X-Wing fighters seeking a weakness in the plans of Shell through which they can launch their photon torpedoes.
The Mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, arrived late to the party—like Han Solo did. However, unlike Solo, Mayor Murray came flying to the rescue not with a speedy, record-breaking spaceship, but with embarrassing legal efforts to challenge the validity of the permits allowing Shell’s repairs and resupply. In the face of such hysterical left-wing opposition, previously unchallenged permits were suddenly deemed invalid because equipment would be loaded and unloaded off the Polar Pioneer, and the permits were deemed invalid for that kind of work. You know, the kind of work you do when you get out of your car and move the groceries into the house. To be fair, there is plenty of other kinds of work as well, but permit rejection reeks of pure politics. Foss Maritime now faces fines as high as $500 a day for allowing Shell to dock at their leased terminal—chump change for a project this big. You can practically hear the mayor and his allies, “It’s a hit! Negative-negative. Just impacted on the surface.”
Seattle has been protesting a lot lately, with Socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant its new spiritual leader. She helped successfully launch the $15 per hour minimum wage effort for the city. She has been outraged that there are not better paying jobs being created in the city.
She was out on the water, in a kayak, denouncing Shell when the Polar Pioneer floated by her and put 417 people to work in high paying jobs. Foss Maritime’s Paul Queary told local Fox affiliate KCPQ that 417 is a number that is higher than any estimate of the protesters so far. But Kshama Sawant has promised “escalating civil disobedience.” Since they failed to stop the craft from arriving, protesters have now announced their goal is to keep it here. They’ve given up their x-wings to become the equivalent of the space slug in Empire Strikes Back.
Seattle’s protesters bring up one valid point. If a spill were to happen in the arctic, it would be more difficult to clean up than a spill that didn’t feature such a challenging environment. One of the reasons Shell stopped exploring before was a failure in its safety equipment, but they’ve now been cleared to go.
A brief conversation with the kayaktivists reveals that it really doesn’t matter anyway. Opposition is primarily directed at carbon fuel extraction, not the location.
Seattle has been sucking up Alaskan petroleum for years, its skyline is currently dotted with cranes for new construction, and the northwest is famous for building Boeing planes. Secretary of State John “Climate Change is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction” Kerry just visited the northwest to urge support for free trade citing the enormous expected growth market for Boeing aircraft. No word yet if Seattle’s protesters will try to put a stop to Boeing adding planes. It should be a long-shot, but at one point Councilwoman Sawant did advocate seizing their production facilities to build buses.
Seattle’s protesting elite can afford to dismiss corporate America and fossil fuels because it’s living off the wealth of their success. They imagine themselves heroes, but play the part of zealots.
Hundreds of people will have held good paying jobs. They will have paid for their homes, fed their families and paid for their own healthcare. The city will collect taxes from their purchases. Then “Death Star” will leave Seattle and explore the depths for new sources of energy so that our future can be as promising as our past.