A drop in the ocean

Can you hear that? The cacophony of voices chanting and waves crashing? It’s a symphony of salvation for the waters of coastal south and south eastern Australia. Coastal-dwellers down under have risen like a king tide to say ‘no way Norway’, and the large numbers of surfers joining this chorus in the ‘fight for the bight’ is unprecedented.

Something has changed, and while it is a little rough around the edges at times (it’s a true shame for me when I see banners and signs that attack Norwegians personally at paddle outs) the actions taking place against Equinor in recent months have altered the expectation of what surfers of all persuasions will tolerate in their waters.

This is a significant moment in surf history. We have seen surfers take action on significant social and environmental issues before (you can listen to how Tom Carroll took a stand against apartheid here, and also listen to Dave Rastovich’s approach to addressing environmental issues here), but we have never really seen coordination from so many surfing icons on a single issue like the Fight for the Bight.

This open letter from such icons is an example of what I am saying.

The volume on this issue is only increasing in Australia, particularly given that there is a Federal Election happening in the coming week and a half, but there is another front forming on the issue and it is in Norway, the home of Equinor.

If it can’t happen in Lofoten anymore, then it shouldn’t happen in the Bight either

In early April, Norway’s Labour Party withdrew support for explorative drilling off the coast of the Lofoten Islands. This withdrawal of support could turn out to be political suicide for the politicians involved given the strength of the labour unions in the oil and gas sector, but the Norwegian Labour Party, under the leadership of Jonas Gahr Store, sited environmental concerns for the proposal. This magical part of Norway is now safe.

Like the rising tide of surfers and coastal dwellers in Australia citing environmental concerns for the Bight, this decision by Labour politicians in Norway is unprecedented.

It is well-known that oil and gas extraction coupled with the creation and management of a sovereign wealth fund has made Norway one of the world’s most affluent countries per capita. Well over a million barrels of oil are pumped from Norwegian-owned offshore oil operations daily.

Like is the case in the Fight for the Bight, it was Norway’s largest oil producer, Equinor that was pushing for exploration in Lofoten primarily. Equinor maintains that gaining access to oil supplies in Lofoten is necessary if Norway is going to be able to maintain production levels, but the people (and now some politicians) have spoken - Lofoten is off-limits.

But why stop with Lofoten? Surely the same rules apply to other sensitive marine environments around the world, just like the Great Australian Bight? Can Norway’s politicians go further and ensure that their majority state-owned oil company halt all new marine exploration for the sake of a planet under immense stress already?

They could, and they should.

This is a link to an open letter from keepitintheground.org. In this letter, the point is made that due to carbon budgets associated with a 2˚C increase in average global temperatures already exhausted by current fossil fuel projects (which is what Equnior accepts, rather than the 1.5˚C goal that world leaders recognize is the ideal), it is simply unacceptable to be setting up infrastructure for any new extraction of fossil fuels. In fact, the letter highlights that some currently operating fossil fuel projects will need to be retired early if there is any hope of avoiding a climate catastrophe.

The simple fact of climate change and what is necessary to avoid it is reason enough for Norway to halt all new exploration globally right now, and why not start by walking away from the Great Australian Bight.

Individual drops of water make an ocean

Supposedly there is 1,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters of water on our planet, only about 2% of which is freshwater, and only a fraction of this is the stuff we rehydrate with. I googled it, ergo, it’s true. Individually, a single drop of this water is nothing more than an inconvenience as you walk down the street on a cloudy day, or a slight sting in the eyes if the wind is howling offshore. But collectively, these individual drops make the oceans we cherish and which today, many of us are fighting to protect.

The Fight for the Bight is a local issue some say. They point to jobs that are needed to keep local economies alive (while disregarding the value of healthy environments to local communities); they say that it is the Australian government that ultimately decides who can drill and where (which is true, but not the whole truth); others say that this is an issue that transcends all that, when the planetary impacts are considered while staring into the eyes of a new-born child.

Maybe it’s because I no longer call Australia (my only) home, but for me it is the last point – the Fight for the Bight is right because the world cannot sustain any new drilling for oil if we have a hope of dealing with climate change. I understand local places and their meaning to local people, but for me, this fight is much bigger.

The question is: do we want to doom future generations to a life of struggle on our watch? Most people will answer ‘no’ and will feel a little paralyzed about what to do about it.

What’s next for the fight against Equinor

Right now, there is a delegation of concerned Aussies arriving in Norway to bring their concerns to Equinor’s AGM on Wednesday next week.

Before that there will be a paddle out protest on Sunday in Oslo which you can learn more about here.

On Tuesday evening Ziggy Alberts will be playing a gig in Oslo and will also be raising awareness about the issue and having Heath Joske say a few things too.

On Wednesday, while the suits are inside yawning through the AGM (the juicy bits will come when the delegation takes the stage and starts demanding some answers) many of us will be outside protesting, singing (Ziggy Alberts is joining) and raising respectable hell.

After the AGM there will be a catch up and screening of Nevertown nearby in Stavanger (more info here).

Likes drops of water, individually we don’t have much power in the face of such a large threat, but collectively, we can do so much.

See you in Oslo whoever can make it.

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