Heath Joske Goes Toe-To-Toe With Equinor CEO
Battle For The Bight Moves To Oslo.
On May 18, Australians voted. It didn't go well if you're a lover of the Great Australia Bight.
Contrary to what pollsters believed, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition appears to have stormed the election and will now control the government. The results have ominous undertones of Donald Trump in America, which is a bad thing for anyone that values the health of the planet.
For Heath Joske and Sean Doherty, who have been championing the battle to save the Great Australian Bight from big oil, it is a disheartening moment.
“I need a beer,” mumbled Doherty on Instagram as the results became clear.
But do not lose faith, boys. As they say in Texas, hold the line!
Joske and Doherty have been at the tip of the spear when it comes to organizing protest efforts against oil giant Equinor, but there’s an army behind them and the momentum only grows stronger.
Last week, Joske ventured to Olso, Norway, where he gave an impassioned speech and presented over 300 letters of protest to Equinor CEO Eldar Sætre at their Annual General Meeting (AGM). On May 15, three days before the Aussie elections, he was joined by a delegation of concerned Australians, including the Wilderness Society’s Peter Owen and aboriginal elder Bunna Lawrie.
“For me, it's nice to put pen to paper and really think about why it matters so much. And I thought it would look good to hand them a wad of people's genuine concerns from all over Australia,” said Joske when Stab caught up with him over the weekend.
“My good friends, Tim and Anna, who started this movement from ground zero on the Eyre Peninsula, have had this idea to take letters to the AGM for a while and when I heard that I was going to make it over to Norway for the AGM I thought it would be great for people to be able to write direct to Equinor and tell them why they didn't want oil in the Bight,” Joske continued.
The letters came in from all over Australia. From South Australia, which would be directly impacted by oil drilling in the Bight, to Queensland, West Oz and Tasmania.
“It became obvious that the majority of the whole country knew this was a backwards idea, with implications that could destroy our country's economy, coastline, marine life and our culture. The letter I read out in the AGM about Whale hit a chord with me on so many levels. It showed the connection to the ocean we have, the importance to Aborigines and the the common thread that we just don't want the Bight opened up for any offshore oil and gas exploration whatsoever,” Joske explained.
We spoke with Joske before the results of the election came in, but win or lose at the polls, he’s resolute about both the problem and solution.
“Our major political parties are spineless and heavily lobbied by fossil fuel lobby groups,” Joske said. “We have a big fight ahead. We have huge opposition and the closer Equinor gets to approval, and the more our government doesn’t listen or makes promises that mean nothing, the angrier and more opposition they will receive.”
So far paddle-outs have caught a lot of publicity as the sight of thousands of surfers standing up for the environment is nothing short of inspiring. But Joske is also taking notes from other opposition groups about more potentially “creative” options.
“I am confident we will win, it's just a crazy notion in every single aspect,” Joske said. “It is a combination of depth, huge, exposed seas, and lack of infrastructure that make it the riskiest well ever attempted. Then there is the idea of whether or not we even should be opening up whole new expanses of sea for oil production. All the experts are telling us we need to slow down on the fossils and speed up on the renewables ASAP. This will shoot us in the wrong direction and a dead end road.”
But as we storm out the door and wage war against the oil industry, Joske gently reminds us that, as surfers, there’s a lot more we can do than slap a bumper sticker on the car or paddle out and hold hands. There are actionable things you can do right now to help alter the trajectory.
“I think surfers could be more aware about their consumption,” Joske says. “Buy boards that will last you. Buy brands that support ethical, sustainable production. Do not buy products excessively wrapped in plastic. Buy a keep cup. Fill up your water bottle. Just becoming aware and taking a bit more responsibility for our own actions and lifestyle will go a long way in changing things. I believe the answers to a lot of our fossil fuel addictions are already out there, you just need to look for them. I also believe the huge oil lobbies and some of our governments’ politicians want to keep us reliant on fossil fuels. It's in their financial interest to keep us mindlessly consuming as much of these limited resources as possible.”