This guest post is by Meghan Hughes. She has been involved in a variety of environmental groups including Greenpeace, the Save Happy Valley campaign and the Green Party. She has recently finished a Masters in New Zealand Literature and lives in Wellington. She is married to Green Party MP Gareth Hughes, but is proud to claim all her opinions as totally her own.
“Until they personally run their own lives without fossil fuels I’m not prepared to consider their position about not extracting fossil fuels.” Dunedin city councillor, former ACT MP Hilary Calvert.
Hypocrisy (n): the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more laudable opinions or beliefs than is the case. Oxford English Dictionary.
Driving a car to an oil-free protest makes you a hypocrite, right? Wrong: I support an oil-free future in the long term. I agree with divesting from oil exploration in the short term. Ultimately, I believe in moving from a fossil-dependent economy toward a sustainable and more environmentally-responsible economy. What underpins my stance is the reality of man-made climate change and the need for man-made societal change. However, there are people out there who would want me to believe that unless I am able to live my life, run my household, and raise my kids without utilising any products of our oil-dependent society, I have no right to demand anything different. They say to do so would mean that I am a hypocrite. Right?
Wrong. Most of the people making this kind of absurd allegation really don’t care about a genuine response. It is a tactic to shut you down. Unsurprisingly, many of these same people refuse to acknowledge that we are changing our climate, so reject also the responsibly we share in doing something about it. So this isn’t for them, this is for you. This is to tell you that it is ok to drive your car to an oil-free protest.
To call for an oil-free future is to genuinely acknowledge the challenge of man-made climate change and ask, “Where do we go from here?” Supporting an oil-free future is about wanting an alternative and when you passionately believe in the need for an alternative there will always be people who will fight for the status quo. The more threatened they are by your actions, the more defensive they become and the more desperate to shut you down. “Unless you’re some kind of Carbon Jesus and don’t put a foot wrong ever, I ain’t gonna even entertain your ideas.” How convenient!
The truth is no matter which way you turn the reality of our extraction-dependent society is everywhere. Your car, your TV, your phone, your makeup, your takeaway dinner packaging, your new shoes, your kid’s toys: it’s just all too much! We really should just give up. It’s too pervasive, too complicated, and too hard.
No. It isn’t. You have a right to demand alternatives to the only choices you have at this current moment. Do not be discouraged or shamed by people who say you cannot live in society at the same time as you try and change how society is organised. Calling for a change is not hypocritical. It is the only rational thing to do.
The overwhelming consensus of climate scientists tell us the problem is real, it is happening, and if we do not change it will get worse. If we do not lower our carbon emissions and replace our dependence on fossil fuels with alternatives that do not poison our atmosphere and endanger the delicate balance of our ecosystems, it will get worse.
If we do not change it will get worse.
What we are fighting for when we call for an oil-free future is progress. We want the call for progress to translate into action. We want the investment that is currently propping up unsustainable extraction industries to be diverted into solutions that move us toward a more sustainable fuel for our society. We want policies that transition us to a fossil-free future. We want more investment in sustainable transport infrastructure so that we can have alternatives to cars.
This is why it is ok to drive your car to an oil-free protest. Because you are part of a movement of people who want change. Who want alternatives. Who want to change the grim trajectory we are hurtling along right now.
Next time you are packing your placard into the boot of your car, don’t feel guilty. Go one better and make sure it’s a full car. Drive a mini-bus full of people. Join a convoy of cyclists. Pack out a bus, a train, walk, skateboard, paraglide in if you can. But whatever you do, don’t be shut down. Then you would be a hypocrite. Because the other meaning of hypocrisy is believing in something and not doing anything to achieve it.