With our nation facing the hard reality of global climate change thinking, that is far from fiction, (yet reality and Republicans never seem to go well together.) Despite the clear realization that as a nation and a planet we must move away from fossil fuels, the power and influence of Big Oil continues to dominate the landscape. So it’s ironic last week after the President has been speaking out about the need to end our dependence on oil and move to a clean energy future, that he quietly signed off on seismic testing from Delaware to Florida, as a first step to opening the Atlantic to offshore oil and gas development, much to the delight of Republican governors who have been pushing for this outcome for some time.
It is not just Republicans; in this case Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe a Democrat has welcomed oil money and says he is fine opening the Virginia coast, naturally with environmental safeguards in place. If it was not such a tragic decision and foolish concept, one could be excused for laughing out loud.
Off the east coast of the United States are many wonders of nature, from the migration of the endangered Right Whale, to the many mammals that thrive in these rich waters where the cold Atlantic is met with currents from the Gulf Stream. From the coastal estuaries to the ocean itself, the coast of North Carolina is known as the most diverse coastline aside from California in the United States. Yet, today its governor and a ravenous Republican controlled legislature are inviting the oil industry with open arms. In coastal communities Tea Party mayors and small town council men are being taken on golf excursions, and being given funding for their next campaigns by none-other than the oil and gas industry. Who want to help move these politicians up the political ladder with them always indebted to their good friends?
Off the coast of North Carolina one can find something even rarer, deep ocean coral reefs. Reefs that exist in total darkness yet play an important and evolving role in the health of our oceans. Shipwrecks from the days of pirates to the civil war lay on the floor a few miles off the coast, as they have for centuries. The seismic testing that the President signed off on will allow for explosions in the ocean that produce sound waves which bounce off the ocean floor, allowing the oil industry to better predict where oil or gas will be found. Of course, the oil industry sees no potential problems with such explosions impacting the Right Whales or porpoises or other sea life on a coast know historically for its fishing industry.
No Big Oil says this will have no impact and despite the removal of a drilling ban set to expire in 2017, the oil industry is gushing with the idea that they could be drilling by this time next year. So while the planet burns from fossil fuels, and the XL Pipeline remains in limbo, it appears the east coast is being primed for drilling.
Last year Bold Visions Conservation began reading the tea leaves and it was clear given the political realities that such a decision was likely to come. So we travelled to North Carolina and met with groups such as the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, North Carolina Coastal Federation, the North Carolina Environmental Law Fund to name a few. Some of the people in these groups have spent their lives fighting and protecting the North Carolina coast. They are both talented and dedicated to its protection.
Given our experience working to create and successfully gain two National Monuments in our state, we felt we could lend support and help to organize and educate the public in North Carolina to support protection of their amazing coastline.
North Carolina is not accustomed to oil and gas development; many still believe that domestic drilling means lower prices at the pump. Sadly the realities we know in New Mexico about drilling are a lesson, we are hoping we can help North Carolina avoid altogether.
As you drive to the coast where you find the spectacular Cape Hatteras National Seashore, you pass through 200,000 acres of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, home to the endangered red wolf. It is off these barrier islands that speak to life, and preserve a sense of wildness that Big Oil wants to drill.
When I spoke to business owners on the coast, they want no part of Big Oil, but in the conservative cities of Charlotte, Raleigh and so many others, the idea that we produce oil is viewed with a positive feeling. Talks about alternative energy sources were greeted with bewilderment.
Next month we will be in North Carolina, to bring together the brightest minds and begin working on protecting the coast and digging in for a fight with Big Oil. It will not be easy in this David vs. Goliath saga, but we have been there before, and if we are to allow our children to truly inherit a better earth, then it will require a real fight.
America must move away from oil and natural gas, to do so will require leaving it in the ground. It will require a real vision for an alternative future. It will also require that we respect wildlife today, so they have a future. We are investing in the North Carolina Coast and will invest in many other places to ensure that wildness lives on and oil becomes a story of the past.
“Villains, always have a keen sense of theatre – they always save the best for last – BEWARE!” Vaughn Entwistle
Bold Visions Conservation