Lucy Lawless launches campaign to save Arctic
22 June 2012

lucyrioAt a press conference at the UN Earth Summit in Rio this morning (at approximately 01:30hrs NZ time), New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless launched an ambitious plan to declare a global sanctuary in the High Arctic.

She revealed the plan alongside entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, and Greenpeace International's Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.

One of the key steps of the plan is to gather a million signatures on a scroll, and place them in an indestructible pod on the sea floor, four thousand metres below the North Pole.

Lawless joins Sir Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Jude Law, the world's biggest boy band One Direction and dozens of other famous names in demanding that the uninhabited area around the North Pole be legally protected and made off-limits to polluters. Other signatories include, Pedro Almodovar, Thom Yorke, Emily Blunt, Baaba Maal, Javier Bardem, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel and some of China's most famous musicians. The list includes nine Oscar winners, ten Golden Globe winners and five Grammy Award winners (details below).

Right now the huge expanse around the Pole belongs to all of us because it's defined in international law as the high seas, and underneath it is the deep seabed which is the common heritage of all mankind. But as temperatures rise due to climate change, and the ice melts, the Arctic states are making territorial claims on the seabed so they can open the door to the oil giants. The Arctic sea ice has retreated dramatically in recent years and scientists say the North Pole could soon be ice-free. (1)

The Arctic is crucial to avoiding a state of runaway climate change, as it acts like the Earth's refrigerator, keeping the planet cool by reflecting the sun's energy off its surface.


At the press conference, Lawless said that: "I've seen a lot of frustrated and depressed people here. The wording on the UN doc was too wimpy on climate change. Our governments are under the thumb of Big Oil. .. well, I don't accept that. On behalf of my children, I reject their inaction. And so should you"!

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said: "The Arctic is coming under assault and needs people from around the world to stand up and demand action to protect it. A ban on offshore oil drilling and unsustainable fishing would be a huge victory against the forces ranged against this precious region and the four million people who live there. And a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the pole would in a stroke stop the polluters colonising the top of the world without infringing on the rights of Indigenous communities."

Shell is due to begin exploratory drilling at two offshore sites in the Alaskan Arctic in the coming weeks. One of the drillships Shell will be using is the Noble Discoverer, which was occupied by Lawless and six other activists in February. If Shell is successful this summer, an Arctic oil rush will be sparked and the push to carve up the region will accelerate. Russian oil giant Gazprom is also pushing into the offshore Arctic this year.

In 2007 Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the pole and 'claimed' it for Moscow (2). Wikileaks documents later revealed he was acting on the instructions of the Russian Government (3).

As well as collecting signatures for the Scroll, the focus of the Greenpeace campaign will initially be on pushing for a UN resolution on creating a global sanctuary around the Pole, and a ban on oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in the wider Arctic. Twenty years ago - at the other end of the Earth - something similar was created when the mining industry was banned from operating on the continent of Antarctica, and land-based activity was restricted science and research.

Lawless said before the press conference that: "I'm not just here today for the sake of the Arctic. The whole world is threatened by climate change. And New Zealand is also under threat from the very same thing that is driving the Arctic oil rush. As the easy-to-reach oil is running out, the oil industry is establishing its new, extreme frontiers all over the world, including in the deep waters off the coast of the Taranaki, the East Cape, Canterbury, and at the bottom of the South Island.

"If the Government would recognise the fact that there is a global clean energy race underway, then it could position New Zealand to achieve lasting, sustainable prosperity. Sadly, it is still obsessed with deep sea drilling, and mining for fossil fuels," she says.

Anybody in the world can add their name to the Arctic Scroll by visiting . If they are one of the first million to do so, their name will be on the part of the scroll that gets planted on the seabed beneath the North Pole.

See more on the AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Arctic Sanctuary Support Page for more news, photos, video and other multimedia

See more of Lucy's role as an Eco-Warrior and Greenpeace Ambassador