NZ Govt Shuts Down Offshore Oil Exploration, Onshore Exploration Outside Taranaki

According to Taranaki Daily News, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an end to offshore oil exploration, with no new onshore permits outside Taranaki.

Ardern said the Government was “taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand”

As well as an immediate end to new offshore permits, some onshore will be offered to the industry for the next three years in onshore Taranaki, none of which will be on conservation land.

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change,” Ardern said.

The decision to continue to offer onshore permits was partly a concession to Labour’s coalition partners, New Zealand First, which expressly supports extractive sectors. The move is also designed to head off the risk of judicial review.

“All three of the parties in this Government are agreed that we must take this step as part of our package of measures to tackle climate change. I’m grateful for the support of New Zealand First in ensuring the transition away from fossil fuels protects jobs and helps regions equip themselves for the future. I also thank the Green Party for their continued advocacy for action on climate change.

An oil rig between Stratford and Midhurst, in Taranaki. Ardern will announce no more offshore exploration permits, and ...

ANDY JACKSON/STUFF – Oil rig between Stratford and Midhurst, in Taranaki.

Less than a month ago, Ardern created huge expectation among environmental activists by declaring the Government was “actively considering” a call to end exploration.

Since taking office, Ardern has said the Government will move towards having 100 per cent of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2035, while the economy will be carbon neutral by 2050.

Greenpeace said announcement was an “historic moment, and a huge win for our climate and people power”. . .

Read more: Ardern to End Offshore Oil Exploration

This is an important win in a long, difficult battle. It’s disappointing to see that Taranaki (where I live) is still treated as a sacrifice zone. Taranaki Energy Watch has an ongoing case in Environment Court to stop fracking next to our homes and schools. See Fracking: When Fossil Fuel Companies Turn Your Community into a Sacrifice Zone

How the CIA Helped Greenpeace Get Its Start

 

How to Change the World

Directed by Jerry Rothwell (2015)

Film Review

Māori TV showed How to Change the World last night. It relates the story of the 1971 founding of the international environmental group Greenpeace. Based on archival Greenpeace footage and retrospective interviews with its founders, the documentary makes it appear as if the organization founded itself by accident out of Vancouver’s strong anti-Vietnam war movement. During the late sixties and early seventies, the Canadian city was a magnet for young American expatriates fleeing the draft.

The accidental pairing of eco-freaks with antiwar activists in a sea protest to block a nuclear test on the Aleutian island of Amitchitka led them to coin a name – Greenpeace – representing both camps.

Bob Hunter, an environmental reporter for the Vancouver Sun, went along on that first protest in his journalistic role. When the popular uproar generated by that first protest resulted in the shutdown of the Amitchka nuclear test site, he resigned from his newspaper job to spearhead the Greenpeace Save the Whales campaign. His genius lay in creating media “mind bombs” with spectacular footage that instantly riveted popular attention.

The documentary replays the original footage from a confrontation with a Soviet whaling ship off the California coast. It’s graphically cruel and bloody and definitely unsuitable for children’s viewing.

The founders allowed the name Greenpeace to be freely borrowed by environmental groups all over the world. Which, as with most grassroots organizations, led to significant growing pains. Hunter made a number of unpopular decisions without consulting the rest of the group. One of the most contentious was his decision to accept the CIA ‘s offer of free fuel and intelligence an the location of Soviet whaling vessels.

The film can be viewed for free for the next few weeks at the Māori TV website:

How to Change the World

Inside the Standing Rock Protest

Killing the Black Snake

sub.Media (2017)

Film Review

The following short documentary focuses on some of the direct action tactics protestors engaged in to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Approximately 20,000 indigenous Americans from hundreds of tribes and their supporters occupied contested land near the Standing Rock reservation in during 2016-17 in their efforts to block DAPL construction. Although the US government claims the land the DAPL runs through, the1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie cedes it to the Lakota Nation.

Referring to themselves as “water protectors,” specific tactics Standing Rock protestors employed to halt pipeline construction included locking themselves down to heavy construction equipment, dismantling and sabotaging equipment and confronting construction workers to run them off their land.

When protestors were confronted by a highly militarized police force, they were forced to change tactics, with more focus on property damage and setting fire to vehicles of intruders.

Individuals the filmmakers refer to as “peace police,” played a much bigger role in undermining the protests than uniformed police in riot gear. In addition to police and government undercover agents that are common to all resistance movements, the water protectors had to deal with interference from paid tribal leaders (who draw a salary from the US government and have little connection with traditional tribal governance) and with non-indigenous non-profit organization such as Greenpeace and Forest Ethics. Both organizations are notorious for advancing their own campaigns by cutting secret deals with fossil fuel companies. Such agreements typically include a requirement for the non-profit groups to coopt and limit direct action by more militant activists.

My favorite scene is the one in which Chevron officials try to make a deal with Lakota activists to enter their land in return for a peace offering of bottled water and tobacco.

Fighting Monsanto in India

Bullshit!

Pea Holmquist and Suzanne Kardalian (2005)

Film Review

Bullshit! is about Indian environmental activist Vendana Shiva. It takes its title from the “Bullshit Award” she received from a pro-Monsanto lobby group in 2004. Despite the intended insult (they sent the cow dung through the mail), Vendana was thrilled. Cow dung is revered in rural India, where it’s used as fuel and mixed with mud to construct water tight walls and flooring.

The film traces how Vendana abandoned nuclear physics in 1985 to start the Novdanya Institute, dedicated to reclaiming native plants and seeds as a commons for people to enjoy collectively – instead of a private commodity to increase the profits of multinational seed companies like Monsanto.

Novdanya runs a seed bank called The School of Nine Seeds. Its primary purpose is to preserve rare and heritage seeds that have been large replaced by a handful of hybrid monoculture crops. With growing water scarcity, Novdanya places special emphasis on drought resistant millets with a high protein content.

Another high priority for Vendana is her battle against Monsanto’s campaign to flood India, an early target starting in the late nineties, with GMO crops. Many Indian farmers have bankrupted themselves purchasing GMO seeds, particularly Roundup-ready varieties. When the high yields they were promised failed to eventuate, thousands committed suicide.*

Bullshit! also profiles Vendana’s role in the antiglobalization movement, particularly the anti-WTO protest in Cancun Mexico in September 2003. The public suicide of Korean farmer Lee Kyung-Hae was instrumental in galvanizing opposition from third world farmers against WTO provisions enabling the US to destroy local markets by dumping cheap agricultural products in third world countries.

In 2000 Vendana collaborated with Greenpeace to force the EU to revoke a patent they had granted Monsanto on the neem tree and an ancient variety of Indian wheat.

The film  ends by highlighting Shiva’s involvement, along with other high profile antiglobalization activists (including Canadian water activist Maude Barlow and French farmer Jose Bove) in a 640-day sit down strike to shut down a Coca Cola bottling plant that was illegal depleting a fresh water aquifer.


*According to New Dehli TV, close to 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995.
** The final breakdown of the so-called “Doha Round” of WTO negotiations in 2008 would eventually lead the US to promote the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and Transatlantic Trade and Partnership Initiative (TTPI) in its place.

Resist or Die

END:CIV Resist or Die

2011, directed by Franklin Lopez

Film Review

According to the promo, END:CIV “examines our culture’s systemic addiction to violence and environmental exploitation.”

The title is drawn from Pac Man, an arcade came that first came out in 1980. In one of the world’s first video games, the player guides Pac Man, a small faceless mouth, through a maze while he devours Pac Dots and tries to escape blob monsters. The first three minutes of END:CIV superimpose a Pac Man game over images of old growth clear cuts, belching smokestacks, factory hog farms, wild fires, hurricanes and the US military’s ruthless killing machine. The sequence ends as a gigantic “GAME OVER” flashes across the screen.

The film is based on the Endgame, the best selling two volume book Derrick Jensen published in 2006. In Endgame, Jensen argues that mankind urgently needs to bring down “civilization” before it destroys the planet. He bases his case on twenty basic premises he lists at the beginning of both volumes. The film END:CIV examines four of them.

Premise 1 – industrialized civilization has never been and will never be sustainable, mainly because it’s based on non-renewable resources.

The film, like Jensen’s book, traces the rise of cities, which by necessity steal resources from distant regions and eventually denude the entire landscape of those resources. After making the case that the corporate elite are mindlessly and voraciously consuming an ever increasing amount of energy, land, water and other resources, the filmmaker reminds us that we live on a finite planet. He then argues that corporations will most likely continue this greedy consumption until everything is used up – or until we stop them.

Premise 2 – A major focus of industrialized civilization has been to destroy indigenous communities by force – because they don’t willingly allow the confiscation of their natural and mineral resources. A corollary of Premise 2 is that without its heavy reliance on violence, industrial civilization would collapse.

In an cameo from a public forum, Jensen explains that much of violence is invisible and a matter of conditioning. He gives the example of the cop who will pull a gun and drag you to jail if you don’t pay your rent or satisfy your hunger by eating off grocery shelves. Yet we are all indoctrinated to believe that people must pay for the right to exist on this planet.

The film goes on to criticize the main message put out by the nonprofit environmental movement: that people can remedy pervasive violence, resource theft and exploitation by making politically correct purchases.

In the view of Jensen and other activists featured in the film, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Forest Ethics and similar “eco-bureaucracies” have essentially sold out by making preservation of the global economy more important than saving the planet.

This section is also highly critical of the dogmatic opposition of the environmental movement towards violent resistance. Jensen does a great send up of the movie Star Wars. In his version, the rebels don’t destroy Darth Vader by blowing up the death star. Instead they promote eco-tours and Fair Trade products from endangered planets and send waves of compassion and loving kindness towards Darth Vader, while locking themselves down on his ship. They also vote to condemn and exclude the renegades who propose to blow up the death star – for allowing themselves to be contaminated by Darth Vader’s culture of violence.

Premise 3 – the culture (of industrialized society) as a whole and most of its inhabitants are insane.

The section points out that, contrary to popular belief, no combination of fossil or alternative fuels will allow us to continue our current “happy motoring” society. It focuses on Alberta’s insane tar sands project, the most environmentally destructive enterprise in history.

Premise 4 – from the beginning, the culture of civilization has been a culture of occupation.

The film ends with a brief overview of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. In the final scene, Jensen poses the provocative and disarming question:

“If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air and contaminated your food supply, at what point would you resist?”

Let Them Go, Mr Putin

putin

When it suits their purposes, Russia seems to have the same propensity as the US to thumb their nose at international law. Two weeks ago, Putin acquired immense international stature and prestige by halting the imminent threat of US missile strikes in Syria. Now he seems to have squandered it all by illegally seizing a Greenpeace vessel in international waters.

On September 18, Russian FSB agents illegally boarded the Arctic Sunrise (by rappelling down from a helicopter) and seized, at gunpoint, the boat and all its occupants. The Greenpeace ship was in Arctic waters to protest hazardous oil drilling by the Russian company Gazprom. Earlier in the week two activists had boarded the Gazprom drill platform rig and were arrested and held without charge. However at the time the Greenpeace vessel was illegally boarded, it was in international waters. Seizing a civilian ship in international waters is piracy.

The Russian government reports the boat and activists (including two New Zealanders) are being towed to Murmansk, the nearest port. Ironically it’s the Russians accusing Greenpeace of piracy instead of the other way around. On Saturday, Russian Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov told journalists that Greenpeace had “acted too radically” and compared its protest to “Somalian-style piracy.”

“One of the Most Reckless Oil Companies on Earth.”

According to a Greenpeace Media Briefing, Gazprom, the first oil company to commence Arctic drilling, is “one of the most reckless oil companies on earth.” Greenpeace forced them to halt drilling operations a year ago after taking them to court for having an expired oil spill response (OSR) plan. Their new OSR plan isn’t available to the public. Only a summary is available on their website. The full version of Gazprom’s OSR plan can only be viewed in the company’s offices under strict restrictions. Even so, the summary raises a number of serious concerns:

  • It relies on conventional clean-up measures that don’t work in ice or icy water. For example the booms they refer to can only be used during ice-free periods (only four months of the year in the Prirazlomnaya oil field).
  •   Much of the response equipment and personnel are based 1000 km away in Murmansk, which zmeans it would take Gazprom at least three days to mount an accident response.
  • The summary plans for a worse case scenario of a 10,000 ton (73,000 barrel) spill. The Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Gazprom confirmed in 2011 that it doesn’t have the financial resources to mount a satisfactory response to a major well blow-out. BP is currently facing a bill for the Deepwater Horizon disaster of $42 billion – which could be increased to $90 billion if the court awards maximum penalties.
  • Respected mainstream environmental groups (Pew Environment Group and US Geological Survey) are on record that it’s virtually impossible, using existing technology, to clean up spilled oil in sea ice.
  • There are major concerns about Gazprom’s safety record – in December 2011, 53 people died when the Kolskaya jack-up rig capsized during towing.
  • As a country, Russia has an appalling oil spill record. Each year, an estimated 5 million tons of oil leak from cracked wellheads, pipes, and other equipment (six times the amount spilled in the Deepwater Horizon disaster).
  • There are serious concerns about the safety of the Prirazlomnaya platform in harsh Polar conditions:
  1.  According to an industry whistleblower, the Prirazlomnaya platform was “cobbled together” from rusting pieces of old rigs to meet a 2012 deadline, when new environmental legislation took effect banning this type of drilling rig.
  2. Thus far Gazprom has refused to make public any of the platform’s safety documentation or its environmental impact assessment.

The Prirazlomnoye oil field is surrounded by national parks and wildlife sanctuaries like Nenetsky and Vaygach that are home to protected and endangered species such as the Atlantic walrus. Indigenous Peoples who rely on the Pechora Sea for fishing and hunting would also be profoundly affected by a Gazprom oil spill.

Please Sign Petition

Kiwis are asked to write to the Russian embassy in Wellington: Send a letter

Non-Kiwis should sign the petition at Release Greenpeace Activists demanding that Russia immediately release all 27 Greenpeace activists.

photo credit: World Economic Forum via photopin cc

Reprinted from Dissident Voice