Patagonia battles Big Oil in Australia

 Photo by  Vladimir Kudinov  on  Unsplash
Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

As a brand of incredible ethics and values, it’s no surprise that Patagonia has spearheaded another conservation campaign. This time, their attention has turned to Norwegian company Equinor.

Equinor are pushing forward with plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, a pristine marine wilderness off the south coast of Australia. The deep water drilling project involves working through 2500m deep water and over 3000m into the seabed, in some of Australia’s roughest waters.

In part of the bid for the project, Equinor were forced to publish a draft Environmental Plan that outlines the possible impact of deep water drilling on the environment and their response to it. The draft plan highlights the risk of the project and includes a map that simulates a worse-case scenario oil spill projection, where the spill reaches from Western Australia all the way across to New South Wales and Tasmania.

Local communities, councils and environmental agencies have condemned the project as incredibly risky, dangerous and outright irresponsible. Locals say most of the coast is sheer cliff face and rough swells, which would make it almost impossible to clean up a devastating oil spill.

 Photo by  Jose Llamas  on  Unsplash
Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash

Patagonia have responded to the issue in their typical full-frontal fashion. The campaign kicked off in mid-2018 with a premier of the Patagonia produced film, “Never Town”, launched with a series of community events and a lengthy blog post on the topic.

As the draft Environmental Plan by Equinor is now open for public comment, the Patagonia campaign has ramped up featuring full-page web banners, email campaigns and a range of other digital and social activity centred around the headline “Big Oil Don’t Surf”.

Although the campaign is inspiring and certainly encourages involvement, the call to action leaves me feeling a little lost. Patagonia are encouraging the community to participate in commenting on the draft plan, but the momentum is lost when you’re directed to fill out this form as it requires a considered, thoughtful and lengthy analysis of key issues in the plan. The draft plan by Enquinor is over 1500 pages long, filled with scientific data, legalese and an overwhelming amount of information for everyday people.

What can we learn from Patagonia?

  • Live your values. Patagonia isn’t a business that needs to print their values on the walls and in employee handbooks, because they absolutely live and breathe them every day.

  • Get involved. Grass-roots communities need leaders to help tackle significant issues.

  • Make it simple. If you’re encouraging people to take action and it might be difficult, help them out! Provide a template or breakdown of key issues to help them make meaningful contribution.

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