Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Bigger than Balcombe...

Bigger than any of us...

As many turn their focus to Balcombe, West Sussex where energy company/drillers Cuadrilla are currently facing local opposition to their plans to 'frack' for oil or gas, it is clear that this is not going to go quietly away. The media are playing on the fact that it is not only the villagers of Balcombe that are trying to stop Cuadrilla - but that they are joined by protest groups and individuals from elsewhere in the country; the media portray this as a bad thing (I see it as a support and giving-a-damn thing).

It made me think about how it must be to be from Balcombe - what would I want if I was them?

As we have had Cuadrilla here in Lancashire for a while and they have ignored every form of legal objection, continued to flog propoganda in our press and schools, confused/misled/fantasised most of our Councillors/MPs into cheerleaders and paid NO attention to our pleas... we feel small, powerless and at risk; I think we would be rejoicing if others from ANYWHERE came and helped us protect our community from this dangerous industry with its appalling safety record and history of harm in its wake.

For the villagers of beautiful Balcombe, the choice ahead seems to be:
- accept that Cuadrilla aren't listening and have the power to wrap our law enforcement around their vehicles – ensuring that they WILL drill
- accept that when/if other groups and individuals come to help stop Cuadrilla – that there may be people, actions and interactions that are not only unfamiliar - but maybe so far away from ‘normal’ that it can be worrying.

AND... while I was thinking about all this it also became clearer that because the risk of harm is to our shared, vital resources: air, water and agriculture – that maybe it is impossible to define this community defence by geography.

The unconventional energy business (fracking shale, coal seam gas etc) has made it clear that more than 65% of our country is up for grabs – so this is actually OUR stand, not just Balcombe’s.

The villagers, understandably – wish none of this was their reality (we do too) but it is and this is a crucial time because every time they drill, they pass through our precious land and aquifers and the potential for harm begins (even before they begin ‘fracking’).

Last weekend I went to Balcombe and met some amazing people from the village and elsewhere - each with a shared purpose and huge determination - regardless of their differences in origin or status (ie: first time protester or active on issues over a long time period); returning tomorrow.