I’ve always been mortified of breaking the rules.
Looking back at my childhood and teens, I’m almost embarrassed by how righteously rule-abiding I’ve been. Never once got a detention in school. Never ever handed an assignment in late. Never got yellow-carded in soccer.
I come from a family where “don’t stick your neck out” is a guiding philosophy. My whole life, I’ve learned to be a peace-maker; to never upset anyone or make enemies. In my family, putting your name to a petition is risky. Going on a protest march is deeply troubling. Blockading an oil conference? Absolutely out of the question.
And yet, this is where I find myself. Prepared to join hundreds of people who will peacefully put their bodies on the line to stop oil industry executives from making plans to dig more unburnable fossil fuels out of the ground.
At this year’s Petroleum Summit in New Plymouth, hundreds of New Zealanders will come together to peacefully resist the dirty energy industry and promote a just transition to a clean, liveable society. And I encourage everyone who is concerned for the future of their families to join us.
I don’t take this decision lightly. Instead I take it out of sheer necessity. Because climate change is threatening our very survival. It affects everyone and everything, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse. If we don’t act now, we face a hellish existence.
And yet, our Government is continuing to push for more dirty fuel exploration, spending millions of taxpayer dollars on research for the petroleum industry and sponsoring major oil conferences every year to attract international oil and gas companies.
I have spent a decade working within the rules to try and help stop climate change. Getting an economics degree, working in corporate social responsibility, submitting to one government consultation after another, organising petitions and marches. And I’m far from alone.
Civil society organisations have tried to constructively engage the oil industry in dialogue for the past 40 years. There have been decades of opportunities to work together to adapt to the reality of climate change and transition to clean energy.
But what the oil industry has done in that time is worse than nothing. Around the world, oil corporations have actively funded climate science denial and lobbied governments to protect the industry at the expense of protecting their own citizens.
Meanwhile, the climate is heating up. People across the world - especially the most vulnerable - are suffering from unprecedented droughts, floods, extreme weather and rising seas. Climate change is taking lives right here and now.
We have simply run out of time. We have run out of options.
The reality of climate change is that not one new coal mine, oil well or gas field can operate anywhere in the world if we’re to have a chance of surviving. This is no longer an issue for future generations to deal with. It’s happening right now, and it’s about us.
The only option left is to peacefully intervene to stop the fossil fuel industry from pulling anymore oil, gas or coal out of the ground. Our Government, captured by the false promise of hidden riches, is doing nothing.
And so it is up to us.
Hope exists in people standing together and demanding change. No one will save us but us - so let’s get on with it.
‘The People’s Climate Rally’ has been organised by a coalition of groups campaigning on climate change, fracking, oil and gas drilling and social justice, and will include three days of peaceful civil disobedience, workshops and music. For more information, go to peoplesclimaterallytaranaki.nz.