From the beach at night, at Ningaloo, you can see the pluming flares offshore. That’s the rigs. It’s been like that for a few years now. On the horizon, getting closer, more visible over time, like the very danger they signify. Ningaloo Reef is physically and politically encircled by oil and gas. The fossil fuel industry hasn’t simply occupied vast tracts of our seaway; it’s effectively colonised every level of our society. And with the climate emergency upon us, it’s not winding back – it’s doubling down. And that, my friends, is the smouldering dumpster fire of business as usual in this country. If we genuinely care about preserving the conditions of life on this planet, we have to put it out and we must do it now. That means we’ll all have to hold a hose, mate. We can’t keep averting our gaze and pretending this isn’t happening. And our leaders can’t keep appeasing the empire that’s still trying to tell us there’s nothing to worry about – that it’s the solution, not the problem.
There is no greater threat to life on this planet than global heating. And what’s driving this lethal process? Overwhelmingly, it’s fossil fuels – the consequences of digging them up and selling them and burning them. Every schoolkid knows this. Our elected representatives know it, from the regional shire to the prime minister’s department. This is not news. We face an emergency without precedent. We have a few short years left in which to avert horrors. And yet our leaders seem paralysed.
And that’s no accident. Such is the cultural success of fossil capital.
Now, I know we can’t undo the past. And nobody can expect the industry to shut down overnight. But big oil and gas interests aren’t planning to shut down at all. They’re pushing hard to kick on. To exploit more reserves, drill more seabed, frack more country, and unleash billions more tonnes of the CO2 and methane that are already cooking our planet. Woodside’s new Scarborough venture alone will release more than a billion tonnes of pollution into the air we breathe.
The big fossils want to kick on while they still can, while the trade is still legal. They’ve known about the dangers for decades. They’ve spent fortunes to obscure the data and confuse the public with the kind of spin and misinformation that’d make an autocrat blush. Some of them have more resources and more power than nation states. Steve Coll, Rachel Maddow and the Union of Concerned Scientists have documented their long, sleazy war on climate science and public accountability. And their propaganda blitz continues unabated. It’s straight out of the Big Tobacco playbook. And it’s been enormously successful. Marian Wilkinson and Rebecca Huntley have written very well about how the big fossils have secured such an extraordinary, disproportionate and enduring influence over every aspect of our culture and policy.