History will, if the race survives long enough, probably refer to the inhabitants of these industrial centuries as "the extractors" or the "fossil users" or something less flattering, such as "Earth bleeders", because if there is one thing that defines our epoch it is our use of oil.
Oil literally makes the wheels go round. And there are very few products that do not, at some point, rely on oil-fuelled machinery to manufacture, power, and distribute them.
Throw in the other fossil fuels – coal and natural gas – and the entirety of modern civilisation runs on the fruits of the world's long labours.
But it won't, for much longer. Because the catch of course is that it takes a geologic age for the Earth to absorb layers of organic material and compress it ever so cunningly into oil. Hundreds of millions of years.
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We don't have a fraction of that time, because we've managed to use up somewhere between half and two-thirds of all the world's oil in the space of little more than 200 years.
And at current consumption rates probably have about 50 years until there is no oil at all; at least, no fossil-based oil.
So if we want to keep anything resembling this technological society, we need to develop alternatives, and transition to them, within that time.
Fifty years may sound a decent interval, but it will go by fast given the size of the task. And the kicker is, we don't actually have that much time, because fossil fuels do something else besides run our world – they poison it.
Carbon emissions from extracted fossil fuels are the main cause of human-induced climate change – and we are already in a climate and ecological emergency.
And that's leaving aside the deleterious effects of plastic waste, especially in our oceans.
So we have to leave coal in the hole and oil in the soil. We need to cut our dependence and reduce our petrochemical footprint now, not in 50 years time.
There are alternatives; it can be done; and the Government has recognised this by moving to ban any new oil and gas exploration.
Again, there's a catch. Permits already issued can still be activated, despite the ban, and Austrian miner OMV is taking advantage of the loophole to explore offshore prospects off Taranaki and in the Great South Basin.
OMV may not bear comparison to Saudi Aramco – the sheik-owned company expected to have a market capitalisation close to $2 trillion when it lists in the near future – but is still a major player in exploratory drilling, including in the Arctic.
Moreover like all fuel companies, it's fighting back against attempts to limit its capabilities. Having taken over Shell's assets in this country, OMV is insinuating itself into the good graces of the populace; along with Todd Corporation, New Zealand's own oil conglomerate, as incongruous as it sounds OMV is a principle sponsor of international music festival WOMAD.
Greenpeace, aided by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Climate Justice Taranaki, took action this week against the company by occupying its supply tender vessel, the Skandi Atlantic, for three days in Timaru's port. Next week that effort will ramp up another notch in Taranaki.
Protesters see this as doing the job the Government said it would, but isn't: stopping new oil exploration. And the why is also simple: unless oil is restricted now, companies will not pour the money into R&D and commercial trials of alternative lubricants and plastics with any urgency.
But urgency is what is needed; it's an emergency. The sooner we genuinely start to transition, the better we'll all be.
• Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.