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The Fight Against The Proposed Drilling In The Australian Bight

It's the story that won't go away. The ludicrous and irresponsible bid of multinational companies to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight has reached fever pitch in the last few days after Norway-based company Equinor—the latest in a string of companies to acquire the exploratory drilling permits for the region—released their lofty drilling plans to the public prior to them being submitted to NOPSEMA (National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority).

"Is there oil in the Great Australian Bight? Possibly. Can we find out safely? Absolutely," is the line that their PR department is spinning.

Is the surf community buying it? Absolutely not!

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This in black would be an unparalleled tragedy. (Photo by Ben Jackson)

I've breezed through the 400 pages of bumpf Equinor released on Tuesday, and despite not being quite as insulting as BP's proposal (which claimed that an oil spill—like their incident in the gulf of Mexico—would provide a "welcome boost to the local economy.") it's just more of the same. The crux of the matter—aside from the fact that instead of continuing to pillage the earth’s resources we should be dedicating everything we’ve got to weaning ourselves off fossil fuels—is that the Great Australian Bight is one of the most rugged coastlines in the world. “Rugged” gets thrown around a lot when describing coasts, but here it’s justified. The Bight is open to the full force of the Southern Ocean, with wild storms blowing in from Antarctica and smashing into exactly where they’re proposing to drill. No oil company in the world can guarantee that their rigs can withstand this sort of tempest. That's why BP and Chevron have already been sent packing. Despite portraying a greener image, Equinor is no different.

Here's what the predicted reality of a spill would look like. Hard to find a word more fitting than devastating.

Photographer SA Rips has lived his whole life on the edge of the Great Australian Bight and knows the coastline like few others. His captivating imagery is a testament to the prehistoric beauty and raw natural power of the place that's under threat, and he's been vocal about the catastrophic effect big oil poses to his home and muse. "If Equinor is given the green light by our government to drill in the bight I betcha we’ll regret it. It'll be a huge mistake," he said when I contacted him this morning. "Equinor themselves can’t guarantee safety and say worse case scenario if there’s a blowout from the bore it could take 160 days to stop the flow of oil. Don’t risk it, don’t do it, period." Surf writer Don Sean Doherty is another who's been beating the drum in the last few days, and describes Equinor's plan as, "sketchy beyond belief," citing that we need to "bury these kooks in protest." And that's where we come in.
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Something worth protecting if ever there was. (Photo by SA Rips)

NOPSEMA has a public comment forum where you can put forward your displeasure at the proposal, and you've got 28 days to do so. It takes five minutes and numbers count, so if you've got time to burn on then you've got time to do something as worthwhile as standing up to greedy big oil and protecting our coastline. Also, get onto Equinor's socials and let them know how you feel. Equinor's built a few wind farms and masquerades as a green, clean energy co. They put a lot of time into PR, so get on there and give them a piece of your mind.
Spurred on by Sean Doherty, a fair chunk of the surfing community has mobilised and are giving them all manner of grief, but the more spam the better. Equinor's most recent post currently has almost 5000 comments (up from their usual handful) from disgruntled surfers and environmentalists, including some of our most cherished sticker boys. Craig Anderson commented: "@equinor stay away from the Great Australian Bight and leave our pristine oceans alone. Put your oil and gas greed elsewhere and into sustainable energy… cowards," while Creed McTaggart went with the quintessentially Australian, "Fuck off cunts."

Several other top Aussies have chimed in on the matter, including Julian WilsonTaj Burrow, Chippa Wilson, and  Ethan Ewing, who had unkind words for the Norwegian multinational, which brought in 61 Billion USD in 2017.  

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Julian Wilson wrote, on his Instagram

@equinor it’s great that you portray yourself as clean energy focused/conscious and “green” to the homeland in Norway but we see what you are attempting to do in the bight and don’t like it! This map shows their own projection of a worst case scenario oil spill and where it would is terrifying! Considering the conditions in that stretch of ocean, I don’t think a worst case scenario situation is far fetched. There is time (only 28 days) to have your say to NOPSEMA they have to approve the environment plan and also pass on all comments to Equinor who supposedly have said they will not go ahead without a “social license” so let your voice be heard. 

Either way, this is something that we only get one shot at, so let's link arms for once and give 'em hell. The time for apathy is over.

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