I have just spent the weekend camping in a small town outside of Lismore called Bentley. What is happening in Bentley at the moment though, is anything but small.
Metgasco, a gas exploration company, want to drill a gas well 2km deep into the tight sands gas deposit. Not only will this greatly impact on the quality of the water to the community, it poses serious health risks to both humans and the environment. As well as contamination of water, soil and air, there are also dangerous chemicals released during the drilling process, gas flared into the atmosphere and the risk of methane exposure. Large numbers of wells, water storage ponds, roads, pipelines to power stations, export terminals and compressor stations all become necessities if gas mining is being used, turning rural country into massive industrial areas.
Since February, there have been between hundreds and thousands of people on any given day put aside their lives to stand in protest and protect their land. This is not a small protest, the Bentley Blockade has turned into a huge community within itself. There are information tents, a camp kitchen, communal fires, classes and workshops and even a coffee shop. The spirit and the passion of these people, some who have been camping for weeks and even months, is phenomenal. It is touching, inspiring and I have never seen anything like it.
A quote from David Suzuki hung with pride at Gate A; “Water is what makes life on this planet possible… The way we treat water is absolutely the key to whether or not we are going to survive.” What is happening out at Bentley is no different to the fight against litter on the beach, to oil spills in the ocean, to dredging on the Great Barrier Reef, we are all fighting for clean, healthy water. We are all fighting our own battles against greed and money and power trying to ruin our environment. I send my strength to all those at Bentley, and to all those all over the world who are starting to stand up.
It’s very true what they say about not appreciating what you have until it’s gone. I have been lucky enough to live right next to the beach on the beautiful Sunshine Coast my entire life, until last year I moved away for the first time (I did actually move back, but last week moved again to the Gold Coast). And while the Gold Coast does still have kilometres and kilometres of gorgeous sandy beaches, I am now a fifteen minute drive to the beach, rather than a two minute walk. At first this was a big shock for me, it seemed so far away. But then I got to thinking, how incredibly LUCKY are we that a fifteen minute drive to the beach is deemed inconvenient and far away!? So many people never get the chance to swim in warm, clear water or lay on white, sandy beaches nearly all year round.
In Australia our beaches are a huge part of our lifestyle and who we are. We should be appreciating, nurturing and protecting this blessing, but it seems too many of us take it for granted. It’s everywhere, it’s there everyday, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon right? Wrong. Our oceans are diminishing before our eyes and WE are the problem.
Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. He is a brilliant speaker and is now drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas. I don’t feel I can communicate just how serious our ocean crisis is, so instead listen to Capt. Moore’s speech and see for yourself.
Seas of Plastic
I believe that our oceans are the last pure thing on this planet. The sheer strength of the waves, the power of the tides, the beauty of all the creatures within and the way the ocean connects our world leaves me breathless day after day. There is nowhere else in the world that I feel safer, yet more powerless, connected, yet so insignificant. When I am floating in the ocean, feeling the current move my body as it does, when I dive under a wall of blue and hear the rest of the wave crash around me; I don’t think I have ever felt more at peace with my surroundings. I find great comfort in the fact that no matter where I go in the world, I can find those beautiful blue waves and I will be home.
In Australia our beaches are who we are, they’re our home and our identity. It is so important for locals and tourists also to understand this and understand that it is our job as a community to keep this beautiful ecosystem clean and as untouched as possible. I am only young, but when the time comes for me to have my own children, I want them to have the opportunity to not only see but to live and experience the serenity and beauty of the ocean, the same way I have been blessed enough to do my whole life.
In my four years as an ocean conservationist, I have been incredibly blessed to meet hundreds of amazing people with incredible passion for our oceans. Some stayed in my life briefly, each igniting more passion in my heart and teaching me new things about activism; others became family and proved that saltwater can be thicker than blood.
I have met people who work 9-5 jobs and have families, yet still make time to turn up at Sea Shepherd stalls every week. I have met teenagers who have given up months of their lives to educate school children on pollution. I have met people of all ages and races, who spend up to five months of every year on a leaky old ship in the Southern Ocean defending our whales. I have met people who have tragically lost their children, yet still find the strength to believe in and fight for something.
These people have changed me, shaped me and inspired me to keep fighting to defend and conserve our oceans for the rest of my life. So here’s to the Ocean Army; to the activists, the dedicated, the game-changers. For they are the people who are going to change the world.
This week’s post is a little bit of a negative one. A few weeks ago at one of our Full Tide/ECO Clean Beach monthly beach clean-ups, one of our volunteers had an experience that left a sour taste in all of our mouths. It was Clean Up Australia Day, a day where people who may not usually be interested in conserving our ocean tend to pick up their act, and some rubbish, for one day of the year. However not everyone had this attitude, and when we saw who they were, it was incredibly surprising.
Without dobbing anyone in, there was a large meet-up of some sort of surf life-savers and board-riders of all ages down at Mooloolaba Beach. Whilst walking past the group and collecting rubbish, our vollie noticed the absolute mess they were making of the place, there was rubbish everywhere! He approached them, and in a friendly manner reminded them that it was Clean Up Australia Day and could they please clean up their rubbish before they leave. After all, they were surf life-savers, obviously they loved the beach, and wouldn’t you want to look after your livelihood?
Well that was his mistake. A few of the older men started abusing him, swearing profusely and claiming “they had been surfing this beach before he was born.” Firstly, how does the length of time you’ve enjoyed a beach give you the right to dump your rubbish on it? Secondly, what kind of example is that setting for the many kids that were present; that it’s okay to trash the environment and okay to abuse anyone trying to do the right thing?
Our society is in desperate need of a complete culture shift. Everyone is perfectly happy to use the beach; to surf and swim and walk there, but nobody wants the responsibility of keeping it healthy. Yet when our beaches become trashed and our ocean dirty and unhealthy, these people will be the first to point the finger at others. Well it is ALL of our responsibility to protect what we love, if we want it to have a future. It is our responsibility to pick up our own rubbish, to make conscious consumer decisions, and to educate others to do the same.