Environment Opinion

The Shaky Political Viability of Forcing Fracking upon Communities

Forcing Fracking upon Communities
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As the fracking nightmare begins to spread like sepsis across England, communities are stepping up to meet the threat head-on with peaceful, creative actions to counter the industry’s disgraceful manipulations of political democracy and ethics. With the recent and sensible fracking ban vote in Scotland, and Wales with a moratorium, pushing for a total ban, the Tories and their fragile majority are isolated in their dirty energy future ideology.

Corporate policing

Up to now in Lancashire alone, the protests at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site have resulted in 320+ arrests and over £2,882,494m in policing costs. You’d think the scandal-hit band of degenerates roving the halls of Westminster might give their heads a wobble and sense that the imposition of a dirty and undemocratic industry may just stimulate residents to take action themselves, in protest against one of the most corrupt and dangerous industries to sleaze its way into our lives.

In Lancashire and recently Ryedale, there has been repeated violence from the security firms paid by the fracking companies and direct police facilitation of the fracking industry, with the regular use of unreasonable force. On Monday, Netpol will launch their 2017 report, Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime, scrutinising the policing of the ongoing anti-fracking protests and the exploration of, “how UK policing has sought in 2017 to neutralise the political impact of these protests”.

Cuadrilla’s security assaulting a campaigner. Image © Kristian Buus.

Global climate action

This week, former NASA scientist and climate activist, Professor James Hansen, has urged for mobilisation against fossil fuel companies and the governments that are entangled in less-than-savoury deals with big polluters.

Hanson was pivotal in early-days climate change awareness raising within US Congress. This week, he told the Guardian at the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, that:

“The judiciary is the branch of government in the US and other countries that is relatively free of bribery. And bribery is exactly what is going on.”

Professor Hansen has previous arrests on his record, for protests and peaceful direct action about the Keyline Pipeline, and his granddaughter is currently part of the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit delegation against the US federal government. It is alleged that by the: “government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” The trial is in February 2018 and the verdict could be a game changer.

His call-to-action is the right one and people across the globe are indeed mobilising. The feeling of disempowerment is widespread, with democracy dented and skewed to big polluters’ advantages. This leaves grassroots campaigners with few other methods available other than direct action, to make the changes needed to prevent a further slide into climate chaos.

Locals rising-up

Yesterday, 12 local residents were in Blackpool Magistrates’ Court for a verdict on a direct action taken outside the Preston New Road site of desperate fracking wannabe, Cuadrilla. The group (originally 13 people; one of whom accepted a police caution after his arrest) gathered early one July morning and carried out a mass lock-on to pipes and barrels, over the summer of Rolling Resistance, co-ordinated by Reclaim the Power.

Forcing Fracking upon Communities

Image by Cheryl Atkinson

Out of the 13 residents who took action, three were councillors. County Councilor Gina Dowding, borough Councillor Julie Brickles, town Councillor Miranda Cox, Nick Sheldrick, Michelle Martin, Sarah Boyle, Barbara Cookson, Nick Danby, Daniel Huxley-Blythe, Catherine Jackson, Alana McCullough and Jeanette Porter, took part in the group action on Monday 03 July 2017, citing they had no choice left other than direct action.

All 12 were found guilty of obstruction of the highway, under the Highways Act 1980, section 137(1). Sketchy charges relating to the Trade Union Act and Labour (Consolidation) Act 1992, section 24, were all dismissed due to the Crown Prosecution failing to provide any evidence to warrant such a charge. District Judge Jeff Brailsford stated that he saw “no evidence of civil wrong” in relation to the Trade Union charge.

Although no fines were issued, each defendant was each given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay court costs and victim surcharge totaling £270.

Councillor Gina Dowding of the Green Party. Image © Kristian Buus Photography

Green Party County Councillor and part of the group, Gina Dowding said:

“Scientists globally, recognise that shale gas production is incompatible with efforts to prevent global warming from exceeding two degrees centigrade. Shale gas is neither needed nor wanted.

“The UK government’s commitment to go all out for shale and impose this on the British people, and particularly to impose the risks on the people of Lancashire, is nothing short of perverse.

“The biggest risk to our local and national interest is that of climate change:  it is the overriding national issue. Before taking this action, I have tried to pursue the democratic process in every way possible.”

The Pope was present at the COP23 gathering, meeting ministers to work on solidifying the Paris Agreement. It’s notable that in his 2015 Encyclical, he raised climate change and the environment as a critical risk to humanity in the future, stating:

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day,”

During the Bonn gathering this month, he described climate change denial as a “perverse attitude”, stating this approach is having a detrimental effect on “honest research and sincere and productive dialogue”.

Another Lancashire resident from the group who took direct action, Nick Danby, a retired civil servant, delivered a shot across the bows in his closing press statement:

“Speaking directly to the fracking industry, its supporters and apologists: you will never have the social license here or anywhere. You will meet sustained resistance. You are not welcome and we will do all that we can to protect our friends and families, our homes and our communities. And to those that invest in this industry – pull out now – you will never get your money back.”

Climate Change Denial

We should champion those who stand tall against the powerful corporations and their dirty agenda of more fossil fuels and skewed science. It speaks volumes when councillors feel so disenfranchised with politics that direct action is their only remaining option. Fossil fuels are not the future. It shouldn’t be something we have to accept because of weak, corrupt politics. Our children’s future depends on our collective actions now.

With the UK government looking more erratic and spineless, rather than the clichéd strong and stable warbling, their lack of climate commitment and inaction is becoming increasingly exposed.

The forcing of fracking upon communities that have democratically refused it is nothing more than totalitarianism.

Pressure must be applied across all political circles to ensure that our future isn’t cemented to be controlled by climate change deniers seated in government who are more invested in dirty industry rather than the health, welfare and lives of their constituents.

Solid climate leadership is an immediate necessity, both in the UK and globally. We must take action now – both direct and indirect – to secure a cleaner, green future.

Feature image © Kristian Buus Photography


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