Today’s Seattle Times has an editorial in which it dismisses as mere symbolism efforts to prevent Shell from leasing the Port’s Terminal 5 for its Arctic drilling fleet.
Here’s the letter I sent in response:
The Times is right that the real fight over Arctic drilling has to be national, where the leases are granted. But it’s wrong to dismiss the Port Shell lease as mere symbolism. What this argument overlooks is that politics is all about symbolism.
Rejecting the Shell lease would dramatically enhance efforts to change those national leasing policies. It would get lots of attention and shift the debate by reminding everyone that much bigger interests are at stake. The economic and other benefits of leaving the oil under the Arctic far outweigh the advantages of extracting it.
I remember when divestment from South Africa was dismissed as mere symbolism. Yet we learned from the activists in South Africa that it was a vital form of solidarity.
Those accident-prone Shell rigs will be traversing Native territory that was never ceded, operating in extremely harsh conditions, threatening whales, seals, salmon, countless other species—and the people who depend on them.
It’s unclear whether Shell could find another port. What’s not debatable is that if we go along, we are abetting the worst crisis humanity faces. As the old proverb says, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll go for anything.