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Australia sacrifices environment for money

by Shelby Toth - News Editor
Tue, Apr 3rd 2018 09:05 pm

  One fish, two fish, red fish, no fish?

   The Great Australian Bight, referred to mostly as just the Bight, has become the next potential target of natural gas drilling by big oil company Statoil.

The area in question is a beautiful, resource-rich and diversely habituated stretch of ocean facing the Antarctic, sometimes referred to as “Australia’s Galapagos.” Many residents earn their living from the water, between fishing, oyster growing and more.

“Our fishing industry, our tourism industry, our lifestyle, our local food and our wildlife all depend on a pristine coastline,” said a marine adventure company employee, Elise Lavers, to The New York Times.

But of course, this is not sufficient.

Statoil hopes to start drilling in this area by the end of 2019, according to The New York Times. Australia is known for fossil fuel coming before environmental needs, and this will more likely than not result in more of the same. But there is another big factor driving the desire to allow gas drilling, and that is jobs.

The Bight is mostly located in South Australia, an area that has been in need of more jobs for years. In fact, that very topic, along with the potential drilling, was a big topic in a recent election down there.

Matt Canavan, a conservative senator, was one politician heatedly on the side of drilling.

 “I hope the Northern Territory government makes a pro-science, pro-development decision really soon,” Canavan said, according to The Guardian. “On the Great Australian Bight, it’s a longer term prospect but it’s got huge potential, too, and it is supported by the South Australian government.”

With political backing, and the Statoil company insisting maximum safety throughout the exploration and drilling process, it seems all set and done. According to Mining Weekly, Australia has even announced a $50 million investment into research on drilling and other related fields, which some might view as a commitment to getting the drilling train rolling.

This idea isn’t without opposition. Many locals to the area are adamantly against the idea of drilling, for reasons including the reliance it would cause on exploiting natural resources, reports The New York Times. It’s also reported that six different town councils have raised objections to drilling.

People are very worried about the environment, and for good reason. It’s not unheard of for giant oil spills (looking at you BP) to wreak havoc on the natural life around it. That’s not even mentioning the Great Barrier Reef, another once-treasured area that has sustained more and more damage, bringing it near the point of destruction.

 There is a lot to be said about this specific area as well. The New York Times reported that the combined fishing and tourism industries in the Bight area are worth over $1 billion.

  “Risking it in a push to expand the fossil fuel industry is the height of irresponsibility,” Jeff Hansen said. 

Hansen is part of the environmental activist group Sea Shepherd, a group committing itself to trying to sway politicians away from drilling.

While there are many other nuances that go into a major decision like this, it seems to boil down to jobs versus the environment. And while it’s important for people to make a living out there, I still have to side with the environment. The Earth’s wonders and beauties are already starting to dwindle, and I’m sure they’re only going down from here.

I’d like to think that drilling and beautiful natural life can coexist, but the risk of a problem is too great. Besides that, environmentally friendly energy is a rising field that will quite possibly overthrow natural gas usage as the leading energy market.



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