THE HAGUE – (AFP) – Activists have planted a flag at the North Pole along with millions of signatures calling for the Arctic to be declared a global sanctuary protected from oil drilling, lobby group Greenpeace said on Monday.
Expedition members cut a hole in the ice and lowered the “flag for the future” onto the seabed along with a titanium-glass capsule containing 2.7 million signatures against the exploitation of the pristine Arctic.
The flag, atop the titanium-ringed glass sphere, was lowered four kilometres (2.5 miles) to the bottom, near where a Russian mini-submarine in 2007 controversially planted a Russian flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
The Greenpeace expedition included Hollywood actor Ezra Miller, indigenous Sami MP Josefina Skerk from Sweden and Renny Bijoux from the Seychelles, who all trekked for a week to reach the geographical North Pole, a statement said.
“We’re here to say this special area of the Arctic belongs to no person and no nation, but is the common heritage of everyone on Earth,” said Sami parliament member Skerk, 26.
“We stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, in the whole of the Arctic, whose way of life is now being threatened by the unchecked greed of industry.”
Amsterdam-based Greenpeace says the Arctic is under threat from climate change, oil companies, industrial fishing and shipping, with oil giants such as Shell and Gazprom moving in as nations lay claim to areas previously covered by ice.
Shifting ice and dwindling supplies meant that the expedition members had to hitch a lift with a helicopter for one of the final legs of their journey.
The Arctic seabed is thought to hold about 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas resources, according to the US Geological Survey.
“I can’t feel the tips of my fingers or toes but my head and heart are filled with a newfound determination,” said Miller, star of the 2011 film “We Need to Talk About Kevin”.
“Melting ice is a catastrophe, not a profit-making opportunity. To see it as such is utter madness.”
The Arctic Council, the governing body comprised of officials from Arctic states, held its first ever meeting at the North Pole during the expedition.
Greenpeace said that Skerk requested a meeting with the group but was refused.
The flag was designed by Malaysian schoolgirl Sarah Batrisyia in a competition judged by British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.