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Headaches, nosebleeds and heroism: fighting fracking in the US, Australia and Algeria

event report
18th Jan 2016

One of the best things about my job as a campaigner against fracking (pdf) is the people you meet who are fighting the same fight. They are inspiring, brilliant and utterly dedicated.

Being in Preston on the day last June when Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s fracking applications, and seeing the joy and relief on the faces of the local community campaigners was a highlight of my many years at Friends of the Earth.

And recently in Paris there was another highlight.

I had worked with colleagues from European and US NGOs to organise the first ever global meeting of anti-fracking campaigners.

International fracking

We brought together around 150 people from over 30 countries, for a day of sharing stories, insights and experiences, and planning how we can work better together.

Only a few miles away from where our leaders were failing to act with the urgency we need to tackle climate change, this was a great example of how people are taking the lead and fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

We learned two things.

  1. Where fracking has taken place on a big scale it has devastated people’s lives, far more than ever gets through in the media.
  2. Wherever fracking is happening or threatened, people are fighting back.

Fracking in Australia

Danielle Hodges, an Australian who lives with her husband Brien and their 4 children in Camden in New South Wales, was one of the campaigners who shared their story. It’s her in the picture above.

Danielle’s home is in the middle of a gasfield: there are 19 wells within 2km, and some homes have wells less than 50m away.

Danielle related how the extraction of coal seam gas (known in the UK as coal bed methane) is affecting her family’s health. It started within a few weeks of them moving in:

We had already suffered from headaches and nausea which we put down to the stress of moving into a new home, but they haven’t gone away in 2 years.

So it’s 24 hours a day headaches and nausea. And it’s nosebleeds for the kids,which last up to 20 minutes at a time.

Danielle’s story reinforces why we are fighting fracking in the UK, and why we have to win.

Fracking in North Dakota

Kandi Moffatt, from North Dakota in the US, said there was already a lot of fracking in her state but local people were trying to stop it spreading further.

“If we have to get arrested then so be it. This is our future we’re fighting for.”

Fracking in Lancashire

Barbara Richardson, from the village of Roseacre in Lancashire, told the story of their fight to stop Cuadrilla fracking:

“We’re just a small, typically English rural community. People here don’t protest, but the threat of fracking has got them worried, got them angry and got them active.

We don’t want our community to suffer the same impacts as communities in the US and Australia.

Fracking in Algeria

Mehdi Bsikri from Algeria related how the struggle against shale gas extraction at Ain Salah, an oasis town in the Sahara, is bringing people together – spanning the generations and crossing the gender divide, with women taking action alongside men.

And Dan Robins, from the Lock the Gate movement in Australia, explained how traditionally very conservative farmers from rural northern New South Wales had joined up with Aboriginal Australians to oppose fracking where they live.

“When these farmers started fighting the invasion of their land by oil and gas companies, they began to understand how the indigenous owners of the land felt.

“And now the 2 groups are working together to keep the land gasfield-free.”

Fracking in 2016

We’re making real progress around the world stopping fracking, with many bans and moratoriums in place, but there’s a lot more work to do.

Hopefully joining up campaigners and communities will lead to fracking being halted in more places.

Why?

  • Because if we hear first-hand what’s really happening to people living by fracking sites it means we can reject the lie that fracking is safe, and we can warn people before it happens to them.
  • Because if we hear from people who have fought and won against fracking elsewhere, we can better learn how to stop it here.
  • Because if we join together, supporting each other’s campaigns no matter where in the world we are, finding common cause, fighting the same companies, then we will be much stronger.

2016 will be a critical year for fighting fracking in the UK.

North Yorkshire County Council is expected to decide soon whether or not to allow Third Energy to frack in Ryedale.

And on Tuesday 9 February, a Planning Inspector will start to hear Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire’s refusal of planning permission.

Communities Secretary Greg Clarke has decided that he will make the decision on the appeal himself, rather than leave it to the Planning Inspector. This shows that the government has lost the public argument, but is still is determined to impose fracking on the UK.

The recent announcement of new licences allowing fracking puts many more communities in the firing line.

But the links made in Paris mean that these communities are now learning from and working side-by-side with others around the world.

The message from all these people is summed up in the title of the Paris meeting, “Not here, not anywhere”, and in the message from Lancashire’s Barbara Richardson to the meeting:

Never, ever give up

Don’t let David Cameron overturn Lancashire’s fracking win

Post written by Tony Bosworth, 18th January 2016.

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