Eastward Ho: heading for home

by Gareth on November 28, 2013

Heeling over hard as we scud up the west coast of Northland. First sight of land in nearly 2 weeks this morning as we recognised the north head of the Hokianga — a magic place I visited some years ago with giant wind sculptures and streams that welled up as springs and disappeared again into the sands.

Five knots feels faster than it is, but air and car travel totally distort one’s perception of space and time. Two days so far to cover a distance one would drive in three hours. But this is travel at a human scale — the unrealistic thing is traveling Auckland — Wellington in an hour. Perhaps life will be better when we slow down and have more time for reflection.

All the people in the flotilla I’ve spent time with have been excellent company. A great sense of solidarity in a common cause. Heard fascinating stories this morning out on deck from Andy, our skipper, who has worked in Chile, Yemen, Cyprus, Rwanda and sailed in the Southern ocean and across the Pacific. It’s reassuring, when the boat starts bucking like crazy.

Woke yesterday to find us totally becalmed and the crew organising a tow from Friendship. Quite a tricky business rigging up a towing harness at sea and trying to get the length right so we crested the swells at the same time, but we couldn’t afford to wait for the wind as we need to be round the cape before the weather turns against us.

So, as we leave the Bob Douglas behind, why did I walk away from the work I’ve been doing for the last 3 years, totally focussed on coal, and leap into a protest against deep sea oil drilling? I think because they are all part of the same picture. For some years now fossil fuels have been harder to find and extract and consumption has been growing. The industry turns to more and more extreme places – remote and difficult environments, with more and more damage to ecosystems. The energy return on energy invested gets less every year. All the signs that it is time to transition to renewable fuels and more restrained consumption have instead led to more and more frantic attempts to get more of the same – mountain top removal for coal, deep ocean drilling for oil, shale fracking for gas. The Arctic, the Great Southern basin, the Amazon, eventually the Antarctic.

I’ve been working on coal because it has the highest climate damaging potential and because there is so much more of it left than the other fuels. But it is the same mindset we are challenging and every opportunity to leap in and make a difference is worth taking.

I’m asking myself (as the media keep asking us too), what have we achieved by being here? We haven’t stopped them drilling. Bearing in mind that the real battle is for hearts and minds, for the social licence to operate of these companies, I think there are four things:

  • we have made deep sea oil drilling a national issue, dominating the media for more than a week and changing many hearts and minds. The flotilla now numbers many thousands in spirit.
  • we have irritated Anadarko, as their attempt to squash us between their boats shows, and may even have changed some minds among her crew who heard our various broadcasts about why we were there. Anything that makes their experience of trying to drill in NZ harder, is good.
  • we have shown other oil companies that doing business in NZ is not straightforward, they are not wanted by the public, and the Government will take a hands-off stance and not move to support them when they run into opposition, despite begging them to come here in the first place.
  • our presence has led to the legal challenge to the EPA and their process for consenting activities offshore. We have also made the Government’s legislation look stupid and unenforceable.

I reckon that’s worth a couple of weeks.

ETA is Sunday lunchtime in Auckland. I hope you see some of you there. Please excuse us not being as impeccably turned out as usual.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

viv k November 29, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Thank you to all the crews of the boats in the flotilla, you stood up for our climate, our oceans and our children’s future.
Thank you for being brave and sailing in small boats to challenge Anadarko and the National government.
Thank you Bunny for speaking out when the captain of the drilling ship told you to move and telling him NO and why.
Thank you Jeanette for the interview you did on Morning Report when you told them why we need to move to a fossil fuel free future.
Thank you to all of you awesome people for bringing this crucial issue to the attention of New Zealanders and the world.
Thank you to everyone who is going to keep on with this fight against dirty fossil fuels.
Kia kaha.

John ONeill December 1, 2013 at 12:56 am

It’s a bit sad that all the boats protesting oil drilling were powered by oil, bar one, and that needed a tow in the end. Likewise the Green party member a few months ago lost with the yacht heading for Australia – the amount of fuel burnt by the Orions searching for them would have easily exceeded their share of fuel on a commercial hop over the Tasman. I try to stick to bicycle distances and speeds myself, but can’t really censure anyone using oil to get around when there’s really no practical alternative.

Thomas December 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Hm, John, do you know what the sails are for on a sailboat? Did it not strike you as wired that all these oil sucking protest boats had masts and sails? Have you ever set foot on a sailboat yourself?

I arrived in NZ sailing myself on my own “waka” in the 90ties. The small amount of diesel for the occasional safe entry in to a harbour or the navigation around a hazard such as a reef when the winds were not suitable was miniscule compared to what one would have spend crossing the same distance in an airplane.

Your comment is utter bladderdash, talkback radio nonsense!

viv k December 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

John we need to advocate for a rapid transistion to a non fossil fuel powered society. Thank you for not censuring anyone for using oil to bring the issue to the attention of the general public, because to suggest that current use of fossil fuels somehow disqualifies people from speaking out will make that task much harder. We need the electric trams, trolley buses and trains to be there before most people can reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. We need electric minibuses and delivery trucks, so the frail and elderly, people living on hills, parents with new babies etc, have a non fossil fuel option (and the rest of us when its too frosty, wet, windy or dark to cycle safely). We have to change to a low/zero carbon system for everyone.

Murray December 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Yeah Thomas, it might pay to read Jeanette’s previous posts. She’s been burning oil like its going out of fashion. I agree with John, total hypocrisy. Very few people are prepared to give up the privileged lifestyle oil has afforded us, even many of it’s loudest critics.

Macro December 2, 2013 at 11:43 am

bullshit!

How about taking the beam out of your own eye – your kind will be the pariahs of the future – the most hated generation of all – how does that feel as a legacy?

nigelj December 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Murray, Ok so some of the greenies are hypocrites. Maybe they took a car when they could have cycled.

Does that make their essential argument wrong? No. So you have no real point other than a big strawman.

John ONeill December 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Viv K – we’ve actually gone backwards. Forty or fifty years ago you could commute from Waitati by train, and mums could hook their prams on a trolley bus to get up to the hill suburbs. Electricity was ninety percent hydro too, now it’s down to seventy five percent renewable.
Thomas – all my forbears came here by sail, but all subsequent whanau visits have been oil fueled. I dare say the same would apply in your case. Not many people can afford a few years income for a yacht and half a year to go anywhere.
These guys
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkySails
apparently were saving 10-15% emissions, but haven’t been selling at all well. It’s not easy being green.
Murray – It’s pretty tough giving up on fossil fuels in a society so completely dependent on them – like slavery, before industrialization and coal helped to get rid of that. – http://hnn.us/article/134463
I think that fossil fuels will only be ditched when nuclear power takes over as the mainstay source of energy, but it’s probably not a popular view in this country or forum. Whether it can happen fast enough to prevent us totally destabilising the climate is the question. Here’s Geoff Russell of Adelaide putting the boot into solar power –
http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/03/14/81000-truckers-for-solar/
Here’s Aaron Franklin with a few ideas on how to get CO2 down.
http://geo-engineering.blogspot.co.nz/2013/03/an-integrated-systems-plan-for-10-year-carbon-pumpdown-to-280ppm.html
And Nathan Currier of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group on why the International Panel on Climate Change and Greenpeace aren’t nearly alarmist enough.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-currier/saving-the-arctic-ice-gre_b_1960151.html

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