Dan Ritzman knows this week's announcement from Shell that the company wouldn't drill in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi Seas this year is a reason to be happy, but he also knows it's not a complete victory.
"I'm not just opposed to drilling because it can't be done safely -- it just shouldn't be done at all," said Dan, a senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club and Arctic wilderness guide. "To me, the Arctic is just too special."Known as the Polar Bear Seas, the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are home to the entire US population of polar bears and serve as an important migration route for bowhead and beluga whales.
"I'm very lucky to have experienced the place first hand," said Dan. "I feel a special connection to the incredible wildlife that lives there and tremendous respect for the people and their culture that call the Arctic home and the Arctic Ocean their garden."
The area is also home to some of the most extreme and dangerous conditions on the planet, making drilling a risky proposition.
Dan knows, as do Alaska Natives and many Americans, that drilling for oil in the Arctic will never be safe. The technology doesn't exist to drill safely no matter how many different ways Big Oil tries to argue to the contrary.
"More than 10 years ago I was an invited along by industry to witness an Arctic oil spill clean-up drill -- they failed miserably then and it is clear that they are no better off today," Dan said. Shell's Arctic clean-up vessel had yet to be approved by the Coast Guard.
Mother Nature also demonstrated its power to Shell -- first when the drilling was delayed by lingering sea ice and later when initial drilling had to stop within hours because of a massive iceberg floating nearby.
"We were reminded that Mother Nature bats last in the North," said Dan.
Dan and I agree that Shell's decision gives us momentum going into the new year. We will have more time to rally our forces and build our campaign up even further -- as if 1 million comments to the Obama Administration isn't enough -- to prevent Big Oil from drilling in the Arctic.
We don't need to open this irreplaceable area to drilling. Instead we should focus on making our cars cleaner and more efficient and expanding our transportation choices in order to move beyond oil. Let's invest in clean energy innovation instead of remaining addicted to oil and ruining our planet's most amazing places.
"Americans want to see the Polar Bear Seas protected for future generations," Dan said.