Almost everything we use or own has been extracted from some mine or well. Every form of transport relies heavily on fossil fuels for its construction, and usually, its propulsion. Fossil fuels and extractive industries make modern life possible. Does that mean are we wrong to object to deep sea drilling for oil and minerals proposed all around New Zealand? Are we really hypocrites, ‘rented crowds’ or nutty, for living so deeply in a carbon age but wanting that to change?
Feelings ran deep among the 5,500 of us on West Coast beaches around New Zealand in support of the Oil Seas Free flotilla on a sunny Saturday in November. Everyday Kiwis of all ages and all walks of life stood on those black sands for a whole range of reasons.
Some of us were there because we want a transition to clean energy and thereby a cleaner planet, and the step-up to that challenge could well take place here in New Zealand.
Some of us also object to New Zealand selling out to international mining and oil companies, who take all the wealth, with few dividends (royalties) for this country but all the risk. NZ needs value-added industry that contributes to our own economy and society, not one based on extraction with benefits and jobs all literally offshore. We’re not compelled to adventure further into new mineral and oil extraction, and among the options for economic ‘stimulus’ this one is quick and dirty.
Others contend that the resources being sold off are not this Government’s to sell, but part of the New Zealand inheritance owned by none and/or all equally and across generations, and unalienable by the Crown.
Many of us are concerned about the environmental effects of oil and mineral extraction – from Maui’s dolphins to surf breaks, whole ecosystems and landscapes, right through to climate chaos. We should be in no doubt that continuing our current rate of resource use is unsustainable. We know the Anadarko and New Zealand Inc oil spill response capacity is laughably inadequate. We know risks increase in a laissez faire industrial regime such as ours. To many of us, the environmental risks alone make current proposals untenable.
Even though fossil fuels and other resources underpin our society, Kiwis increasingly want change. Vehicle Kilometres travelled and car ownership per capita continue to decline. Public transport trips grow and cycling rates increase exponentially. Installation of solar panels trebled last year.
In sea bed mining and deep sea oil New Zealand is being locked into an unsustainable extractive economy with few real benefits. Ultimately we all need to modify our consumption and travel patterns to make a difference about climate change or the risks and effects of mining or oil drilling. Moving to a less destructive economy will take some transition, but trends, and protests, show many Kiwis are keen to put their words into action.