As a former pack-a-day smoker, Greenpeace NZ executive director Russel Norman says fossil fuels are like cigarettes: addictive and dangerous.


Deliberately, knowingly, destroying the stable climate on which our civilisation depends, is insane.

In the early 1990s I needed a job and found myself working for a year and a half on the assembly line at Mitsubishi in Adelaide. I put on the right front door lock for a few months, then moved to the left front headlight. Smoked a packet a day at my workstation. If you own a Mitsi Magna from that period there is a good chance that I had a part in putting it together. If it doesn't work it could be my fault!

It was a pretty boring job. You'd spend months doing precisely the same set of movements, every three minutes, all day long, over and over again. The assembly line only ever stopped if there was a malfunction – which would be met by cheers of delight by 4000 guys (and a handful of women)! It was honest work - though deliberate sabotage and drug taking were common forms of entertainment to break the monotony. There were thousands of us at that plant and many thousands employed in the feeder factories around it. 

The whole car industry was premised on the internal combustion engine, which in turn was premised on burning cheap oil.

Back then none of us knew anything much about climate change. We were happy to have a pay check each fortnight, even if the work itself was dull and injuries were common. My father worked at times in the coal fields of Queensland, other family members worked in gas and related industries. We were factory workers, fitter and turners, mechanical engineers, road builders. We built things and people like us made the world what it is today. There is no shame in that, because we were blissfully unaware that the industries in which we all worked were threatening the very life support system of planet earth. But they were, and they are, and now we know it.

The science is unequivocal, as the International Energy Agency says: if we want to avoid dangerous climate change we cannot afford to burn even half of the fossil fuels already discovered. Not even half. If we can't burn what's already discovered, why the hell are we searching for more oil?

Why are you and me and all of us, via our Government, supporting and subsidising the oil industry to search for more oil reserves off the coast of New Zealand? If they find a huge reserve of oil, a massive carbon store safely tucked out of harms way deep under the ocean floor, they plan to drill it and burn it – like a carbon bomb exploding over the lives of my kids and yours.

Deliberately, knowingly, destroying the stable climate on which our civilisation depends, is insane. 

As a former smoker there is a Billy Joel line that always stuck in my head: "Sweet Virginia cigarette / Burning in my hand / Well you used to be a friend of mine / But now I understand / You've been eating up inside me for some time / But I know you're gonna get me / Somewhere along the line."

Well now we understand about fossil fuels and climate change. We need to give them up before they get us, and the very first step is to stop exploring for more.

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