Paddle Out For The Bight

The following was written by Chris Booth, Awayco’s VP of Digital. As an Australian living in Oslo, Norway — and a pretty sharp one, at that — Chris has a unique perspective on the ongoing battle against oil drilling in South Australia. Here’s his note to you…

To my friends,

Norway’s state owned oil company, Equinor, is applying for a permit to drill a deep-ocean oil well in the Great Australian Bight in proximity to a number of sensitive marine environments. The risks are real and the consequences of a spill will harm the environments that we rely upon to do what we love and will impact the small businesses that we work with to bring you gear along the Australian coast. 

We aren’t typically anti-oil activists but this is particularly odorous. Many of us at Awayco are Australian. I’m Australian. And it hurts. It hurts in 2019 to see our coastal ecosystems placed at risk in favour of foreign interests in big oil. It hurts to see public consultation treated as a box ticking exercise while a groundswell of disapproval falls on deaf ears. And it hurts to imagine a world where we have to wonder every day if our kids will get to enjoy the same waves we do in the same way. I published an activism manual that also gives you a full background of the issue.

Chris Booth protests in Norway
Chris Awayco’d a Channel Islands Sampler and tells us it's an excellent tool for activism.

So here’s something to think about and something to do about it this Saturday. You don’t have to look far back in history to find the last time a faraway nation did dangerous things in the South Pacific. It was September 1995 when President Jaqcues Chirac re-started nuclear testing in the Atolls off Tahiti, and it pays to look at how the world reacted then. As the New York Times reported the world was horrified. French products were boycotted, flotillas of boats formed a ring around the test sites in protest, and our political leaders had the courage to speak out and build pressure to protect the public interest:

“Foreign Minister Gareth Evans of Australia, which has withdrawn its Ambassador from France, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the test “increases not only the dangers in a fragile marine environment in the South Pacific, but it’s a blow to our hopes for achieving a nuclear free world.” He added, “This is not the action of a good international citizen.”

As an experiment, I swapped out the names and specifics from this 1995 passage and dropped in the issues of today. Reading it almost feels surreal.

“Foreign Minister Marise Payne of Australia, who has withdrawn its Ambassador from Norway, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the well “increases not only the dangers in a fragile marine environment in the South Pacific, but it’s a blow to our hopes for achieving an oil free world.” She added, “This is not the action of a good international citizen.”

Are we hearing this kind of language from our leadership today? No. 

Should we be demanding it? Absolutely. 

So let’s demand it. To get its permit, Equinor has until 29 November 2019 to modify and resubmit its environmental plan to NOPSEMA (the Australian environment and resources review board). This is an administrative process and it is difficult for the Australian public to be heard on the matter, despite the thirty thousand public submissions that were made to NOPSEMA during the open consultation window and the hundreds of thousands of citizens who have raised their voice, and paddled out, in protest since. 

The decision to drill in such a fragile marine environment is an existential threat to the Australian coastal lifestyle and to the generations of Australians who use and enjoy it. In light of the opposition regular Australians feel to this project – and have vehemently expressed – for Equinor to proceed with its plan would be an interference to Australian sovereignty and, let’s be frank, an epically dick move. 

But there remains something we can do about it. We can still be heard, and this may be our last chance. We can mandate our leaders to act and take a position. We can demonstrate to Equinor, to Norway, and to the world that this is not in the public interest of Australians. Tomorrow, Saturday 23 November you have the opportunity to paddle out and show that you are against Equinor drilling in the Bight. You will be joining tens of thousands of Australians in over 50 communities around the country. Here is the map to find your local event. 

 

Awayco HQ Bondi

If you are in Sydney and can attend the paddle out in Bondi, we are offering free boards all day from our Bondi HQ so you and your friends can participate. Book here and use the code BONDI4THEBIGHT when you checkout

Thank you, 

Chris

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