Petroleum protestors show power of Trump-like slogans


“Shame! shame! shame!” “Stand up, fight back!” “Your kids are going to hate you.”

Those were just some of the slogans protestors shouted at delegates attempting to enter the annual New Zealand Petroleum Conference in Wellington this week.

Despite the rain, a vociferous crowd kept protesting for much of the day and waved “Frack Off!!!” signs and softer messages like “for our children and their children: take action on climate change” and “now is the time for bold, progressive leadership”.

The sloganeering was simple, yet powerful, and garnered widespread media coverage. It was also reminiscent of Donald Trump’s predilection for angry outbursts on social media, primarily his Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, discussions inside the conference centre were focussed on detail and data about the challenge of reducing carbon emissions while satisfying the world’s growing demand for energy.

Truth be told, some of the data was sleep-inducing, and definitely not as gripping as say a Trump-like tweet, or protestor’s sign.

And therein lies the challenge for energy bosses, regulators and politicians alike.

Climate change may very well be the nuclear-free moment of the Prime Minister’s generation. But, the answer to solving that problem is complex and not easily captured by simple slogans and symbols.

The industry has a devil of a job to show it’s already doing the things necessary to achieve a lower carbon future. It also needs to find better ways of communicating that don’t involve shouting more facts and figures at people.

As an aside, the world’s growing demand for energy comes from growing prosperity. The richer we get, the more energy we burn – an irony that’s been lost on those who blame the suppliers of energy.

Before the shouting gets out of hand, perhaps we all should heed the advice of a former New Zealand Prime Minister and pause for “a cup of tea”.