Categories Archives: Blog » The Problem: Civilisation » Human Supremacy

Visit the global Blog » The Problem: Civilisation » Human Supremacy archives for posts from all DGR sites.

The Situation in the British Countryside

by Julian Langer / Deep Green Resistance UK

In Europe, we have conveniently forgotten the devastation this culture has inflicted (and continues to inflict) on the continent. In the USA and Australia, where the ecocide, specicide, and genocide committed by colonial forces are far more recent, people have a harder time pretending to be unaware of the effects. In Europe, we’ve lost the majority of (and are losing the last of) the primeval forestlands, once the face of this landscape and home to a diverse biotic community stretching across the bioregion. In Europe, we ignore this culture’s destruction of indigenous communities and those trying to live in truly sustainable ways.

In Britain, those in positions of authority are intent on decreasing rather than increasing institutional protection of our biotic communities. With so much at stake, we must take on the responsibility for protection ourselves. I describe here four examples which deserve support from people across Britain. These are local to my home in Devon; wherever you live, you can get involved in an important struggle to protect the remaining biotic communities in Britain.

Manning’s Pit

Manning's PitManning’s Pit in North Devon is an area of profound natural beauty. Developers, though acknowledging its high biodiversity, seek to build new human housing against the desires of the near-by community. Devon’s dominant natural features are grasses, broken up by hedges to mark differing areas of farmland, woodlands full of bird song and coastal areas whose faces are defined by the sea. As someone who lives here, it is personally saddening to witness increasing development and urbanisation. In a more politically relevant sense though, it is awful as this is the increasing encroachment of this culture on the natural world and the subsequent lose of biodiversity that results in.

It’s an area comprised of Devonshire grasslands and patches of woodland; one of the last remaining homes for the bat, hedgehog and other communities of local wildlife left after agriculture and now urbanisation have left their marks. I fear what will be lost if the developers are allowed to build upon this area or others like it. While local people have a petition going and are appealing to the government for protection, should these institutional means fail, it will become necessary to resist this development directly, be that through occupation of the land, through acts of sabotage or whatever will work.

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National ParkIn Britain the national parks represent the last of our natural landscape, before urbanisation, industrialism and other destructive effects of this culture. They are areas of beauty, where what is left of the natural biotic communities able to exist away from this culture. However, with drastic cuts to the institutional apparatus keeping the Dartmoor national park going and a 25% staff reduction threatened by the government, the future of this area is threatened. It is all too likely that Dartmoor will be sold into private hands, who will pay no heed to the habitats and biotic communities in their pursuit of profit. The woodland community that attempt to live on Dartmoor in such a way that takes responsibility for the environment are already under threat and face being removed. They’re hunter-gatherers attempting to live a way of life this landscape can support.

Clearly the powers that be are more interested in maintaining the status quo of this culture (austerity measures to support a collapsing neoliberal economy) than they are in the land-base. Dartmoor is home to frogs, toads, snakes, slow worms, lizards, buzzards, cuckcoos, ravens, skylarks, owls, peregrine falcons, song thrushes, salmon, trout, dartmoor ponies, foxes, badgers, rabbits, squirrels, hares, stoats, weasels and deer, as well as a huge array of flora, including endangered plant species. To lose this to further destruction would be to lose one of the last strongholds for the natural biotic-communities that covered the length and breadth of Britain. Like with Manning’s Pit, if the institutional measures fail, it is the role of activists to protect this area and areas like it, through both aboveground and underground measures.

Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station

The first new UK nuclear power station in a generation may be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The energy conglomerate EDF will soon make its final decision whether to build Hinkley Point C power station, and although the project has faced considerable delays amidst backlash from environmental groups including Greenpeace, a decision to proceed looks increasingly probable. Chernobyl and Fukushima gave us glimpses into worst case scenarios, but even without an extreme emergency the dangers around disposal of nuclear waste are reason enough to resist this possibility in the South West’s future.

High-level radioactive waste from nuclear power stations is primarily uranium fuel, and its hazardous radiation can take longer than 24,000 years to decay. None of the methods of storage and disposal are perfect, and some are outright dangerous. With EDF poised to finalise the decision to build Hinkley Point C power station, environmentalists and activists in the UK need to defend the land and resist the corporate-hegemony of this energy conglomerate.

Badger “Culls”

Finally, farmers covering up poor farming practices are fuelling an active campaign in specicide towards badger communities across the South West. These farmers, desiring removal of the badger’s status as a legally protected animal, are driving a scientifically invalid and barbarically cruel cull done in the name of protecting cattle against TB.

Badgers are an integral part of biodiversity in the region and in seeing their sets in banks and woodlands, you are reminded that, despite everything, there is still life on this island. This life represents the last of a multitude that were part of the community that characterised this land, before the dominance of this culture and human exceptionalism. Hunt Sab resistance groups are opposing this campaign and other acts of cruelty to animals, and need support if this supposedly protected animal is going to survive. The cull zone has been extended to right across the South West UK so resistance is highly needed, from both activists and those not politically active.

Conclusion

So this is the situation in the British countryside. This culture is destroying what is left of the natural world. Immediately, in the area I live in, there are four important grassroots struggles, with many others across this island. Campaigns such as Rights of Nature UK strive for institutional protection of the natural communities with whom we share these islands. These forms of protections are highly valuable, particularly as incremental means of resisting this culture. Unfortunately, the weaknesses of laws such as those banning fox hunting, or those granting badgers status as a protected species, show that institutional measures are by no means enough. Those of us who value the natural world must fight to defend the natural biotic community and to resist this culture’s violent onslaught, in all the ways we can.

Writings on climate change by DGR UK member

Julian Langer of DGR UK has been writing for the DGR News Service and for the main DGR Blog. You can read his recent pieces:

How many bright greens does it take to change a light bulb? How many dark greens does it take to smash one?

#EPICFAIL in Paris: COP21

Subscribe to the News Service and the main blog to stay up-to-date on DGR news and writing.

Questioning allegiance to renewables

windfarmDeep Green Resistance recently posted a new set of FAQs on the main website, addressing the myths of Green Technology & Renewable Energy. In that same vein, here’s a first-hand observation of the impacts of supposedly “clean” wind turbines on a Scottish forest fragmented by the machines and their access roads. The article makes clear the stark choice we face: industrialism or life.

I’ve recently been planting trees at a wind farm. Every morning, we’ve had to drive up a forestry road and top a large hill covered in hectare upon hectare of Sitka spruce. At the top of the hill, the spruce forest has been levelled and a giant construction project has taken place. Wind turbines twenty or thirty stories high spin with alarming speed.

Siemens headed the project, receiving the contract to build the turbines to be owned by Scottish and Southern Energy. The resulting moonscape, crisscrossed by individual access roads, reminds me of the areal shots I’ve seen of fracked well pads dotted all over the American and Australian landscapes. Twisted interconnected roads leading nowhere in a bizarre irregular grid pattern. I guess this is the signature of new and upcoming energy extraction projects: each productive unit, whether it be wind turbine or fracking well, is only nominally productive on its own when compared to industrial demand and ‘conventional’ power plant outputs.

Read the entire article: Reneging on the environmental movement’s allegiance to renewables

Underground Actions in the UK

This post will focus on underground actions in the UK where militants target infrastructure or companies responsible for destroying our world.

We in DGR UK believe this is the sort of action that is necessary to dismantle industrial civilization. Militant resistance already exists in the UK. There is a long history of resistance in Britain going back hundreds of years and examples from the past will be explored in future posts.

This post will not include any form of protesting or non-violent direct action (NVDA). These are essential resistance tactics but it is not in the scope of this post. It also will not include any underground actions related to stopping animal cruelty or against the arms industry. Again this is very important work but not in the scope of this post. You can find actions related to animal rights and against the arms trade on the www.directaction.info site. DGR supports this work and believes that any and all resistance to this culture, industrial civilisation is vital.

All the information about underground actions in the UK is gleaned from publicly available information (from 1998 onwards) so is likely to be incomplete and lacking insight is various ways. If you are aware of actions that are not included where the information is publicly available please email uk@deepgreenresistance.org It is important to remember that this analysis and perspective is not meant to be authoritative on, or instructive towards objectives, organisation and operation of how any underground individuals or groups operate. That is for them to determine.

DGR is advocating for an underground network of cells to dismantle industrial civilisation. See the DGR strategy Decisive Ecological Warfare. DGR believes the coordinated and repeated attacks against systemic weak points or bottle necks by an underground network, can cause systems disruption and cascading systems failure, resulting in the collapse of industrial activity and civilisation, which must be our goal if we profess any love for life on this planet.

It is very important that communiques about underground actions are NOT sent to the DGR UK email address as we are not equipped to receive these and ensure whoever sends them remains anonymous. See the DGR UK Security page for more information.

We will start off by looking at Scotland, followed by Wales, then Ireland and finally England.
There have been a large number of underground actions in Scotland, mainly directed against coal mines. All these actions were carried out by people that state in their communiques that they oppose coal mining taking place in Scotland because it causes climate change.

Scottish coal, the UK’s largest open cast producer were given permission to mine 1.7 million tonnes of coal from the Mainshill Wood in South Lanarkshire in February 2009. This was a questionable planning decision and it was one of four coal mines in the Douglas Valley. There was no community consent for any of the coal mines. In June 2009 the Mainshill Solidarity Camp was set up and stood in the way of the open cast mine with fortified bunkers, tunnels, tree houses, a giant scaffold tripod and fort. The camp was evicted in late January 2010, which took five days and forty three people were arrested.

Through 2009 and 2010 there were a number of underground sabotage actions against the Mainshill coal mine. In early October 2009, three heavy vehicles being used to clear trees had there locks glued. In late October, in solidarity with those opposing the Mainshill coal mine a group sabotaged another three tree felling vehicles by cutting wires, breaking lights/fixtures, spray painting windows and smashing a standing flood light. In early November 2009, a group of activists sabotaged a specialist drilling rig and other machinery in the Mainshill Wood.

After the Mainshill Solidarity Camp was evicted the sabotage continued. In April 2010, a group sabotaged two Caterpillar D9T’s and 170 tonne face scrapping earth mover. Both vehicles were made undrivable. In October 2010, the main gates were locked on two separate nights and a Works Traffic sign was repainted with the words ‘Stop Coal Chaos!’. In November 2010, a group sabotaged twelve large machines by cutting hydraulics and electrics (http://www.indymediascotland.org/node/22468).

The Broken Cross open cast coal mine is five miles from Mainshill Wood and is the largest in Europe. On the morning of December 25th 2009, a group sabotaged four machines at Broken Cross mine. In early October 2010, a machine was sabotaged at Broken Cross mine in solidarity with The Happendon Wood Action Camp (THWAC). In mid October 2010, four earth movers, two dump trucks and an explosive handling truck were sabotaged at Broken Cross mine. In late March 2011, two huge coal graders had their hydraulics, electrics and steel cables cut. One was as large as a three story building and used to load coal onto lorries.

There were a couple of acts of sabotage at the Glentaggart opencast coal mine in South Lanarkshire. In August 2009 a group disabled the conveyor belt that moved coal from the mine to Ravenstruther rail terminal, where the coal is sent to Drax power station in Yorkshire. These conveyor are hard to restart when they are heavily laden because they are a few kilometres long. In October 2010 extensive damage was caused to a mobile borehole drilling machine at the proposed Glentaggart East open cast coal mine in South Lanarkshire. The communiqué from this action finishes off with the words ‘End Civ Now!’.

In March 2013 a group sabotaged critical equipment, machinery and vehicles belonging to Scottish Coal at Powharnal open cast coal mine in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

In April 2013 Scottish Coal went into liquidation, closing all of its coal mines and cutting 600 jobs. Scottish Coal had not restored eleven old mines to their natural state plus there are the six existing mines and there is a dispute on the clean up costs.

Apart from coal mine sabotage, in the May 2011 two machines being used to construct a new ASDA near Loanhead on the outskirts of Edinburgh had their electrics and hydraulics cut. This was done in protest to ASDA’s use of GM products and because of how supermarkets treat people and animals.

In August 2007 in Wales, the Brecon Beacons gas pipeline works were sabotaged by a group acting against climate change and in defence of the earth. Eleven machines were made immobile including tipper trucks and excavators.

In Ireland, over the years there have been a number of acts of sabotage against the Quinn Group. The Quinn Group makes cement and concrete products, container glass, radiators and plastics. In April 2013 saboteurs cut down power and communication lines at their power plant in the Derrylin/Ballyconnell area in Ireland.

There have been a good number of actions in the South West of England over the years. In January 2013 two separate wind turbines were found toppled in Devon and Cornwall, bolts were found to be missing from their support bases.

There appears to be a number of very active anarchist groups in the Bristol area. In late August 2013 an anarchist group calling themselves the Angry Foxes Cell has claimed responsibility for the fire that ripped through the Police Firearms Training Centre in Black Rock Quarry, being built in Somerset. In their communiqué they state that they used an accelerate to burn the major electrical cables which led to the blaze. It took two weeks for the fire service to completely put out the fire.

An Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI) group claimed responsibility for sabotaging train lines in Bristol in May 2012. This was to affect the employees of the Ministry of Defence and other military industry companies near Filton Abbey Wood.

A group linked to the FAI and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has claimed responsibility for setting fire to a TV and radio relay station near to Bathampton in the South West of England, in January 2013. Another ELF group claimed responsibility for the arson attack on the communications mast on Dundry hill in April 2012, that took out five communication services and took BBC Radio Bristol and Jack FM off air for more than 16 hours. It also disrupted Avon and Somerset Police radio communications. An ELF-FAI group destroyed a BBC transmission mast in August 2011 during the UK riots.

A group sabotaged construction machinery in Somerset in September 2009. In January 2009 a group glued the locks of RBS in the South West in resistance to the banks anthropocentric polices of investing in oil and gas.

In April 2008 a ELF and ALF group sabotaged a number of vehicles at a bridge building construction site in the South West.

In mid 2007 in Bristol, a non passenger railway line that transports cars and fossil fuels to the Midlands was sabotaged. A golf course, mobile phone mast and 4X4s were sabotaged.

In late 1998, at least 10 cement mixing lorries were sabotaged at Pioneer Aggregates concrete depots at St Philips and Avonmouth in Bristol. This was related to Pioneer Aggregates expansion of the Durnford Quarry into Ashton Court Park near Bristol.

In late 2007 saboteurs visited Barnstaple quarry aggregate industries in Devon. All electric cables in the building were cut, a truck and offices damaged and ‘Earth First’! written across a white board.

Now lets look at what is going on in the rest of England.

In late 1998, a earth-mover and two diggers were badly damaged on the A1-M1 link road between York and Wakefield.

In March 2001 Lee Himlin was on remand for six weeks for criminal damage to quarrying equipment at the Nine Ladies quarry on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire. He was then sentenced between May and June 2001. According to wikipedia permission to quarry at nine ladies was revoked in 2008.

In September 2001, two lorries and a number of diggers were badly damaged at the women’s prison construction site in Ashford, Surrey.

In 2003, a number of peat cutting sites in the north west that were sabotaged. This included damaging machines, slashing peat fertiliser bags and dropping of metal into piles of peat (which will set off alarms as they go into the process, stopping it until they have found all the metal).

In February 2008, an aggregates processing plant in the Yorkshire Dales National Park was sabotaged. A number of vehicles, including all bulldozers, had holes drilled in vital parts of their engines and their tyres. Both control rooms were broken into and all computers and instrument panels were smashed. Keys to all buildings and machinery were removed from the site.

In November 2008 at Kingsnorth coal power station in Kent, someone climbed two three-metre (10ft) razor-wired, electrified security fences, walked into the station and crashed a giant 500MW turbine before leaving a calling card reading “no new coal”. This person walked out the same way and hopped back over the fence. Their actions halted power for four hours and illustrate the potential which direct action has to really make people sit up and notice. This action also shows the vulnerability of industrial infrastructure and what’s possible if someone is motivated enough.

In May 2010 a group sabotaged a number of vehicles, an excavator, cut electrics and hydraulics at the Shotton opencast coal mine near Cramlington in resistance to environmental destruction and climate change.

In June 2010 a group entered a Cutacre coal mine near Manchester and sabotaged 7 monster-trucks used to transport coal around the site.

In mid 2010, a water pumping station at Axford near Newbury owned by Thames Water was sabotaged by environmentalists wanting to defend their local river system and the wildlife it supports.

In January 2013 members of the ALF/ELF sabotaged construction efforts in the Combe Haven Valley in solidarity with the aboveground efforts of Combe Haven Defenders and others campaigning against the Bexhill-Hastings link road.

All the above actions are very encouraging. There seems to be an active underground resistance network in the UK. It is targeting industrial civilisation’s infrastructure with a lot of success and only one arrest. DGR UK applauds all those involved in this work and we wish them every success in future actions. This shows that what DGR is advocating for is possible and has been happening for years. DGR believes that we need dramatically more of it and would encourage those thinking about underground actions in the future to consider how proven strategic and target selection tools might help them.

The ‘Nine Principles of War and Strategy is a great basic primer on good strategy. The list outlines nine simple strategic principles, tools for strategic analysis that can serve as a foundation for establishing strategy and devising operations. These are: Objective; Offensive; Mass; Economy of Force; Manoeuvre; Unity of Command; Security; Surprise; and Simplicity. This Time is Short column post explains more: Principles of War and Strategy.

When thinking about target selection there is another helpful tool called the CARVER Matrix. This is an analytical formula used by militarises and security corporations for the selection of targets. CARVER is an acronym for the six different criteria: criticality, accessibility, re-cuperability, vulnerability, effect, and recognizability. Again more details can be found in this Time is Short column post: Misdirection & Target Selection, Part 1 and Part 2.

Responses to Oppression: Legal Remedies

This is the first follow on blog post from the previous Oppression post that looks at legal remedies as a response to oppression.

Most activists groups are centred around legal remedies to address specific harm. This is for a very good reason. As Catharine MacKinnon points out, “Law organises power.” To be clear, when we talk about legal tactics, we’re not referring to tactics that simply obey the law, rather we’re talking about tactics that intend to use the law as a means towards achieving a goal. Legal tactics can look like anything from passing new legislation, bringing lawsuits against corrupt industry, voting, or lobbying those in power. Historically, they have run the gamut from being extremely effective to necessarily restricting and piecemeal. Most in the contemporary environmental movement have sanctioned legal tactics as the only legitimate way to engage in activism, many radicals have written off legal means altogether. Well, it’s important to note that legal tactics aren’t just for liberals.

Through the course of history, there have been legislative victories and court rulings that have substantially changed people’s lives and redirected the flow of power. If we’re going to try to reorganise power, we are going to have to grapple with the law in one way or another. The trick is to learn how to utilise the law as radicals, or in such a way that employs the law as a tool for creating material change. So let’s take a look at some of the legal tactics that have been used in the contemporary environmental movement.

The law has commonly been used to regulate, or to check unjust activities on the part of individuals or corporate entities. The most common subject of regulation is egregious industrial waste, in the form of toxic chemicals released into the air and water, as well as solid waste disposed on land. In the UK we have the Clean Air Act 1993, Water Resources Act 1991, and the various pesticide and herbicide regulations which all set standards for “acceptable” amounts of toxins released into the environment. This legislation has been considered radical by some, and have indeed been extremely effective in at least reducing the amount of toxins released, especially in comparison to the state of things before these acts were in existence. However, these kinds of regulatory acts are only effective insofar as those who are in charge of doing the regulating actually do their job. This doesn’t exactly work when those who are in charge of regulation are most always the same entities who profit from the very destruction that should be regulated—the government or the corporations themselves! The result of this is a plethora of loopholes made to accommodate profitable industry that doesn’t quite attend to the toxic limits.

The latest figures indicate that 29,000 people die prematurely from air pollution every year in Britain, twice as many as from road traffic, obesity and alcohol combined, and that air pollution is now second only to smoking as a cause of death. I don’t think anyone reading this would truly argue that this is “acceptable.”

So while most liberal activists are left wondering how to tighten regulation around industrial pollution, logging and sexual violence, as radicals, our job is to be asking the deeper questions. When did it become acceptable to drink and breathe in any level of synthetic poisons? How is clear cutting any percentage of living, breathing ecosystems justifiable? As radicals, we should recognise that no level of destruction and oppression is acceptable and we should be working to stop it, not merely lessen its blows.

Aside from creating new legislation, legal tactics are often concerned with putting pressure on people in power through methods such as lobbying, petitioning, calling or writing. One big problem with this is that, as many of us know, you can’t convince insane people.

To get more to the point though, you can’t convince people to stop destroying the natural world if they are directly responsible for upholding a system which necessitates that destruction. The current political structure is predicated on the material condition of infinite growth, meaning a necessity for continued resource consumption and imperialistic expansion. So we’re never going to simply convince them to stop burning fossil fuels or tearing apart forests because they simply cannot undermine the economic and political system they are responsible for running. It goes against their job description.

The Coalition Government looks to have little interest in meeting the legal obligations necessary to ensure the Climate Act (2008) targets are met. Read more here and here. In July the UK Government announced large tax incentives for fracking companies and it just so happens that senior energy sector bosses sit at the heart of Government.

In the same vein, voting new people into the same corrupt positions of power is not really going to get us anywhere. Hopefully we all know that the current environmental crisis won’t be solved by electing a new Prime Minister. Last year leaked documents indicated that the Coalition Government was trying to water down new EU targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency. So rather than expending so much energy trying to convince those in power to change or vying to put someone new in their place, radical legal tactics are concerned with giving people more control over their own lives, or redistributing power back to the people.

Whether it be giving marginalised classes more political leverage, The Representation of the People Act 1928 gave all women over 30 the vote or giving individuals more control over their own bodies and lives, the Slave Abolition Act in 1833, radical legislation seeks to empower oppressed classes, individuals and communities.

Of course, there are many circumstances where those in power have the control over legislation and we do have to convince them to wield that power in less destructive ways. It’s important to say though, that this pressure doesn’t always have to come in the form of supplicant pleading.

For instance, the suffragettes had to convince those in power to give them the vote. For generations they tried asking nicely, and when that didn’t work, they turned to tactics such as civil disobedience, hunger strikes and finally arson before finally winning the vote.

The moral of the story is, if you have no political leverage, then your best bet at winning is to engage in disruption, or moving the terrain of conflict outside of electoral politics or bureaucratic process. We will get more into these kinds of disruptive tactics in a later post, but for now we can simply note that legislative battles don’t always have to be won through legal means.

The final way that we can measure the effectiveness of legal tactics is by looking at the grander picture and considering whether the tactic supports a larger campaign or resistance movement. So this would be one of the circumstances in which our categories of tactics overlap in crucial ways. If a legal tactic can’t be a decisive action on its own, it can aim to support other tactics or the larger resistance movement.

The work that Green and Black Cross does is a great example of this kind of support. They provide legal observers on the ground, a 24/7 arrestee support line and follow-up advice for defendants and claimants. We need people who know how to navigate the legal system because whether we like it or not, the legal system is what many of us end up wrapped up in when we necessarily break the law to achieve justice. If we don’t have organisations like Green and Black Cross to support activists, then we won’t have anyone doing the work that needs to be done.

One of the key questions DGR aims to ask environmentalists is to consider approaches beyond the usual legal response. But if we would like to organise power in a egalitarian distribution, we need to grapple with the laws. The trick is to do this as radicals, which means asking the questions:

  • Does this initiative redistribute power, not just change who is at the top of the pyramid?
  • Does it take away the rights of the oppressors and reestablish the rights of the dispossessed?
  • Does it let people control more of the material conditions of their lives?
  • Does it name and redress a specific harm?
  • Does this legal effort support a larger resistance movement?

We can stand on the sidelines with a more-radical-than-thou attitude, but this attitude will not help a single gasping salmon or starving child. A transition toward direct democracy built on a foundation of both human rights and human participation in the life of the planet is not conceptually difficult. Law is not just for liberals. The question is, what actions will get us from here to there? Neither sneering nor despairing has ever proven to be effective. It’s easy for nothing to be radical enough, but an interior state of rage is also not enough. Structural change needs to happen. A radical analysis starts from that fact. How best to force that change is a strategic question.

This is not a call to behave and ask nicely. The UK State upholds a corrupt arrangement of power. It was written by white men who owned white women as chattel and black men and women as slaves. It was written by white men who feel entitled to plunder the planet for their own profit and and whose primary interest is to protect that disgusting arrangement of power. We have no moral obligation to respect it, quite the opposite: we need to bring it down.

The next post in this series looking at responses to oppression will focus on direct action.

Fracking

Frack Off gave an excellent presentation at the Earth First! Winter Moot in Feburary and explained the horrors of Fracking. A lot of this post is taken from the Frack Off website and their fracking factsheet. I’m sure to most people this gas extraction technique shows how desperate the gas supply situation is. This culture is so insane, it is now condoning the potential destruction of all our fresh water supplies, the total industrialisation of what’s left of our countryside for a fraction of the energy needed to keep industrial civilisation going just that bit longer. Humans can live without the gas ― we have done so for most of our existence ― but humans and non-humans can not live without clean water.

DGR is about trying to make people think about what is primary here? Electricity or water? Short term power supplies for capitalism and industry? or Life?

Relevant Events
Extreme Energy Gathering, April 27-28th, Manchester
Camp Frack 2, May 10-12th, Lancashire

What is Fracking
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique used to extract hydrocarbons trapped in certain types of rock. In particular the widespread use of fracking is being driven by the expansion in shale gas extraction. While the technique itself is not particularly new it has only come into widespread use during the explosion in shale gas extraction over the last few years in the US. Hydraulic fracturing uses pressurised fluid to free trapped gas. Wells are drilled and the fracking fluid injected into them under high pressure to crack the rock. The fracking fluid consists of water, sand and a lot of chemicals. Millions of gallons of water (and hundreds of tons of chemicals) are used to frack a well

Shale Gas
Shale Gas is methane (natural gas) which is trapped in impermeable shale rock deep underground, unlike conventional natural gas which is in permeable rocks, such as sandstone. The gas cannot flow through the shale, so simply drilling a well, as you would for conventional natural gas, is not enough. The shale rock must be cracked to free the gas, hence the need for hydraulic fracturing (fracking). For the same reason it is necessary to drill large numbers of wells at regular intervals. To produce as much gas as a conventional gas field with a dozen or so wells, would require hundreds or thousands of shale gas wells.
figure-2-shale-gas-pad-drilling-courtesy-statoil-300x225

fracking image

Coal Bed Methane (CBM)
Coal Bed Methane is methane (natural gas) trapped in coal seams underground. To extract the gas, after drilling into the seam, it is necessary to pump large amounts of water out of the coal seam to lower the pressure. It is often also necessary to frack the seam to extract the gas. In common with other unconventional gas extraction, such as Shale Gas, CBM wells do not produce large amounts of gas per well and production declines very quickly. It is therefore necessary to drill large numbers of wells, covering a huge swaths of the landscape. CBM exploitation began in the US and over 55,000 CBM well have been drilled in the last decade or so, mostly in the western states (Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming in particular). In Australia, where it is know as Coal Seam Gas (CSG), over 5,000 CBM wells have been drilled in Queensland in the last few years and the industry is aggressively expanding into New South Wales. In the UK CBM is more advanced than Shale Gas and full scale production may begin soon.
For more info go here.

figureI-24

Underground Coal Gasification (UCG)
Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is a process for exploiting coal that cannot be mined because the seams are too deep, thin or fractured. The process involves using the same sort of drilling technology usually used for fracking to get air/oxygen into the coal seam and then set the seam on fire. By controlling the amount of oxygen injected it is then possible to only partially burn the coal and bring the gases produced to the surface where they can be burn to produce energy. A witches brew of toxic and carcinogenic coal tars are produced in the burn cavity. The process is associated with serious groundwater contamination and massive carbon emissions. Small scale tests of UCG have been taking place on and off since the 1930′s, particularly in the Soviet Union and United States, and have usually resulted in contamination of groundwater. More recently there have been three tests in Australia, two of which have resulted in the plants being shutdown. After only a five day burn the well at the Cougar Energy plant in Kingaroy, Queensland exploded and subsequently benzene and toluene were detected in groundwater and in the fat of animal grazing on the surface. Full scale UCG would likely involve huge plants connected to multiple gasifiers, and might be similar to tar sands extraction in its scale and impact. See Underground Coal Gasification: Hellfire and Damnation for more details.

For more on UCG go to here and here.

UCG1

Side effects of Fracking
There are a very large number of side effects that have been linked to fracking, many involving contamination of water in some way.
Methane contamination – The most well known side effect of fracking is methane contamination of nearby water (burning tap water syndrome). This can occur naturally in rare cases but seems to suddenly appear when fracking occurs.
Chemicals used – Fracking uses huge amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals, a large fraction of which are never recovered. It is claimed that the chemicals used in the UK will not be toxic (unlike those used in the US) but that seems highly unlikely once the process gets underway in earnest.
Toxic contamination – While the fracking fluid is underground it is in contact with rocks at high temperatures and pressures. This can result in various material leaching out of the rocks into the fracking fluid. Of particular concern are toxic elements like arsenic that can be brought to the surface by this process.
Radioactive Contamination – In a similar way radioactive isotopes (such as radium-226) can also be leached out of rocks the fracking fluid passes through. Biological concentration of these materials up the food chain would be the largest concern.
Food supply contamination – While the most of the above might seem to be local issues the potential contamination of irrigation water means that everyones food supplies could be affected. You don’t have to live anywhere near a fracking site in order to be worried about your health.
Air pollution – Fracking has also been linked with air pollution, due to the production of ozone and leaks of a variety of volatile chemicals. Increases in respiratory problems have already been reported around the first fracking site in the UK.
Earthquakes – Fracking (as well as disposal of used fracking fluids by pumping them into old wells) also appears to trigger earthquakes. A recent increase of earthquakes in Arkansas declined abruptly after water injection was suspended. The first test well in the UK appears to have caused two earth-
quakes.

UK Government Tax Breaks for Fracking
George Osborne has subsidised fracking in the UK in the budget. Apparently there will be more tax breaks for fracking companies and they will be allowed to offset their exploration costs against tax for a decade. While there seems to be a “sweetener” in the form of proposed incentives for local communities. Is this an attempt to divide and lower opposition, get locals on side against the protesters and also divide local people.

Lack of Regulation by UK Government
George Monbiot identified the UK Governments lack of regulation of fracking companies in in 2011 here. Then earlier this year the UK Government introduced conditions on fracking companies related to seismic activity following two small earthquakes in 2011 caused by Cuadrilla Resources exploratory drilling sites in north-west England. So far the UK Government have not dealt with any of the other side effects listed above.

Where is it happening
There are large areas of the UK where there are shale strata that might be able to produce gas.

Lancashire
Cuadrilla Resources have obtained planning permission for 5 sites in the Blackpool area. They have completed drilling and fracked the Presse Hall well (causing two earthquakes) and their drilling rig is presently being set up at the Marsh Road site.
Presse Hall, Weeton – Well drilled and fracked
Grange Road, Singleton – Well drilled, not yet fracked
Marsh Road, Banks – Drilling rig has moved to this site
Anna’s Road, Westby – Construction of the pad has now started
Inskip Road, Wharles – No work has started

Wales
Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd has obtained planning permission to drill core samples at a site near Maesteg, Bridgend in South Wales. If the samples prove interesting then larger scale tests (like those in Lancashire) could follow.

Kent
Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd have put in an application to drill core samples through coal and shale strata at a site near Woodnesborough. If the sample proves interesting, then larger scale tests (like those in Lancashire) could follow. It is unclear when the planning application will be decided.

See map on Frack Off website for more details.

Major players
The are a number of companies that have shown interest in exploiting shale gas but only 2 appear to have reached the stage of actual testing.

Cuadrilla Resources
Cuadrilla Resources is a privately owned company headquartered in Licheld, Sta ordshire. The company was set up with $34.2 million from the Australian AJ Lucas Group and has recently received extra funding ($35.4 million) from the American private equity company Riverstone LLC. The company has a petroleum exploration and development licence (PEDL 165) covering a large area of Lancashire. They are in the process of carrying out test drilling and fracking at 5 sites in the Blackpool area (for which they have planning permission).

Coastal Oil and Gas
Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd, headquartered in Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, has planning permission to conduct core sampling at sites in South Wales and Kent. They are partnered with an Australian company Eden Energy.

More details on them and other companies here.

Recent blog posts on the Frack Off website:
Fracking Desperate: The Scramble For Unconventional Gas
Fracking Nightmare: Destroying Our Countryside

Please note that this information is being provided for aboveground organising.

Frack Free February

Here’s some background information about Frack Free February, coming up soon…

Frack Free February, organised by Frack Free Somerset, is a Month of Action in Somerset with public meetings, talks, stalls, workshops, actions and more all raising awareness about the threats to communities and the bigger picture of extreme energy.

The Frack Free February Month of Action is an opportunity to:

  • Systematically raise awareness about fracking & extreme energy to communities at risk in Somerset – 50,000 leaflets will be distributing across towns & villages in the PEDL licensed areas
  • Create a wide variety of opportunities for participation and action to anyone moved by the literature and outreach activities & the thought of fracking taking place locally
  • Generate momentum for the campaign in 2013 and significantly increase planning application response capacity across the county e.g. starting more local groups, increasing the number of newsletter sign ups and so forth, so that when applications are submitted, we can best respond and support each other across the county.

For more information see: Frack Free Somerset or http://www.facebook.com/events/421862917883143/426461697423265/ or Frack Off.

Fracking is an assault on the land that must be stopped before it gets started. Learn how you can get involved and help resist it if you possibly can.