A couple of years (or even a year) ago, I would never have dreamed that I would have taken over the forecourt of a petrol station, dancing to samba as the police looked on. To year-ago me, it would have seemed a bit: mad, hippy, reckless, stupid, pointless, illegal (delete as appropriate).
What made me change my mind, and what made me get involved with groups such as the UK Tar Sands Network which facilitated the recent Party at the Pumps actions? Well, it was a few things. Over the past few months I’ve been privileged to meet those from first nations communities who are being affected by the tar sands in Alberta, Canada – dubbed the most destructive project on earth. The tar sands are destroying their lands, their way of life, contaminating the water and food so much that cancer rates have been found to be 30% higher than expected. So many people from these communities are dying that they no longer call the tar sands a “dirty oil” project, they call it “bloody oil”.
Add in to the mix the fact that the tar sands are so energy intensive that they could cause runway climate change all on their own if left to continue, and we have a problem. Companies like Shell and BP must be held accountable for these social and environmental disasters, and it’s our job to do that. Obama is insisting that BP pick up the paycheck for the recent oil spill, but if BP just use that as an excuse to limit offshore drilling and move further in to the tar sands, do you want to bet that Obama will continue the finger-pointing?
It is up to us to pile on the pressure, and if that means partying in a petrol station forecourt then bring it on! It was a brilliant day, with a samba band, bike-powered sound system and free cake (mmm cake). It was also a great way of talking to interested passers-by about why we were doing it and so invigorating to find that we had swathes of public support. As one guy said “It’s not a violent protest, not destroying property, they’re making their point, it’s how most social change has happened since the civil rights movement, you have to do what you have to do”.
And that’s why I’m doing stuff like this now. Change happens. Is it mad? Maybe. Is it hippy? Getting less so! Is it illegal? Umm…
Is it important, essential, vital? Yes.
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