United Kingdom (OpenDemocracy) – A wave of direct action across the UK aims to end extreme energy extraction.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is an extreme form of dirty energy extraction in a world dominated by dirty energy extraction. The earth’s resources are rare and fracking represents a final attempt to draw out fossil fuels from the ground. The effects of fracking a far reaching, include air pollution, defacing areas of natural beauty and heritage, and a climate catastrophe: unconventional gas and oil add to the earth’s store of unburnable carbon. Communities with fracking on their doorstep have faced water contamination, as well as dealing with the huge amounts of waste chemicals being produced. Shale gas has been deemed a greater harm than burning coal.
Anti-fracking in Britain: Break the chain
Fracking in Britain is highly speculative and dependent on investment and infrastructure. To target this infrastructure Reclaim the Power have organised Break the Chain, two weeks of direct action against the fracking supply chain. In the first week activists shut down a quarry supplying aggregate to the controversial Preston New Road drilling site, covered the city of Leeds with subvertising and held a fracking party in Centrica’s head offices – whose CEO has recently received a £1.4m ‘frackers’ bonus. They finished the week by targeting AE Yates, one of the main contractors for the Preston New Road drilling site, and bared all at the UK Investor Conference to highlight Union Jack Oil’s link to the industry. Week 2 kicked off on Tuesday as three women dressed as wedding brides blockaded the doorway of city-based fracking PR firm St Brides Partners, who represent Europa Oil and Gas PLC, a company that has been attempting to drill near Brockham in Surrey since 2009.
These two weeks of action will target the supply chain that support the fracking companies drilling holes in the ground. As well as targeting fracking companies drill sites directly, targeting their supply chain is an effective way to undermine the whole of the industry. Fracking companies do not exist in isolation. Survival, for them, includes the need to access our land, our water, our sand. It needs money, spin-doctors and politicians in its pockets. By taking the links out of the chain, we are breaking the fracking industry into pieces.
Break the Chain aims to support the local communities fighting fracking. In Lancashire where the local councils ruled against fracking only for their decree to be overturned by the government, it’s evident that the legal progress has failed us. Break the chain offers an opportunity for the voice of the community to be amplified and gives us, as activists, a chance to support the communities to push back against the fracking industry and government which supports it.
The local communities have been fighting the fracking industry for over 6 years but the fracking industry is at full volume, with 2017 set to be the year drilling begins in the UK. Fracking is banned across Europe. Just because Britain has now opted out of the E.U, this should not refrain us from following Europe and not as the current trend would suggest, the U.S. – the birthplace of fracking.
A direct action movement
With the parliamentary and judicial system failing us and the local communities fighting fracking, direct action is the only effective tool left when the cards are stacked against protesters. Although the risks for activists involved are huge, the effect on the industry could not be more obvious. For 6 years we’ve stopped fracking, by putting our bodies on the line – now it’s time to finish the job.
Targeting the supply chain is innovative, creative and accessible. People can get involved anywhere in Britain if there is an element of the fracking supply chain in the area. So far at least four companies have already pulled their support from fracking this year as result from public pressure and action. We hope we can lead to many more.
Reclaim the Power was born into the anti-fracking movement, setting up our first camp on the frontlines in Balcombe in 2013. In recent years we have supported communities fighting coal extraction and aviation expansion – connecting the dots and challenge the undemocratic, unjust and unsustainable system that is forcing us towards the climate catastrophe whilst imposing austerity politics on the most vulnerable in society. Now we’re back on the front line of fracking, supporting the local communities who have been leading the fight for all these years.
If you want join the fight against fracking this summer, sign up on the Reclaim the Power website.