HRussian-funded ysterical ‘Luddites’ was how Jacob Rees-Mogg, in Parliament yesterday, described worried residents opposed to fracking in England. What a slap in the face for those of us who have spent over a decade trying to protect our communities from the dangerous and polluting shale gas industry. We never received a single ruble or a glass of vodka for our efforts.
Here in Lancashire, we actually thought we had won that fight – twice. Our first victory was in 2015, when Lancashire County Council rejected planning applications from fracking company Cuadrilla for two large sites between Preston and Blackpool. This decision was reversed by Westminster in 2016 and work began in 2017 to turn the Preston New Road site from a field where cows graze into a shale gas site. Nanas Against Fracking, a group I co-founded, also started protesting at the site that day and continued for over 1,000 days.
Our second short-lived victory came in November 2019, when the government had to halt fracking and put in place a moratorium after the work triggered a 2.9 Richter scale earthquake. Even though earthquakes, which are one of the most immediately dangerous risks of hydraulic fracturing, can be “monitored”, the government has had to face the fact that you cannot control them. The moratorium has brought some relief to local residents and activists; although, of course, we wanted an outright ban put in place so we could finally draw a line under that and feel comfortable again.
The government’s decision to lift the moratorium yesterday sent shock waves through our community. As an Anti-fracking Nana, I know how much time and energy it takes to take on a heavily funded industry, while the government acts as its cheerleaders and the police are used as security at fracking sites. . My fellow Nanas Against Fracking feel angry and confused, like we’ve been here before. In addition to earthquakes, we are plagued with other worries, such as increased home insurance premiums, as they have done for people living in areas near gas fracking sites. shale in the United States. Will we see, like some of them, higher incidences of childhood leukemia? What about maternal health issues – for example, an increased rate of stillbirths, for which there is evidence in Utah? What will be the impacts of the waste and methane released by fracking? Have our property values ever gone down?
Witnessing this flagrant failure of democracy may seem hopeless. I remember an older man in Balcombe in 2013 looking out the window of a tearoom in the village as it became crowded with protesters. He said he believed that working, paying his taxes, never breaking the law, raising his family and owning his home meant he was part of a democratic society, that he could appeal to the government if he felt in danger. But his MP – Francis Maude, who appointed Cuadrilla chairman Lord Browne as the government’s chief business adviser – did little to help him. Seeing our protest, the man said he was relieved. He had worried about the impact of fracking on the health and well-being of the people of Balcombe, and that we were the only ones to answer his call.
So if you want to resist fracking in your city, community organizing is the place to start. At its height, the anti-fracking movement in the UK was made up of 300 self-governing groups across the country. As well as physically protesting, we lobbied our local MPs, briefed councillors, held public meetings, opposed planning, researched and networked, and got our message out in the media. We have ensured that everyone has a role to play in this movement, regardless of age, ability, background or where they live.
There is also a place for non-violent direct action. It helps infuse activism with joy. If you want to undertake a 1,000 day protest like ours, you need to find ways to motivate each other, like recognizing the victories to be had before the main goal is achieved. We watched the stock prices of Australian company AJ Lucas (parent company of Cuadrilla) and were glad they fell after the delays and bad press caused by our activities on their site. We rejoiced in each new face that joined the movement (and those people who came back and became familiar faces). We danced, sang and shared food.
The hardest thing about activism is getting started. Who would healthily choose to live in opposition to a more powerful force? Knowingly arriving every day accepting that arrest, violence and abuse are a certainty? We used to give public talks to communities at risk of fracking, and I called the talk The Unwelcome Gift of Truth. I hated telling residents what was to come, because I knew the vast majority would find it impossible to ignore the risks their families would face; that they too would fall through the door marked “activism”, and perhaps, like me, would not find the exit. How do you “ignore” the facts? How can anyone just stand aside and believe that the government or its helpless regulators will protect us from this industry?
Yesterday, my fellow anti-fracking Nana, Anjie Mosher, said to me, “Although the government has almost taken away any right to protest, I will peacefully rise up to do whatever I can to slow down and stop this industry before irreparable damage is caused. .” I will do the same and I hope you will too.
#fracking #coming #city #Heres #fight #win #Tina #Rothery