MAPS, joining the adventure, Darcy Belanger

Joining the Adventure

In December 2014, Parvati rallied friends and colleagues, experts in their fields, to join her in the all-volunteer not-for-profit Parvati.org.

Our first mission was to stop the seismic testing set to take place off Clyde River, Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic Ocean. The repeated underwater blasts are 100,000 times louder than a jet engine, and go off every ten seconds, 24 hours a day. No one would want their home bombed. Seismic blasting is traumatic, even deadly, for marine life.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this testing is a search for oil and gas. Our use of fossil fuels is killing us. It is obvious that to drill the Arctic seabed, with the risk of oil spills that can’t be contained, is digging our grave.

We soon learned that seismic testing is usually “pre-funded” by oil companies. We felt people had the right to know who was behind this planned work in Canada’s Arctic Ocean. So with no particular access, but with tireless determination and creative thinking, we set out to research the connections.

Darcy soon impressed all of us with his organizational and strategic skills. He researched the three Norwegian companies planning the seismic testing, and built alliances with other environmental organizations tackling Arctic oil. At the same time, our General Counsel, Vandana Erin Ryder, led a team of volunteers to research consumer-level companies who might stand to profit from oil exploitation in the Arctic.

It became obvious through Darcy’s work that the Canadian government benefited from knowing the location of petroleum reserves. Vandana investigated the bureaucracy around Arctic oil and gas, supported by Pranada’s knowledge of government lobbying. But we couldn’t get the information we needed. So we initiated our “gopher smoking” campaign.

About 20 volunteers phoned as many key government officials as possible, every day. Our goal was that mounting pressure would reveal the truth, like smoke driving a gopher from its burrow.

Through a series of circuitous events in the fall of 2015, the government’s Director of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Management gave Vandana a copy of an oil and gas permit from the Lancaster Sound area in the Arctic Ocean, not far from Clyde River. It had been issued to Shell Canada back in 1971, and should have expired in 1979. But it was inexplicably still on the Canadian government’s books, and in the way of a planned marine park.

Vandana wrote a legal brief summarizing the problems with the permit, and shared it with Darcy, who sent it to his NGO connections. We went to the press. A national outcry ensued and a lawsuit was launched. Shell made the strategic move to relinquish the permits. The Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound marine park could finally move forward.

But we had not stopped the seismic testing. We knew that protection of the Arctic Ocean had to happen on a grander scale and a more immediate timeline. Today, its ice is melting fast, with 75% less in the summer than there was just 50 years ago. The more it melts, the more businesses seek to move in for short-term gain. So Parvati developed the vision for MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary.

Under MAPS, the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle will become an international peace park, free from exploitation of all kinds. This will accelerate a global pivot to renewable energies by ensuring Arctic seabed oil and gas remain undisturbed. The shift compels a collective social movement to long-term preservation. At a time of global unrest, it unites the world around a common goal.

Vandana wrote the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary Treaty as an addendum to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Only a couple of months after we had broken the story about the expired Shell permits, Darcy was in Paris at COP 21, the MAPS Treaty in hand.

The planned seismic testing never went ahead. In 2016, the companies chose to delay it for a year. The following summer, the Supreme Court of Canada quashed the permits for good.

By Parvati Magazine Staff