* Paul McCartney, Robert Redford among backers
* Campaign seeks to prevent oil drilling in Arctic
By Nina Chestney
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 21 One hundred celebrities
backed a Greenpeace campaign against oil drilling and
unsustainable fishing in the Arctic on Thursday, as oil giant
Shell prepares to start exploratory drilling in the
Paul McCartney, actor Robert Redford and British
entrepreneur Richard Branson were among the celebrities
demanding that the uninhabited region around the North Pole be
protected from pollution, the environmental group Greenpeace
The campaign is pushing for countries to create a U.N.
resolution that would establish a global sanctuary in the Arctic
region and ban oil drilling and unsustainable fishing. A similar
sanctuary in Antarctica was created 20 years ago when the mining
industry was banned from operating there.
The stars' names will be the first hundred to be written on
a scroll that will be deposited 2.5 miles (4 kms) below the ice
of the North Pole when an additional million people sign the
document, Greenpeace said.
Heads of state and environment ministers are meeting in Rio
this week to try to agree on ways to ensure sustainable
development that respects the environment. A draft text prepared
by diplomats this week - which can still be amended - postponed
an oceans protection plan that could establish a sanctuary in
the area around the North Pole.
The Arctic region is especially vulnerable to the effects of
global warming, experts say. As average global temperatures rise
the ice melts, leading to rising sea levels, which could engulf
Research from U.S. space agency NASA this week suggested
that the Arctic ice cap could be losing around 15 to 17 percent
of its mass per decade.
In the quest for new oil sources, Shell plans to start
exploratory drilling at two offshore sites in the Alaskan Arctic
this summer. Russian oil major Gazprom and Exxon Mobil
Corp have signed a deal to prospect for oil in three
areas of Russia's Arctic Kara Sea, estimated by Russia oil
company Rosneft to hold 36 billion barrels of recoverable oil
Greenpeace protested against Arctic drilling by oil
companies in April in Russia, when 23 people were detained by
"A ban on offshore oil drilling and unsustainable fishing
would be a huge victory against the forces ranged against this
precious region and the four million people who live there. And
a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the pole would in a
stroke stop the polluters colonising the top of the world
without infringing on the rights of indigenous communities,"
said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo.