Women of color at the forefront of victory against Shell arctic drilling

After years of protests and negotiation, oil giant Shell announced this week that it will give up efforts to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic. Citing a “disappointing exploration outcome” and the high costs of drilling and transporting oil from the region, the company will be sealing and abandoning its base there.

A young woman hanging off of a thick anchor chain raises her hands in a gesture of triumph. She's holding a sign that says "Save the Arctic."

Chiara D’Angelo, 20, chained herself to the anchor chain of a drilling support ship. Image credit

Though possibly not permanent – Shell has only agreed to pull the plug “for the foreseeable future” – this is a huge win for the climate justice movement. Environmental activists have long said that drilling in the Arctic is unsafe and will only increase our dependence on fossil fuels, as opposed to moving us away from them. Drilling in a fragile ecosystem like the Arctic not only puts the animals living there in danger, it poses an immediate threat to the lives of the indigenous people who call the Arctic home.

The movement to stop Shell was careful to represent the skewed effects Shell’s plans would have on communities of color, particularly earlier this year when a group of “kayaktavists” used kayaks to block Shell’s oil rig from leaving the Seattle port. Women of color were front and center in the organizing: Katrina Pestaño, a Phillipina immigrant rapper and activist and lead organizer, opened up the action with a spoken word piece. Student of color activists were quoted in media coverage of the event, connecting the struggles of their immigrant parents to the cause they support today. A few days later, another action against Shell was lead by indigenous people, marching and calling out “shell no!” Later that month, Chiaria D’Angelo, 20, chained herself to the anchor chain of a drilling support ship and stayed there for 58 hours in an effort to delay drilling.

Though environmental issues are often mischaracterized as causes that primarily interests white people, the fight against fossil fuels and extractive industries is a matter of life or death for many indigenous communities and communities of color. Because climate change and climate disasters are racist, and classist, and huge mysogynists. Those people most affected by the damages the fossil fuel industry does to our earth are those who are already most marginalized.

So today we honor and uplift their work, and join them in what will undoubtably be a long, hard, fight for all of our lives.

Header image credit


Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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