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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Edwin Drood's Column > June 2015
back Edwin Drood's Column 30 June 2015
What a fracking relief! at the Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column
What a fracking relief!
In which Edwin refuses to be goaded by potentially defaulting Greeks into another rant,
but rather chooses to head north to Lancashire, whose people have demonstrated the gritty,
no nonsense good sense for which they are known.

I’ve been quite hard on the British in these columns, despite occasional panegyrics to the F-type Jaguar or the virtues of the great English wedding. It has long been my opinion that the current inhabitants of the sceptre’d isle are, for the most part, a weak-willed, muddled and irresponsible people, as reflected in their absurdly parochial press, their patronizing and outdated attitudes to Europe and the greater world, their fashionably dumbed-down cultural vacuity and the way they cause most of their own misfortunes through a combination of well-intentioned dithering and procrastination.
Badger hugging and nanny worship
Over the years I’ve accused them of being pathological nanny worshippers who deserve every natural catastrophe, fanatical attack and election misfortune that comes their way. I’ve berated them for failing to value their Queen enough and for paying too much attention to ‘celebrities’ wallowing in the self-pity that comes from clearly contrived or self-inflicted injuries. I’ve warned them to be more cautious when giving a pulpit to glossy characters loudly claiming innocence in the face of a rising tide of incremental evidence gathered by foreign and thus, at least to British eyes, inherently suspect agencies. I’ve alerted them to the dangers of a growing and irrational belief in occult gobbledegook and violence. Of course, they haven’t listened, and none of my seven readers in Albion have been able to influence these perfidious trends.

I’ve gone further, criticizing the way the British police force is starting to act like it’s working either for Fleet Street or the Spanish Inquisition. I’ve highlighted the dark dealings of British espionage networks gathering European data for the Americans. I’ve castigated nauseating trendiness in the church and political correctness in education. I’ve bemoaned the loss of vision in a political class that is becoming increasingly dominated by spin-doctors. I’ve lampooned England’s not-exactly-state-of-the-art 19th century plumbing. I’ve even pilloried adenoidally challenged, knee-jerk reactive management goons in the Midlands for plotting the demise of the Land Rover, the country’s only known vehicular antidote to sudden oak death, hive collapse, eco-mad badger huggers, scurvy in sheep and the demise of the song thrush. All in all, it’s time I gave them a break.
Lancashire hotpot
So, three cheers for Lancashire, whose good burgers have convinced their elected representatives to return a rousing NO to the almost imminent danger of having millions of gallons of perfectly good drinking water charged with toxic chemicals and pumped into the earth so that we might all benefit from a few extra months or years worth of shale gas. This is a significant victory, the first real turnaround in an ongoing war that pits good water, good health, good earth and people of good sense against the short-term profit lust of energy giants, their shareholders, their lobbyists and their pocket politicians.

Two years ago I wrote an article about accepting responsibility for consequences. My intention was to redefine what we generally consider as ‘intent’ in the legal sense. I’d like to quote from it extensively here, because fracking is exactly the sort of thing I was referring to at the time:

In a year that has already seen its share of events and acts of great import, whose effects have rippled around the globe, it is time to cease considering consequences as unintended or the collateral result of doing business in the real world. I recently supported a petition aiming to “stop the planned slaughter of Sumatra’s remaining tigers and orang-utans”. A few decades ago, merely to suggest that the mass death of extremely rare animals was in some way planned would have been considered provocative and polemic: an attempt to gain sympathy for an otherwise lost cause, a sensationalist media trick, tabloid-style posturing. However, today there is no case for rejecting the idea that such a potential hecatomb is anything other than calculated and intentional. Any other conclusion has become irrelevant. Why, what has changed?

For one thing, data modelling has. We can now accurately model global warming scenarios, reproductive curves, migration patterns, food availability, resource depletion, erosion, invasive species expansion ... anything! There can no longer be any valid reason not to know the probable results of our actions. No longer is it possible to hide behind the excuse that we didn’t know what would happen, or that we underestimated the effect our acts would have on others, their environment, their health, etc. All these things are now knowable, almost down to a certainty. Very little margin exists today for what was once called latitude and is now called - and quite rightly so - “wiggle room”.

Thus we are forced to accept that the men planning the giant reservoir project “want” to uproot thousands of forest people and destroy their lives and culture, that those who introduce risky chemicals into foodstuffs “want” to poison us or give our children attention problems, diabetes or allergies, that those who manufacture dangerous insecticides “want” to kill off all the world’s bees, that those who knowingly build substandard high-rises “want” to bury a thousand textile workers, that those who sign away the rain forests of Sumatra “want” the extinction of the orang-utan or the Sumatran tiger, that Monsanto “wants” Indian farmers to slide deeper into debt and, of course, that those who manufacture guns that can easily be fired by children “want” them used to kill other children, as was so convincingly shown by two “kid on kid” gun deaths committed by pre-teen killers in one week.

The Game of Consequences, Edwin Drood's Column, 14 May 2013.

The people of Lancashire, in their solidity and native good sense, have clearly made the case that bad decisions with possibly dangerous effects will definitely entail liability and this has frightened the political class, albeit momentarily, into frantic back-down and damage-control mode. Politicians hate to be reminded that they are not actually immune from prosecution where gross moral turpitude or wilful negligence can be shown. Fracking fits the bill perfectly for an action with clearly foreseeable consequences. It is quite obviously an act of insanity, for which no reasonable justification can be found. Yet the perpetrators are in no wise insane, just greedy beyond all concern for their fellows or the natural world.

Frack Free Lancashire campaign logo at the Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column

The Frack Free Lancashire campaign logo.
La Zone Rouge
In northern France there is a vast enclosed region (little known because never mentioned) around the site of the World War I battle of Verdun. It is about the size of Paris and is off-limits to all except the military. Most people think it’s some kind of training zone for tank operations, firing ranges and such. This is born out by the not infrequent sound of large explosions. The assumption is erroneous. This is the infamous “Zone Rouge”, condemned as unfit for agriculture or human habitation on account of the terrifying levels of lead, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals, such as phosgene, cordite, gelignite etc., which linger in high concentrations in the soil and water even a century later. The explosions people hear are from recovered munitions undergoing controlled detonation. However, this necessary action only adds to the problem as plumes of lead, arsenic and other chemical micro-particles are scattered across a wide area each time a shell is detonated.

The red zone used to be twelve times its current size. Its dimensions have shrunk, not because the recovered areas (now downgraded to yellow zones) have been effectively cleared and cleansed, but because commercial imperatives and regional political pressure demanded their return for normal cultivation and industrial use. These yellow areas are still a dangerous chemical and explosive graveyard, where rotted bodies and munitions turn up on a seasonal basis with every new year’s ploughing or when grading land for building plots. No one drinks the tap water there, yet they all eat locally grown vegetables.

There is only so much formal resistance you can demonstrate, once you’ve started to make this kind of compromise for the sake of your own economic survival. But if the chemical legacy of war can cause such long-term damage to ecological infrastructure, how on earth can we justify an invasive action like fracking, which threatens similar consequences, and which is taking place on a planned and approved basis, in peacetime, apparently (if we believe the lobbyists) with the sole purpose of advancing the human condition and promoting the common good?
Fracking all over the world
This deeply dangerous extraction method is being practised just about everywhere. Many sites, such as the Canadian shale oil fields, are extremely sensitive in terms of their environmental importance to waterfowl and fisheries. Other sites are close to human habitation, even major cities. In addition, energy companies like to seek out fragile partners, ones who are easily bullied. That’s why they love to work in countries with unstable regimes, countries where they are considered a stabilizing factor (providing employment) and can therefore generally do whatever they like. You don’t need to look for loopholes in legislation when there is none! This means that the natural water and ground resources of entire regions are being routinely sacrificed in South and Central America, Africa and Asia by companies that are fully aware of the risks but whose directors simply don’t give a frack!

But we shouldn’t forget either that this is also being allowed to happen in developed nations. In water-strapped California, where farmers and citizens are beginning to face the serious possibility of a drought that will not even end in their lifetimes, energy companies are currently engaged in an orgy of fracking, and this is taking place in the state with the most draconian pollution legislation in the entire USA! The process involves the deliberate waste of many millions of gallons of pure water, which is first ‘enriched’ with highly toxic stripping chemicals and then pumped into deep bore wells at pressures sufficient to split bedrock and release trapped gas. A dramatic increase in minor earthquakes, in a region already threatened by seismic events, is one perfectly predictable result; another, even more certain, is major and irreversible pollution of subsurface ground water and aquifers.
Risks and benefits
Paradoxically, California, given its large and economically diverse population and its geography is also the state that stands to benefit most from investment in clean tech, such as solar power. Put together, these facts just don’t make any sense. Unless you assume that the negative side effects of fracking are politically too far down the road to merit serious consideration by elected representatives whose farthest event horizon is their next election and whose closest shave is going to be surviving tomorrow’s appearance on breakfast TV, or that the people of California, already quite used to the familiar sight of oil pumping rigs in vacant lots or alongside the highway, have a careless disregard for the technicalities when it comes to the why, where and how of gas extraction.

The glorious government of the State of California is convinced the economic benefits outweigh the risks. Exactly what economic benefits do they mean? A brief spike in employment figures, lots more taxable business revenue for the state and a short term rise in value for the investment portfolios of a microscopic minority of super-rich energy shareholders. Do they really have any idea of the long-term risks entailed in accessing those ‘benefits’? Yes, of course; they have a very clear idea. After all, they’ve seen the data modelling. They’ve been briefed by plenty of scientists, not all of whom were in the pay of the energy corporations. We can be certain that they’ve seen both the light and the tunnel.

Father, please, don’t forgive them, for they know exactly what they do!

© Edwin Drood

Images courtesy of Frack Free Lancashire:
Edwin Drood's Column, the blog by The Mysterious Edwin Drood,

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