Trans-Iberian

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Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

“We will not be silenced” Greenpeace stands up for Ibiza

Por: | 24 de julio de 2014

Greenpeace denounces Scottish oil firm Cairn Energy's plans to drill for oil off the island of Ibiza. PHOTO CREDIT  Pedro Armestre  Greenpeace (2)

Ibiza is best known for all-night clubbing with an A-list celebrity crowd and partying, but it  is also home to two national parks, environmentalists living off the grid on solar power, and is considered of such ecological and cultural importance that the UN designated the Balearic island and its surrounding waters a world heritage site. Despite this the Scottish oil company Cairn Energy has been granted a license by Spanish central government to explore for oil off of the coast of the white isle at the nature reserve Es Vedrà.

When the news broke there was public outrage and local people and even local politicians were in agreement that this should not happen. In February 2014, more than 10,000 people marched through Ibiza Town, and around 60,000 signed a petition against oil exploration in the region. Twenty people posed naked covered in mock oil for a piece of performance art. Then the battle went online: Ibiza loving celebs protested and the response was so incredible that everyone thought that the threat had been thwarted. Sadly, no as was highlighted recently when Greenpeace’s flagship The Rainbow Warrior arrived in Ibiza and then came on to Mallorca to spread the word about the impending threat to the Balearics.

Cairn Energy whose plans to look for oil in the Arctic have made it the target of green campaigners in the past, says that although it holds licences to explore for oil in the Gulf of Valencia, to the north-west of Ibiza, any seismic testing or the drilling of test wells is pending. The company is awaiting a decision on its environmental impact assessment by Spanish authorities due in late summer, which will determine whether it can continue. The government says Spain imports more than 99% of its oil and gas, at great expense, and that it must ensure energy security.

I took the chance to interview Joel Stewart, the Captain of The Rainbow Warrior. 

 

  Captain Joel Stewart (2)

VM: How long have you been with Greenpeace? How did you become part of the organisation? Captain Stewart: I was born in Oregon in the U.S.A. I am a professional commercial captain and I had been volunteering for Greenpeace and participating in manifestations. In 1989 I heard about the job vacancy for Captain on the new Rainbow Warrior and applied for it. It’s very important that we follow all of the regulations as Greenpeace is frequently targeted by organisations and we have to have everything in order. It’s very important to have sympathy for the goals that Greenpeace is working towards: you need to be an activist at heart and have a sincere wish to make changes and motivate people. 

What is the most important thing you have done during your time with Greenpeace? The campaign right now is definitely the most important one I have been involved with. My biggest goal is to end the age of fossil fuels and save the biodiversity of our oceans. We must stop this runaway train which is out of control. If we continue like this we’re going to be extinct. We are losing the Arctic ice: we will face environmental disaster, the sea levels will rise, there will be hurricanes, and typhoons: that will be our future. Can you imagine parts of the world being uninhabitable? We could have more than 50 million refugees.

The urgent challenge is how we are going to get off of fossil fuels. We have to do it, and we have to do it now if we are to avert disaster, if we don’t we are leaving our next generation to suffer. We have to stop. If we don’t stop then we have lost the battle of climate change.  We have to draw the line here. As the Arctic ice cap melts you will be faced with an extreme mega drought in the Balearics, are you ready for that?

What do you think is the most important thing we as individuals can do for the environment? We can do a lot through our own personal choices and actions. We can minimise the use of fossil fuels in our day to day lives, we can ride a bicycle rather than drive a car, but the main thing we must all do is lobby the politicians. We must vote out the politicians who are supporting oil exploration and vote in politicians who support clean energy.

  A banner on the inflatable reads “Prospeccions No, Renovables Sí (Exploration No, Renewables Yes).  PHOTO CREDIT Pedro Armestre  Greenpeace (3)

Does it make any sense to you that the big oil company Cairn has been given the rights by the Spanish government to even propose this exploration?  You shouldn’t let these people into the Balearics. We don’t want the government to support the reckless actions of Cairn. The main economic employment in the Balearics is tourism. Cairn claims that with the exploration there would be economic benefits, but there would be none for the inhabitants of the islands, all the money would be kept by Cairn and any employment would be given to cheap immigrant labour rather than locals. Far from representing a domestic, independent energy source, the fuel could be exported and sold to the highest bidder. The profits would belong to Cairn, not Spain. In fact the oil drilling would destroy many beaches and the livelihoods for the fishing community in the Balearics.

What is involved in oil exploration? What happens? Central government have given the license to explore despite the desires of the local government. The first stage of this is the seismic (acoustic) tests which are due to start in November. Marine acoustic tests devastate marine life, interfering with the ability to orientate, breed and navigate. Eggs and larva are destroyed and internal bleeding, injuries and eventually death, are the result. The area where the drilling is proposed to happen is home to oceanic Posidonia, a giant sea grass only found in Europe. The Posidonia, a flowering plant commonly known as Neptune grass, creates a five-mile underwater meadow to the south of Ibiza. It provides an important place for fish to breed, and serves an ecological function by cleaning the water. The proposed drilling site is also in the middle of a cetacean (dolphins) migration corridor.

How big would the threat be of an oil spillage? How likely? If they start drilling in a deep water environment as they proposing to do, there is no way they would be able to contain a leak. Cairn is looking at exploring for oil at depths of 1,000-1,500 metres, which would mean its platform had the same characteristics of Deepwater [Horizon, the source of the 2010 BP oil spill]. If there was a spill, it would be the 'Balearic problem' because of the currents. Even in the Gulf of Mexico they couldn’t clean it up. If there were an oil spillage it would affect all the coasts of the Mediterranean: France, Italy, Spain. The entire sea would be inevitably fouled. And to add insult to injury what happens when these sorts of leaks occur? Who do you think pays for them? It isn’t the oil company who pays for the clean-up; it is paid for with public taxes. They are not held liable for even a fraction of the cost.

  Activists from the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior protest at Es Vedrà Islets Nature Reserve near Ibiza, Spain. PHOTO CREDIT  Pedro Armestre  Greenpeace

The Greenpeace info says that the activists erected an "oil containment barrier" at Es Vedra. What is an oil containment barrier? Why did you do that? We did a demonstration with an oil containment barrier. They are a bit of a joke really as they don’t actually work in open water. They are supposed to float on the surface and make it more difficult for the oil to move around. But the reality is that it would not be able to contain a spillage as it is not effective in high seas or rough weather. We want to make sure that you understand that if you as a country allow this drilling to happen that you are going to wipe out your biodiversity in the Balearics. You will wipe out many species of sea life.

Do you think the campaign has had any effect or impact? People have been visiting the ship at every port of call, and we have been very pleased with the response.  We have been partnering with Mar Blava Alliance and we are very happy to support them in what they are doing to protest and oppose this drilling. I can tell you the people I am speaking to everywhere we go are very concerned about what is happening.

In our study, Energia 3.0, we show that by 2050, a future scenario of a global energy model without fossil fuels, using 100% renewable sources of energy is both technically possible and economically feasible. Greenpeace see the world as being on the cusp of an energy revolution, compelled by the pressures of climate change. Even the extremely moderate United Nations say that burning fossil fuels is the principal cause of global climate change. This, they insist, has to stop. For the future of everyone.

What would be suitable replacement energy sources for the Balearics? We have a lot of options for renewable energies, many of which are completely feasible. The only thing we have to do is get the political will to change and to insist on change.

Has Greenpeace changed anything about their campaigning approach since the problems the Arctic Sunrise encountered in Russia? We are not going to allow ourselves to be silenced; we will not let anyone silence us. We are increasing our campaign for the Global Arctic Sanctuary.  Five million people have signed to support us. We will not allow any government, country or company to illegally imprison our crew or our ship. We will take action when and where we deem necessary to continue to push for the end of the use of fossil fuels.

What can we do as individuals to prevent the oil exploration happening in the Balearics? 

Visit http://alianzamarblava.org/en/  and sign the petition, follow them and Greenpeace on Facebook, Twitter, whatever you use.  

Sign the Greenpeace petition against oil exploration in the Mediterranean: put your Passport number where it says DNI if you don’t have that number, and leave the phone number blank.

Like https://www.facebook.com/ibizasaysno

Share this article on the social networks. Let people know what is happening.

Use the hashtag #ProspeccionesNO

Join the campaign against drilling for oil in the Arctic Sea - whatever follows there will irrevocably determine the future of the planet.  

Simple lifestyle changes you can make: 

  1. Recycle, treat your local environment with respect. 
  2. Don’t leave litter.
  3. Support businesses which are actively making an effort to do the same.
  4. Don’t use the plastic bags from the supermarket.
  5. Take a reusable one or use boxes if you have a car.
  6. Cut your plastic consumption by buying 5 litre bottles and refill your small bottle each day.
  7. Cut down on use of your private vehicle. Use public transport, walk, or cycle.

At the time of writing the Spanish government has granted Cairn Energy an exploration permit and is currently waiting for an Environmental Impact Assessment to start seismic testing.

 Captain Joel Stewart was speaking to Vicki McLeod (@mcleod_vicki)

To read more articles about people in Majorca please visit www.mallorcastories.com 

Background sources: The Guardian, Greenpeace, Ibiza Spotlight

 

 

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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