Eilidh Robb, communications coordinator of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, describes in this guest post how she discovered that defence of democracy is at the heart of the anti-fracking campaign.
Fracking didn’t excite me. It wasn’t why I became passionate about protecting the environment. It wasn’t something I felt confident discussing, and it certainly wasn’t something capable of convincing me to travel 195 miles from Glasgow to Blackpool to campaign against.
And yet, at the end of June, I spent three amazing days at Preston New Road where I discovered a rhetoric that is often missing from the anti-fracking movement.
Preston New Road, in the heart of Lancashire, plays host to what Cuadrilla plans will be the UK’s first horizontal fracked shale gas well.
The local community #SaidNo, the local government #SaidNo, and in the end, the Conservative government said we’re doing it anyway! Since then the local community have demonstrated admirable perseverance; manning the entrance to the fracking site day and night.
On June 27th, members of the UK Climate Coalition (UKYCC) headed down to Preston New Road to support and witness the work being carried out first hand. Our visit coincided with Reclaim the Power’s organised #BlockAroundTheClock, marking the end of the three months of rolling #UnitedResistance against fracking.
Given the government’s recent announcements on proposed changes to the planning regime for onshore oil and gas, it was clear that this resistance was more important than ever.
My time at both Maple Farm camp (my home for the trip) and the site entrance (the heart of the resistance) left my brain stuffed full.
I learnt about the wider importance of fracking resistance for the rest of the UK; the continued local struggles and the impact that fracking would have on their daily lives, identities, and house prices. I learnt about the ins and outs of the fracking process, and the connections it may or may not have to nuclear waste. And I saw how much energy, love and support was being poured into the anti-fracking movement.
Hearing first-hand about this anti-fracking battle was of course inspiring, but if I’m being honest, I had heard it all before.
UKYCC have been following the gas movement closely, and with the launch of our own #CleanGasKissMyAss campaign it has been nearly impossible for me to avoid discussion of fracking. Therefore, I already knew about the situation at Preston New Road, the inspiring activism, and the difficult details of fracking.
What then (I hear you ask), was this new rhetoric?
Well, quite simply put, it was this: The #UnitedResistance at Preston New Road, is not about fracking. It is about protecting democracy, demonstrating people power, and standing up to the government’s attempts to destroy our environment.
And THAT was something I could get behind.
The details of fracking are deliberately complex. They aren’t easy to understand, they aren’t particularly interesting and they contribute to a narrative of: “that doesn’t affect me”.
Similarly, anti-fracking isn’t being picked up by the press in the same way that plastic is. There are no obvious individual steps to take to combat it, and, if you live in Scotland like me, it might not even be legal in your country.
So why does it matter?
Because this campaign sets a precedent for all future attempts by government to go over our heads and “do it anyway”. The resilience and persistence of the anti-fracking movement sends a clear message to the government that our democracy shall be valued, and that we are willing to do whatever it takes to make it so.
Direct action resistance doesn’t have to be about breaching the peace. In my experience, it was about a large group of passionate, inspiring and motivated individuals coming together to protect something bigger than themselves. It was about dancing on the side of the road, watching documentaries, sharing stories, and spreading love.
I can’t claim that I now enjoy discussing the fine details of fracking – who am I kidding? BUT…
A protest that supports our democracy, our environment, and sends a message to the government that #WeShallNotBeMoved, coupled with laughter, love and infectious energy… now THAT is exciting!!
If like me, fracking didn’t initially get you jumping out of your seat, I hope this reflection on my time at PNR might change your mind. If it didn’t, well… I’ll try harder next time!
- Elidh Robb is also a member of the UKYCC Gas and COP Working Groups. She is an environmental law student living in Glasgow and says she is obsessed with climate justice and the power of young people.
This opinion piece is an edited version of a post which originally appeared on the UK Youth Climate Coalition blog
Categories: guest post