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.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

We, the activists

Public opinion silenced
by over-enforcement of laws
...twisted to meet corporate greed’s needs

(This week in Balcombe at the Great Gas Gala against fracking for shale gas)

WE the people of this country, of these counties at risk; WE the people who depend now and always will (as will our children and theirs) on safe water and air... have said NO to shale gas extraction (fracking) on countless petitions, to numerous officials, time after time and WE have acted lawfully to be heard.

WE though are here in the fields trying to protect ourselves from an horrendous risk to our health and safety. WE are being deliberately intimidated by ‘law-enforcement’ and yet, it is WE who are arrested!

WE who are bullied by abused laws that wrap OUR law-enforcers around corporate trucks delivering drilling bits and other dangerous sh*t to our precious places of residence and dependence.

Again it is WE who are forced to do this public protest, act of self-defence – because it is OUR OWN government that is pushing this dangerous business into our communities and inflicting it on our lives.

HOW the hell do we stop this?

We gather, we share truths and research papers, we apply legal means, we print, we protest and we do all we can. Many speak out, others knit, multitudes march, a precious few research and delve deep into misleading Public Relations spin and some engage in freedom-limiting ‘Direct Actions’. The variety of acts-of-protest is both inspiring and effective; it brings this important matter to the attention of the very different types of people that WE are; in our many walks of life.

Tonight Bianca Jagger tweeted she would go to stand in support with Balcombe; after reading a tweet from Ray Beckerman  that lead to an excellent article in CommonDreams about the Great Gas Gala. She turned up and warmly shared the welcome and commitment - then shared the images and news to those who follow her. Ian R Crane too was on site and filming for those who follow him... as were the wonderful individuals who contribute to the Occupy News Network  and Reel News - each has a role and each is a conduit for the information network that is vital to ensuring an informed public.

WE cannot depend on honesty from an industry that will profit from the dangerous methods of extreme (unconventional) energy extraction because they depend on it; WE cannot trust our local officials to take the time to even understand this process. I discovered this for myself on BBC Radio 5 Live on Friday night when Morecambe MP David Morris made his ignorance clear by not knowing that more than half of the chemical laced water that enters a shale gas well - does not come back during the operation; WE cannot rely on the media to accurately report the truth even of who WE are, as we have discovered in articles that demean, mock and attack those who are *activists (*activist is simply a description of a person who having seen a wrong - is acting to resolve it).

The intention of the energy companies for our country is a hugely important matter that leads to the heart of most other hugely important matters – the impact and control of lobbyists over our ‘democratic’ system of government; an impact that gives greater voice to industry than it does to WE the people.

Whenever we hold public meetings and people are given unbiased information about shale gas extraction (fracking), they question the risk and so we focus heavily on getting the videos, studies and expert, industry voices out. Now though the danger grows ever nearer and we are having to block the roads, lock the gates and try our best to get this stopped before more harm is done. We each would wish to be heard and heeded by lawful means - but when laws are being abused by those with the power to do so (who have a vested interest)... how lawful can we remain?

 I don’t know how we ultimately solve this – I do though feel that we can ONLY succeed – together as WE, the people.

Friday, 19 July 2013

I am not a label...

It is infuriating, misleading, propagandist and downright wrong that the media define those of us who are questioning the process of shale gas extraction (fracking) and other unconventional energy practices - by their own limited views.

Giving a damn about the health, safety and well-being of our communities does NOT mean we are ‘ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS UP IN ARMS’ or ‘ENVIRONMENTALISTS OBJECTING’...
...we are PEOPLE who are objecting.

People who gather into groups to share concerns and attempt to protect our communities. The large, long-established, well-known groups focus on environmental effects as part of the bigger global picture but most in the communities due to be 'fracked' - are simply everyday human beings trying to find out if the water and air we rely on for life will stay safe; whether the roads where we live will be jammed full of heavy diesel spewing vehicles carrying undiluted chemicals; whether our local farmers will still be able to produce safe food for our markets if the agricultural land is harmed; whether our current industries and jobs may be affected by this new industry; whether the industrialisation of our land is what is best for our communities.

The topic of unconventional energy and shale gas extraction (fracking) specifically is being made to move on from ‘IS IT ACTUALLY SAFE, worthwhile and beneficial for the humans (rather than the industry and those invested in it)?’ TO how much they will get in TAX BREAKS to incentivise and encourage this dirty business - as well as how much communities will be paid and who in those communities will GET THE CASH.

We (the humans who are deeply worried about our lives and those of our families and future generations) are gathering for a 'community conversation' tomorrow - if you can be here, we would warmly welcome your input x

Monday, 15 July 2013

Local Group wins National Award: “Campaign of the Year” - Press Release

At their annual ‘Earthmovers’ ceremony this weekend, Friendsof the Earth awarded 'Campaign of the Year' to Fylde campaign group, Residents’Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF).

Accepting the award, Julie Daniels of RAFF said: “This award is for all the groups and amazing individuals who have worked tirelessly to confront this threat to our communities. The industries seeking to extract unconventional sources of energy here are finding more and more people who know the truth and do not believe the propaganda; we are a growing force to be reckoned with.”

Presenting the award, Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth said: "We're delighted to recognise Residents Against Fylde Fracking for their outstanding campaigning against dirty shale gas.

"They have inspired communities across the UK with their creativity and commitment, and show what can be achieved when a group of ordinary people come together to protect their community.
"They deserve to win not just this award but the bigger battle against fracking."

Praise, thanks and inclusion in the acceptance of the award also went to other local groups; Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, Frack FreeFylde, Refracktion and Defend Lytham as well as national groups Britain & Ireland Frack Free and Frack Off.

Tina Rothery of RAFF added: "Of course the true prize comes when we stop shale gas and other unconventional energy extraction here in the UK and beyond but for now, this award presents an exceptional opportunity to access the resources and support of Friends of the Earth who have groups throughout the UK and the world. Their support and solidarity is priceless."

Gathering on the Green

News of the award comes in time for the second ‘Gathering on the Green’ that takes place on Saturday 20 July at 2pm. The first gathering was in 2012 when local group opposing shale gas extraction arranged to meet at the Lytham Windmill during the Open Golf.

This year the groups are asking for local residents to join them for a community conversation about the risks posed by the shale gas industry.

Tina Rothery of RAFF said: “In addition to the local campaigning groups, representatives from national groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace will also be joining us to show support and contribute to this important conversation.  The recent report by the Advertising Standards Agency that reprimanded Cuadrilla for misleading and exaggerating their claims about the safety of ‘fracking’, show that we need honesty and residents need access to that. We’re hoping that everyone with concerns will come along.”

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