In past cultures, the earth was holy. It was taboo to dig holes in it. Coal, ores and other mineral resources were regarded as organs of Mother Earth. They were honoured; people took no more than they gave, and lived embedded in a cycle of living and dying, and hence in a world of abundance, where everything was provided for.
When the taboo was lifted, metal was made into coins, weapons, tools and machines, and, coal and finally oil, were used to drive a new system that could be described with one short word: more. Everyone wanted more of everything: more comfort, more property, more things that they could use and throw away, more power. People thought that they could subdue the earth, but, in reality, they had been subdued by their own greed, always searching for even more.
Oil is the fuel of this system, which blesses us with a uniform world of consumption around the planet, and turns oceans, rain forests and rivers into cesspools. Not to mention climate change and wars over oil. But awareness is gradually changing. More and more people know that life doesn’t grow indefinitely, and that “more” leads to “nothing” in the long run. Industrial sectors are planning to switch to renewable energies, the petrodollar is teetering like the Titanic just before it went under. People who are still of sound mind are taking their money out of the collapsing oil-based system, out of its research and investment. New Zealand and Costa Rica have announced their transition to renewables, as have the cities of Barcelona and New York. Even the Allianz insurance company has declared that it will move away from oil. You see, it can be done!
But this message seems not to have reached GALP, of all companies. In our sun-blessed country, of all places, the oil industry wants to pull out all the stops again. Nine contracts with oil companies for conventional drilling and fracking have been cancelled in recent years, following public protests. But just before the deadline, a government that has really done a lot of good things signs contracts with the oil consortium GALP/ENI out of the public eye. One of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, with the most valuable water reservoirs in Europe, is running the risk of oil pollution.
For the 50,000 signatories of the petition against drilling for oil in the Algarve, for everyone who, for four years, has been pointing out, through judicial, political, civil and creative means, the dangers for nature, the economy, for tourism and fisheries – e.g. the increased numbers of earthquakes in areas where there is drilling for oil – for them the announcement is a slap in the face.
“It is hard at such times not to lose one’s hope and faith in democracy,” says activist Catarina Gomes from the Linha Vermelha campaign. And so, up to the scheduled start of drilling on 15 September, the campaigns of the nationwide alliance “No to drilling, yes to the future” need to become even more resolute, more effective, more arousing, to still stop the madness. But how?
Under discussion is a widespread boycott of GALP, to hit the company where it hurts most – its profits. If the NO succeeds, a society must know what it is saying YES to – and that can only be to move away completely from the oil system and switch to a system of decentralised solar power, in Portugal and worldwide. It needs us to ensure that those responsible in the worlds of politics and economics really make the switch: a significant number of people, municipalities and businesses, who are already showing that life without oil is not only possible, it is even beautiful, because it honours and protects what is really important to us. On Tuesday, 7 August, many thousands of people are expected to take part in a day of action on the beaches of Portugal and especially in Aljezur.