Green Weenie of the Week: Greenpeace

I’ve long argued that Greenpeace deserves to be considered the John Birch Society of the environmental movement—an extremist organization that ought to be openly shunned by “mainstream” environmental organizations, just as the modern conservative movement decided to marginalize the John Birch Society starting back in the early 1960s.  That’s if the “mainstream” environmental movement actually wants to be taken seriously by mainstream Americans.  There is some doubt about this question.

It turns out that Greenpeace is not merely extremist, but lawless, too, encouraging its activists to board ships and drilling platforms to obstruct Shell’s activities until their short summer-season “drilling window” in the arctic closed them down.  Its general counsel legitimizes the lawlessness of its members, which ought to be grounds for disbarment of the general counsel.

Greenpeace’s lawlessness is detailed in an opinion issued last Tuesday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Shell Offshore v. Greenpeace (“A California Corporation,” the opinion notes of Greenpeace), which upheld the injunction Shell received in District Court against Greenpeace’s lawless behavior.  The opinion first has to swat away the usual hurdles of standing (Greenpeace incredibly claimed that Shell suffered no harm from its interference, despite the fact that Greenpeace publicly boasted of having prevented oil production), mootness, and jurisdiction.  As Judge Wallace Tashima, author of the majority opinion, notes, “we have every reason to believe that the underlying wrong will recur.”  Gee, I wonder what could ever give him the idea that Greenpeace might try to board ships and oil platforms again in the future?

Judge Tashima goes on to note now Greenpeace, and its legal counsel, openly embrace lawlessness:

But “stop Shell” is not merely a campaign of words and images. Greenpeace USA also uses so-called “direct actions” to achieve its goals, and its general counsel has conceded that direct action can include illegal activity. There is evidence that Greenpeace USA and its counterparts around the globe are united in the goal of stopping Shell. When Greenpeace activists forcibly boarded an oil rig off the coast of Greenland in 2010 and used their bodies to impede a drilling operation, Greenpeace USA’s executive director described their conduct as “bold non-violent direct action” by “our activists.” Greenpeace USA similarly endorsed the forcible boarding of a Shell vessel by Greenpeace New Zealand activists in February 2012, again referring to them as “our brave activists.”  (Emphasis added.)

There are other zingers in the opinion that mark out the ridiculousness and extremism of Greenpeace’s legal claims as well as their behavior:

We find it too plain for debate that such tactics at minimum pose a serious risk of harm to human life, particularly if attempted in the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean, and that such harm could find no adequate remedy at law. . . Shell has an interest in conducting legally authorized exploration of its Arctic leases without dangerous interference from Greenpeace USA. Greenpeace USA has a countervailing First Amendment right to protest Shell’s drilling activities, and the injunction imposes safety zones around Shell vessels that prevent Greenpeace USA from exercising its rights in close proximity to those vessels. Greenpeace USA argues that this is an undue speech restriction, prohibited under Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of W.N.Y., 519 U.S. 357 (1997). We disagree.

The safety zones do not prevent Greenpeace USA from communicating with its target audience because, as the district court observed, Greenpeace USA has no audience at sea.  And although the injunction imposes a safety “bubble” around Shell’s vessels, Greenpeace USA’s reliance on Schenck and its discussion of bubble zones around abortion clinics is sorely misplaced. Speech is, of course, most protected in such quintessential public fora as the public sidewalks surrounding abortion clinics.  But the high seas are not a public forum, and the lessons of Schenck have little applicability there.

This is actually pretty funny stuff if you’re a student of the droll language of legal opinions.  (“Greenpeace has no audience at sea.” Heh.  What about Charlie Tuna?)  Can’t believe Greenpeace hasn’t yet won a coveted Power Line Green Weenie before now.  The award was practically created with them in mind.

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