The Root Word: ForestEthics Blog

VICTORY for the Sacred Headwaters Plus 10 Things That Made it Possible

Dec 18, 2012

Today's announcement that Shell is withdrawing from the Sacred Headwaters and that the area will be permanently protected from gas drilling is cause for celebration for communities in the northwest of British Columbia! People all over the world who joined in to say “No” to dirty energy and fractured landscapes and “Yes” to for wild places, clean water, wild salmon and environmentally responsible jobs should share their excitement.

Shell has only backed away from projects a few times before. Many dedicated people were involved in making this happen, including many of you reading this blog.

We often receive emails asking for help to sign petitions or send emails to politicians and corporate executives. How many of you have ever wondered if these seemingly simple actions make a difference? Well, delivering an outpouring of online messages to the right people at the right moments made all the difference in this campaign. The response we have gotten to our calls to action over the past few years has been overwhelming.

With the support of nearly 100,000 individuals, ForestEthics joined with the First Nations and communities who first took a stand against Shell. We brought voices from the remote corner of northwest British Columbia to the offices of provincial government and to the boardrooms of Shell. Government and Shell had no choice but to come to a solution. Today’s announcement shows that the thousands of voices against Shell’s project in the Sacred Headwaters help us build the power needed to win.

Here are some of my favourite moments from the campaign to prove it:

1. Hello, Shell, meet ForestEthics Advocacy!
It was at the World Energy Congress in Montreal in September 2010 when we first introduced ourselves to Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Peter Voser. Here’s ForestEthics Advocacy’s organizer, Jolan Bailey, presenting Mr. Voser with our take on the preposterous nature of Shell’s proposed plan for the Sacred Headwaters.

ForestEthics Advocacy organizer Jolan Bailey meets with Shell's CEP

2. Across the globe in the Netherlands…
Here are some of our Dutch volunteers, attending a Shell-hosted international gas conference in Amsterdam. We thought professionals in the oil and gas business should know what Shell had planned in the Sacred Headwaters.

In The Hague, ForestEthics Advocacy volunteers call the Sacred Headwaters to Shell's attention

3. Special guests at Shell’s annual meeting.
Our Dutch volunteers staged a special crime scene on the steps of Shell’s annual general meeting in The Hague.

In the Hague, volunteers take action for the Sacred Headwaters

4. Shell receives prestigious Bad Gas Award
. I made a point to meet Mr. Voser myself in May 2011, and presented him with the Bad Gas Award at Shell’s annual shareholder meeting in The Hague.

Campaigner Karen Tam Wu meets with Shell's Mr. Voser at GasTech 2011

5. Dear Ms Mitchelmore: In early 2011, we posted these ads at train stations near Shell Canada’s headquarters in Calgary. Nearly 6,000 emails were sent to Shell Canada’s president, Lorraine Mitchelmore. This landed me a meeting with her.

Ads against Shell's plan to frack in the Sacred Headwaters

6. How could Shell ignore this?
In summer 2011, we launched our postcard action, asking folks to send a postcard to Shell Canada’s president. In the end, more than 60,000 people signed digital postcards. Rather than printing then out, which would have been nine kilometres of postcards, we created a 50 feet long banner. The President of Shell Canada couldn’t turn down a request for a meeting with her, so that I could present her with the banner.

Banner of signatures in Victoria, British Columbia

7. The best ads you’ll never see.
On the anniversary of the moratorium (one year left), we took out this ad at a local ski hill in the Canadian Rockies, where Shell’s president skis. Unfortunately, she never got to see the ad, because when Shell got wind of our plans they demanded the ski hill take down our ad. It was such a shame, because it’s my favourite ad of all. Here it is (view enlarged).

Sacred Headwaters ski hill ad

8. “Get your story straight, Shell.”
After some of our volunteers attend Shell’s 2012 annual shareholders meeting, we thought Shell needed to clarify their plans. Shell staff were a bit peeved that more than 8,000 people emailed them asking them to “Get their story straight”.

9. In BC, salmon = jobs.
We launched these ads around BC from the summer onwards, a spoof of the BC government’s Jobs Ads.

Ad in British Columbia highlighting the connection between jobs and salmon

10. Dear Honourable BC Premier Clark.
And more than 15,000 people signed on to our petition, asking Premier Christy Clark to ban drilling for gas in the Sacred Headwaters for good. We presented the Premier with your signatures, and we definitely got the Sacred Headwaters on the Premier’s radar.
Delivery of 15,000 signatures asking BC Premier to protect the Sacred Headwaters

So take a deep breath, and pat yourselves on the back.

Today, we thank the British Columbia government and Shell for making the honourable decision to forego a destructive project.

The Tahltan First Nation, on whose territory the Sacred Headwaters are found, was at the core of this battle. They were the first to look Shell in the eye, fearlessly draw a line in the sand, and stand up for the Sacred Headwaters. I have nothing but admiration for their courage and congratulate them and the downstream communities for uniting together to defeat Shell’s plans. Thank you to all the tens of thousands of people from around the world, who took action and sent messages to Shell and the BC government.

This victory announcement today proves that when we unite, we can create the world we want.

I am thrilled to be able to share this amazing day with you and proud of everything everyone involved did to make this victory possible. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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