Gulf Coast Activist Crashes Shell Meeting to Decry Destruction of Her Home
Just two weeks after Royal Dutch Shell’s offshore drilling operations released nearly 90,000 gallons of oil into the water off the Louisiana coast, an Indigenous activist from the Gulf region spoke out at Shell’s annual shareholders meeting in the Netherlands on Tuesday, highlighting the company’s history of environmental devastation in the place she calls home.
“In the late 90s, after learning that their community was plagued by an open-air, toxic, oil-field waste facility, I began documenting my Houma relatives living in a small, mostly American Indian and Cajun community called Grand Bois, located just south of Houma, Louisiana,” Monique Verdin told Common Dreams via email. “As I was taken further and further down the bayous I also became more and more aware of our rapid land loss and the other environmental impacts caused by the oil and gas industry.”
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Today, Verdin—Hurricane Katrina evacuee, witness to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and member-elect of the Houma Nation Council—says “the only way to ensure we protect the water and sanctity of life in and along the Gulf Coast is to put an end to extreme fossil fuel development.”
And she took that message to Shell executives and shareholders on Tuesday.
“I hope that Shell executives and shareholders were able to witness our perspectives of their damaging business practices affecting our communities on the frontlines of the Mississippi Delta and across the Gulf Coast,” said Verdin, a photographer who displayed a pop-up exhibition of 10-foot professional photos documenting climate impacts on communities of New Orleans outside before going inside to make her demands to the oil behemoth.
“I reminded them that just 2 weeks ago, almost 90,000 gallons of oil leaked from one of their sub seafloor pipelines, in depths of over 2000 feet,” she said after the action. “Additionally, I questioned why they continue to gamble with the health of our waters, marine life and ways of life by exploring and extracting carbon in the more dangerous and uncertain depths than ever before. Finally, in response to some of the opening statements about how Shell wants to cut carbon emissions, I recommended that one easy way to do that was to ‘Keep it in the Ground’ and to refrain from bidding on any new leasing opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico.”
With temperature records being broken left and right, sea levels rising, and extreme weather becoming commonplace, Verdin said it is “absurd” that “the federal government is putting more offshore lands onto the auction block than ever before.”
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