Shell employees arriving to work at the corporation's London headquarters on Monday morning were greeted by the soaring strains of a musical protest, as a string orchestra performed the Greenpeace-commissioned "Requiem for Arctic Ice" to mark the first day of a month-long protest outside oil giant's UK offices.
"This protest is about reaching into the hearts of Shell employees, and asking them to help Shell avert disaster," said Mel Evans, the protest's artistic director.
The fossil fuel company is on the verge of beginning an exploitative and profit-driven oil-drilling operation in the Alaskan Arctic, one that climate justice advocates warn will raise carbon emissions while endangering a pristine ecosystem that native communities rely on for their sustenance and heritage.
Monday's "Requiem" is the second creative direct action Shell has faced in as many weeks, coming on the heels of a people-powered blockade in Portland, Oregon that successfully—if temporarily—stopped Shell's massive Fennica icebreaker from leaving port on its way to the Arctic.
A statement from the London-based Crystal Palace String Quartet, founded by graduates of Britain's top music colleges, explained further:
The still pristine yet greatly threatened Arctic region holds a special interest for us, as we have been fortunate enough to work together making music in far Northern regions on multiple occasions. We want to do what we can to stop the free reign to despoil this environment that oil companies currently seem to have. We believe that fossil fuels should stay where they are (in the ground), and that the huge sums of money going into new exploration should instead be spent developing and deploying renewable energy technologies. We are honoured and privileged to be giving the world premiere of the Greenpeace-commissioned “Requiem for Arctic Ice” and hope that the media take notice of the groundswell of opinion against Shell’s current activities in the Chukchi Sea. Music is universal and timeless; the opportunity to prevent catastrophe is limited to the here and now.
Supporters can "amplify the music" online, by signing petitions or taking steps on social media.
"I wanted to be involved with this project because I think words and images of vanishing nature can only say so much," said one participating musician. "Sometimes only music will do. We have lost much wildness already—the loss is hidden from plain sight, but it still is a loss we all feel, or will feel at some time, even if we can't recognise it. These pieces are a beautiful requiem for the 59,300 square kilometers of Arctic sea ice lost each year, as well as a reminder of all we have yet to lose, all we have to save."
This story was originally published on Common Dreams.