Whose Seas Are These?

Guest Blog
by Rev Dr Peter Matheson
Reverend Doctor Peter Matheson, former lecturer in theology, sends a message to the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas explaining his opposition to deep sea drilling.  The Oil Free Otago flotilla is a coalition of Otago residents who oppose deep sea drilling off our coast. Photo by Nick Tapp - nicktappvideo.com

Reverend Doctor Peter Matheson, former lecturer in theology, sends a message to the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas explaining his opposition to deep sea drilling. The Oil Free Otago flotilla is a coalition of Otago residents who oppose deep sea drilling off our coast. Photo by Nick Tapp – nicktappvideo.com

Whose Seas Are These?

Aged 75, I  was  on a yacht for the first time in my life, the heave of the open ocean
beneath my feet.  There were eight of us, soon melded into a team under  Henk, our
charismatic captain:  Brendan a kaitiaki from the Karitane marae, Damien, from Radio
Live, Jeremy, conservation consultant, Niamh,  spokesperson for Oil Free  Otago, Bob,
scientific expert on global warming, and  Ian, a film-maker.  Majestic it felt, heading up
the harbour on full sail,  little groups  on headlands waving placards and cheering us on,
cars  tooting approval. With our sister-ship, the Erewhon, the send-off from Dunedin
Habour reminded us  of the many  environmental, scientific, church, community groups
we represented.
It was misty, quite chilly up top. I was glad of my Swan-Dry.   Our mission was to
confront the drilling-ship, the Noble Bob Douglas, using the sling-shot of words
against this Texan intruder, whose exclusion zone, as Brendan  pointed out, blocked the
traditional passage-way of the waka.  “Whose seas are these?” he asked on
radio-telephone, as  the huge bulk of the drilling ship loomed over us. No answer, of
course.
Good not to live in Putin’s Russia, though.  Our right to protest was respected by
Anadarko.  Yet they appeared to play sneaky games, shutting off their positioning gear,
so we  could not calculate their time of arrival at the drilling site, 65 kilometers off  our
coast.  So we waited  the night out off Aramoana, scene of another successful protest
three decades  ago against that aluminium smelter.
“Whose seas are these?”  Occasionally I’ve seen an albatross or two at the Heads. But
here they were all round the boat, wheeling, soaring, resting on the water, dozens of
them. Petrels, seven other varieties of birds, seals, we even saw two spouting whales.
When eventually the supply boat of the drilling ship bore down on us, a cordon of
toroa,  of albatross sat on the waves as if to protect us. Incredible!   Unforgetable!
Two worlds confronted one another.  The cultivated voice of the American captain
graciously permitted us  to  speak our piece.  First an impassioned address in te reo by
Waiariki, then seventeen year old Toria, hoping desperately her generation would still
have a world to live in (both from the Erewhon), me on the moral challenge, Bob Lloyd
on the insanity of deep sea drilling from a scientific point of view, Niamh, reminding
the intruders of our community support, finally Brendan: “Whose  seas are these?”
“You can’t build a  society on greed”  David Hume, the great Scottish enlightenment
philosopher once said.  “ Sin is bad, but stupidity is irredeemable”, as  Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, appalled by  Nazi Germany put it.   Greed and stupidity  are powering this
drive to Deep Sea  Oil, supported (alas ) by Government, vast financial interests, by the
majority of the media.  Ordinary good, decent  people  still think we can power on as
we are, relying  on  more and more oil.  Yet we only have ten years to dramatically
decrease the carbon emissions, before  we  overrun the  2% increase in global warming,
and  then  we’re  into a truly apocalyptic scenario.  “Woe unto you,” said the Hebrew
prophets.
At heart it’s a question  of  moral authority and whether rationality will prevail.  Whom do
you believe? Anadarko, the Government, have all the power. But do you believe them? Can
you trust them with the lives of our children and children’s children? That is the question
our symbolic protest poses. A dramatic turn-around towards sustainability is the greatest
ethical challenge of our time, and every one of us has the responsibility to rub our eyes,
wake up, and engage with this debate. We’re not asking you to believe us, but to look at the
evidence, face the despair, to overcome it by taking appropriate action. The prayer of those
of us on the Tiama and the Erehwon is that you ask our leaders, with life and death urgency,
to think again.
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