We must be good ancestors

I often visit the RSPB Reserve at Arne. I find peace among its trees, and although not a twitcher or birder, I find joy in watching the birds on the water, or simply following their fight through the pure country air. There are always surprises – a glimpse of dragonflies above a pool, or of a stag among the bracken. We are fortunate to live in such an area of beauty, with such a range of wildlife.

It was a shock, therefore, to learn that on Sunday, March 26, 200 barrels of ‘reservoir fluid’ spilled from a leaking pipeline into Poole Harbour. The fluid came from the Wytch Farm Oil Field, once managed by BP, since 2011 by Perenco UK.

Reservoir fluid is a mixture of 85% brine and 15% oil. Its spillage into Poole Harbour, with its rich mix of eco-systems of reedbeds, woodlands, salt marsh and lagoons, was a reminder of how our continuing dependence upon fossil fuels puts at risk the natural word.

Wytch Farm is the largest onshore oil-field in Western Europe. Oil and methane leave the field by pipeline, liquefied petroleum gas by tanker. In September 2013, in response to applications made by Perenco UK to Dorset County Council, the operational life of the field was extended to last to 2037, beyond the original end-date of 2016.

Perenco is owned and run by a multi-billionaire, Francois Perrodo – his family runs 3,000 oil wells across the world, operating in 16 countries, including Brazil, Ecuador, Cameroon and Gabon.

In 2022, Perenco was alleged by Investigate Europe – a multi-national team of journalists from 11 European countries – of being responsible for 167 pollution incidents and huge methane emissions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2022, The Guardian reported that Perenco sued the government of Peru over its plans to establish a reserve for indigenous peoples in an area estimated to contain at least 200 million barrels of oil. The leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador said: “Our forest is our home – if they continue destroying it with their roads, wells, chainsaws and oil flares, they will kill us, too.”

There have been at least three pollution incidents spanning ten years at Wytch Farm, the i newspaper reports – the current spillage, an incident in 2013, and one in 2020.

On Perenco’s website, the first words you see are: “Oil remains an adventure”. Reading those words I think instead of what polio vaccine pioneer Dr Salk asked of us: “Are we being good ancestors”?

Well respected Portland councillor Giovanna Lewis and her fellow Green campaigner Amy Pritchard were recently released from HM Prison Bronzefield. They remain undaunted in their determination that we should be good ancestors. They do not regret refusing to be silent in court about climate change.

Giovanna reported that she had been well-received by the women on her wing. She is determined to be a good ancestor – at whatever the cost. She and Amy face a re-trial next year.

Chair, Swanage & Rural Purbeck Labour Party

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