Imagine living in a home where we never need to worry about paying a bill, where we can use all the water, gas and electricity we like without it ever running dry, where no matter how much of our excrement and other waste we dump in our back garden, it will always be bountiful and fit for growing all the food we’ll ever need. Go further: imagine that the very same home has a factory in the basement which can produce anything you’ve ever wanted and a whole lot more beside, everything you need to raise and nurture as many children as you want without them ever going hungry or fighting over anything at all, where there are never any accidents of any kind and no-one ever tells lies. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Trouble is, this isn’t the home we live in. Planet earth isn’t like that at all.
Our home has finite fuel resources, a very limited supply of fresh water and has been steadily contaminated by us. We’ve carried on as if the fantasy described above is all true, largely because our Abrahamic religious leaders have repeatedly claimed for thousands of years that everything on the planet is here solely for our use and our political leaders haven’t begged to differ. Well done them! Their resulting moral compass appears increasingly wonky, pointing us down the road to nowhere. What might have once been useful for a desert people struggling to persist, is a pointless and counterproductive creed on an overpopulated planet with dwindling resources. These teachings have turned our world to shit but instead of looking the truth of the matter in the face and facing down the home truths, our religious and political leaders blind their eyes. Their heaven is endless material growth, their vision non-existent. The established churches turn vast profits on a stock exchange of profiteering from the further depletion of our planetary resources, despite it poisoning the earth for future generations. Political leaders pray for money from the psychopathic corporations which complete this hell, to lavish on their constituents and win favour.
With the traditional energy sources rapidly approaching the point of ‘running on empty’ the sensible might expect the powerful, whose hands most firmly grip the wheels which turn the commanding heights of the economy, to turn their attention to the newly emerging alternative sources of energy. Sources which rely on modern, sustainable, technology. Yet they don’t. It’s a case of since it’s broken, rather than fix it, they’ll fuck it up as much possible, because along the way, they (not us, the 99%) will get very rich very very quickly and then they’ll be dead and why should they care then? This selfish attitude does not meet with serious admonishment from our lords spiritual. No-one has been excommunicated for exploiting the planet. Instead of acknowledging the plain facts – that our descendents will have to live and die with the resulting legacy – the profiteers have developed new ways of scraping the old barrel.
These new scrapings are properly called extreme energy. The new method is called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for short. Pressurised fluid is pumped into rocks deep underground to crack them open and release gas, which would otherwise be inaccessible. The fluid comprises water, sand and various toxic chemicals, much of which stays underground. Millions of gallons are used to frack a single well. The fluid which returns to the surface has leached chemicals (eg arsenic) and radiactive elements from the earth. Fracking in the USA has resulted in spills of this contaminated fluid. A report released last year by the Democrats on the US House of Representatives Committee for Energy and Commerce revealed that 29 of the chemicals used are known or possible carcinogens. Ground water has been contaminated with methane, resulting in the obviously dangerous and visually alarming spectacle of domestic water taps capable of creating explosions in people’s homes. Fracturing the rocks below us, creates instability in the earth’s crust. The first test fracking well in the UK caused two minor earthquakes in Lancashire.
The whole process is very inefficient, meaning that much carbon dioxide is emitted in the pursuit of only a little more energy. Many wells are required because each one only produces a small amount of gas. The methane extracted is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. We have already discovered sufficient quantities of fossil fuels to cause runaway climate change, without throwing these extra problems into the mix.
This is madness. That’s the word we use to describe behaviour which is inexplicable, dangerous, life-threatening. Some individuals may well be extremely intelligent but unless we take serious action soon to stop this suicidal tendency, we will have proved that collectively we are extremely stupid. It’s completely obvious that our economic system promotes this kind of nonsense. It’s been going on for many decades. The recent round of approvals of planning applications in the UK for fracking exploration licences (necessarily involving fracking itself) are just the latest manifestation of the insanity. We can argue about whether we ought to campaign to eventually slow the dividend cycle from quarterly to but once a year, whether to tax the trade in financial dividends or whether to restructure the banking industry but none of that will make one jot of difference if our ground water is poisoned, our food production ruined and our home drowned.
We can head off this impending disaster. A grass roots network is springing up. Local groups are forming, planning applications are being studied in detail, the resistance is being planned. Right now, the consensus amongst our most organised citizenry is that the time is to recruit people into this network. We need to know who is on the side of the planet, who we can call on when the time comes. We need to have established connections with each other, to be ready for action. As the hugely respected Marina Pepper said in Brighton yesterday afternoon, “we need bottoms on the ground“. Yes, there will certainly have to be direct action. There will also have to be letters, emails, petitions, phone calls. Our politicians need to understand that they will lose votes if they support this madness. If you live in the Brighton Pavilion constituency, you already have an MP (Caroline Lucas) who is fully committed to opposing this madness. That’s the Green Party for you. However, this isn’t a party political polemic from me. There will be politicians of all flavours who understand the crucial relationship between their constituents and the earthy crust they stand on.
Planning applications are decided by local councils. Sadly, many local councillors are incapable of anything much. Without technocratic issues forced into their consciousness, they aren’t up to the job of weighing up the cost benefit analysis. So many have searched so much for a couple of thousand quid for the local community hall, that if a large corporation promises that, they’ll give the earth away.
Stopping fracking will not be enough to solve the root problem. We use far too much energy. We need to use less and we need to make it in a way which we can sustain. Our lifestyles have to change. There’s no doubt about that. The question is whether the change is forced upon us or whether we take charge of the situation. It’s up to us. We can’t do this alone. We have to do it together. A start has been made. Some caring souls have put together a website and packed it with useful information and hard data: frack-off.org.uk. We can all use it to publicise the coming campaigns and coordinate our communities.
Some other countries, with a closer relationship with their agricultural economy than we have in the UK, have already banned fracking altogether, notably France. The UK appears to be the testbed for the venture capitalist funded private corporations who want to frack Europe. We’re seen as the soft touch in Europe, the country most likely to succumb first. It’s up to us to show the world we see things differently. If we don’t our fractured home will break apart completely, much more quickly than we ever imagined. This isn’t the stuff of apocalyptic fantasy, it’s happening right now below our feet. We can do much more than stamping them in disgust, we can take steps to a new relationship with our home. We need strong relationships with each other first. We need to set up our own local groups, to monitor the development of fracking applications. We need to be ready to take whatever steps are required to end this madness. We can end this well.