Through a tide-changing partnership, the Surfrider Foundation Australia and beloved ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s have launched an inspiring campaign to safeguard the pristine waters of the Southern Sea from a colossal fossil fuel operation. The initiative seeks to rally community support and pressure the government into cancelling a seismic blasting permit that threatens Australia’s southern coastline. The permit is a joint venture between seismic survey giants TGS and SLB/Schlumberger, marking one of the world’s largest blasting endeavours.
Lisa Deppeler, Director of OCEAN (Otway Climate Emergency Action Network), revealed that a staggering 99 percent of Australians, including political figures, were oblivious to the ongoing offshore explorations within Australia.
Seismic blasting, the initial step in offshore oil and gas drilling, will involve the release of deafening blasts into the ocean at 10-second intervals for a staggering 400 days. These explosions are equally as loud than the atomic bomb that struck Hiroshima, and are a great danger to marine life, local fishing industries, and the critical tourism sector. Marine Scientist, Annie Ford explains:
“Seismic surveys have significant impacts to both ecologically and commercially valuable species, including whales, crayfish and plankton.” Ms Ford added. “But research is limited. The more we learn, the worse the impact appears to be.”
To garner support for their cause, Surfrider and Ben & Jerry’s are embarking on a film tour known affectionately as “Tour D’ Ice Cream”; kicking off in Hobart and spanning Australia’s east coast from October to December 2023, finishing up in sunny Bondi. The tour features screenings of “Southern Blast”, a film that captures the breathtaking beauty of Australia’s coastline and underscores the peril posed by fossil fuel exploration. The 37-minute documentary, directed by ecologist and award-winning filmmaker Matty Hannon, incorporates interviews with environmental marine experts and showcases Australia’s stunning landscapes and surf footage of our Southern Seas.
The tour’s highlight is a retrofitted vintage fire truck named Trish! Trish runs on vegetable power and was made by the beach clean-up organisation, Emu Parade, led by Roland Davies. Roland and Trish will visit communities along the East Coast, encouraging residents to act. Ben & Jerry’s has simplified this process by creating a digital petition, allowing individuals to contact their local politicians and demand the cancellation of the blasting permits.
Since 1991, Surfrider Foundation Australia has been an advocate for water quality management and environmental preservation along Australia’s coastlines. Drew Mcpherson, Surfrider’s Campaign Director, emphasises that the risk far outweighs the reward and poses far too many dangers to justify its continuation. Mr Mcpherson commented:
“The film was shot over several months in coastal communities across Tasmania, Victoria & South Australia. The film takes us to the heart of communities that are at risk of losing their local cultures, livelihoods and marine ecosystems from the planned blasting and drilling. It highlights the unique and special connection each and every one of us has with the Ocean, how we rely upon it and the threats that it’s facing from the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.”
Ben & Jerry’s, which has dedicated its activism efforts to stopping new gas projects, fervently supports this campaign for climate justice and the transition to renewable energy. They align with Surfrider’s vision of protecting Australia’s oceans from offshore oil and gas, stressing the power of communities united in the pursuit of a sustainable future. Steph Curley, Activism Manager at Ben & Jerry’s said:
“At Ben & Jerry’s, we believe it’s worth fighting for climate justice – we must be stopping all new fossil fuel projects, and urgently transitioning to renewable energy. We’ve worked alongside Surfrider for years to support their fight to protect communities and coastlines from new gas projects. We fully support Surfrider’s goal of permanently protecting our oceans from offshore oil & gas through people-powered movements. We know that when communities stand together and fight for the things that matter, they can protect the places they love.”
The perilous implications of seismic blasting reach far beyond environmental threats. The proposal targets unique and globally significant areas, including the 12 Apostles, King Island, and the Great Southern Reef. It encompasses Marine Protected Areas and with substantial ocean swells, exponentially increasing the risk of oil spills. Furthermore, it imperils the marine ecosystem and fishing industries that contribute over $10 billion annually to Australia’s economy.
In the face of climate catastrophe, Surfrider Australia vehemently opposes the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. They call for the permanent protection of Australia’s south-eastern waters and an immediate end to offshore fossil fuel exploration. Your voice can make a difference – contact your local Council or State MP and join the movement to protect the Southern Sea. Together, we can ensure that this pristine and irreplaceable region remains unspoiled for generations to come.
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