Our Co-ordinator, Andy Durling, has just given us his report on his visit to Balcombe today:
Today I made my first visit to the protest camp at the site of Cuadrilla’s drilling rig just outside the West Sussex village of Balcombe. I so wanted to see for myself what the camp was like, and to experience at first hand how the protests there were conducted. A lot happened in the few hours I was there, too much to recount in a mere blog post, but what I can say is that it was one of the most inspirational visits of my life. I witnessed the raw energy and power of relentless, passionately committed engagement by many community activists with one of the defining environmental issues of our times: the ever more extreme methods used to extract the remaining reserves of the very fossil fuels that are driving the massive rise in greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming and the damaging effects of rapid climate change. The intensity of the resistance to Cuadrilla’s programme of fracking for shale oil/gas was awesome to behold, and yet this intensity was combined with a commitment to peaceful, nonviolent protest that ensured that the atmosphere of the camp was generally good-humored and festive, a true gala in the sunshine of a golden summer. Not even the overwhelming police presence at the site could dampen the determinedly festive mood. Not even the claim by Cuadrilla that they had started drilling this very day could dampen the spirit of resistance. And indeed what is clear is that the protesters are winning. Why? Because they have captured the national agenda and put fracking firmly onto it. The massive presence of the mainstream national media at the site, both TV and radio, throughout the day was testament to how dramatically fracking has grasped the public’s attention. The fracking industry was always dependent upon being below the radar of public opinion long enough to be able to scale up the industry to unstoppable proportions. But that strategy has failed now: the cat is out of the bag and the national debate on the real nature of fracking has well and truly begun, which will inevitably lead to community resistance against fracking going viral long before the industry can really scale up and gain the momentum it craves. It just remains now to get the facts about the risks, and real history, of fracking out to the public, politicians, and opinion-formers in any and every way we can in order to make the national debate on fracking as balanced and factually-based as it can be. If that happens, fracking will go no further than Balcombe and Cuadrilla will reap a bitter harvest. After witnessing today’s events at Balcombe, I truly believe this is possible.