Fracking: a Battle to the Death with Denial
While preparing to write this blog, I had intended to delve into the finer points of fractivism from the point of view of a Transitioner wearing two other, overtly activist hats (local Green Party press officer and Friends of the Earth local group coordinator); this will have to wait for another time, as this week my pen/keyboard has a will of its own.
‘Some psychologists believe that the harder a person fights death, the more likely they will be to stay in the denial stage. If this is the case, it is possible the ill person will have more difficulty dying in a dignified way.’
A couple of weeks ago, a local church saw several members of Transition Leytonstone come together with people of all social and ethnic groupings to celebrate the life of of a much-loved pillar of our local community. Her bulky form and radiant, open, optimistic countenance were a familiar sight on the streets, in the cafes and the pubs of our little corner of Northeast London; her untimely passing wrongfooting us all, throwing us into a state of confused denial. While not an ‘official’ Transitioner, Julie, a former social worker who had taken early retirement due to ill-health, had a keen interest in our Community Garden, and continued to help people in whatever way she could, holding advice surgeries in cafes and running fundraising and community events. Her involvement in the lives of others was so profound, that she continued to the very end, smiling brightly and radiantly through chronic ill-health and disability, giving generously of her time, sowing the seeds of love wherever she went. Self-pity, rancour and blame were not part of her make-up. With a positive take on death, she had asked that at her funeral everyone should wear bright and happy colours.
Julie’s cheerful acceptance of her lot gave her a dignity, a beauty and, very importantly, a subtle power to influence the behaviour of others which sadly eludes our so-called leaders. Where are the statesmen who can face up publicly to the death of the energy civilisation? People who have the courage to say that tomorrow will be very different from today, and that they have no idea how the human adventure will finish? People who have the integrity to say that the sins of the fathers and the forefathers are being visited upon all of us – at this very moment? People who have enough respect for their fellow humans to cease lying to them?
With this shocking political pusillanimity in mind, I went back for guidance and support to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s 1969 study of the Five Stages of Grief. For the benefit of those who may a bit rusty on this, the grieving process can be divided into: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally...Acceptance. Interesting point, relevant to the titanic struggles presently being waged within the political and energy sector to keep us addicted to fossil fuels: ‘the Kübler-Ross hypothesis holds that there are individuals who struggle with death until the end. Some psychologists believe that the harder a person fights death, the more likely they will be to stay in the denial stage. If this is the case, it is possible the ill person will have more difficulty dying in a dignified way.’
Do other Transitioners, like myself, have a sense that the rapidly gathering world uprising against fracking is but the beginning of the ultimate showdown between climate change deniers and realists? I see cohorts of valiant Inner Transitioners locking horns with wave upon wave of blindfold armies under the frenzied command of frantically gesticulating generals, still marooned in that first stage of environmental grief, Denial. Solastalgia, the Depressive phase of this grief, is a state of mind which would stop these generals and their armies in their tracks. The term, created by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht, is the 'lived experience' of negative environmental change. Transitioners feel this intensely, which is why we work continuously to restore balance and order within our communities.
Ever since the Blackpool earthquakes hit the headlines in April 2011, many of us had been haunted by the spectre of further fracking in the UK, but for a while, somewhat lulled into a sense of false security by the one-year moratorium on further exploration, which had been put in place by the government in November 2011. Once this moratorium was lifted however, we learned that the government would be doing everything in its power to make up for lost time: facilitating further exploration with tax breaks, simplified permitting processes, speeded-up licensing, financial sweeteners for local councils, lower energy bills for communities in the affected areas...In March 2013, The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO, also known to fracktivists as OFSHAG) was officially created within DECC, inside the policy framework ‘Increasing the Use of Low Carbon Technologies’ . At this point, alarm bells began to ring ever louder. How could shale gas ever be considered a low-carbon technology? Nowhere on the policy page is there an explanation of the thinking behind this; in fact, there is not the slightest reference to shale gas. So why has OUGO ended up within this framework? And only today it has been claimed in a scientific study just released by Stanford University’s Energy Modelling Forum that from a climate perspective, the shale gas revolution is essentially irrelevant — and arguably a massive diversion of resources and money that could have gone into deploying carbon-free sources.
By May 2013, Energy Minister Michael Fallon was crowing "There are already over 300 licenses for onshore exploration and development, conventional and unconventional, a fifth of which are substantial"
And then came Balcombe.
Local people welcomed the support of fractivist earth protectors, bemused lifelong Tory party members realised that the shires were now up for shale and, cheated of their leafy heritage, started to jump ship.
We have heard/read scores of times that the gas industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a myth. Fracked wells inevitably leak over time, contaminating water and air, hurting wildlife, agriculture, humans, and endangering the earth’s climate with the potent greenhouse gas, methane. And the shale game is yet another financial bubble to be burst. Here’s what the CEO of Shell said in August this year: “The shale revolution is “a little bit overhyped,” Shell CEO Peter Voser said last week as his company announced a $2.1 billion write-down, mostly owing to the poor performance of its fracking adventures in U.S. “liquids-rich shales.” With the world uprising against fracking the beginning of the ultimate showdown between deniers and accepters, we certainly all need to move on. Beyond confrontation. Beyond denial. And if we can, beyond factionalism.
The mainstream press continues to follow the usual sensationalist and blinkered line of treating all protectors as protestors. In the light of this, what can now be done to prevent the cancerous spread of prospecting across the UK? Should we now be explaining to the media the difference between a Protector and a Protestor? That could be one of our last chances to help turn the tide of history.