Formby Beach, owned for the nation by the National Trust
‘We have a presumption against fracking on National Trust land because natural gas is a fossil gas. The mining process also gives rise to potential environmental and landscape impacts.
Fossil gas is a finite resource that can only be mined and not harvested – it is not renewable. Its combustion produces greenhouse gases which we believe contribute to climate change. Climate change has a significant adverse impact on our core purpose of looking after special places, for ever for everyone.’
The most extraordinary thing happened a few days ago. David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, announced that local communities with a nearby fracking site would be rewarded immediately with a million pounds. Aides hastily scrambled to explain that the figure was actually £100,000.
Well that’s marvellous – I’d put up with the sound of drilling 24/7, the disappearance of my local dawn chorus (which has now happened in Balcombe) and the possibility that my water or air might be contaminated for a share of a million, oh I mean £100,000.
Air pollution – you don’t see that mentioned much in the debate on fracking – but Sir David King, the government’s former Chief Scientific Adviser, spoke on the Today programme (BBC Radio 4) this morning, and said that gas leakage into the atmosphere was a real risk – that it happens in the US, and that this contributes to green house gas levels. He believes fracking should only be considered if regulatory processes to cover the risks of water and air pollution are in place. They are not.
Still, a bit of cash…who cares? And maybe I’ll buy some shares in the fracking companies. It’s a poor investment, but… David King again:
Sir David King, former chief UK government scientist, “noted that production at wells drops off by as much as 60-90% within the first year”. To deflect attention from that rapid decline of profitability, the big US companies involved (eg, Eagle Fox in Texas) are having to drill “almost 1,000 wells in the Eagle Fox shale site every year, just to keep production flat”. In consequence, huge losses are being made in the borrowings of such companies, losses from which the companies and banks involved are making great efforts to deflect attention. (From ‘The Environmental Realities of Fracking’)
It’s a bad investment decision, but look – the UK government is giving the companies massive tax breaks so that means they’ll make money! The tax-payer’s money of course, because the profit will come from this licensed tax dodging, but who cares? It’s cash! Usually governments give tax breaks to ailing industries to stop them from dying.
So here’s a prediction: the financial underpinning of this whole fiasco will become more and more known, more and more discussed, and then the industry will have fracked itself. The cracks will become visible, the shaking will be heard – first in the City and in the boardrooms of banks like HSBC who have invested in fracking companies – and then the pollution of corruption and greed will seep to the surface and will become obvious to even the most cynical ‘person-in-the-street’.
A graduate address given by the American writer George Saunders has gone viral on the internet, and despite being very short – you can read it in a few minutes – will soon be published as a book by Random House.
Why? Because of the value of its central message, and because its down to earth and witty language belies a beauty that you can glimpse in this quote from towards the end here:
“Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”
That sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But see how he begins:
“Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you). And I intend to respect that tradition.”
Saunder’s writing is deeply human, an absolute triumph.
Just planning to visit the Balcombe fracking protest site. Had a look on the map to see where it is. Saw to my amazement that it’s near Ardingly Reservoir that supplies thousands of homes with drinking water.
Cuadrilla has put in a planning application for permission to remove radioactive waste water from the site. When they pump water down into the rocks it can loosen naturally occurring radioactive matter and when the water is pumped out hey presto it is low- level radioactive waste, and they need permission to dispose of it safely.
We have until 13 August to object to this application. You can do this online at PSCpublicresponse@environment-agency.gov.uk (Details here: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/)
But why object? I’m sure they’ve thought of the possibility they could contaminate the reservoir. I’m sure their experts know what they’re doing. But then I’m sure the people who built Fukoshima thought they knew what they were doing.
This film demonstrates powerfully and with expert testimony the risks in both the US and the UK:
Margaret Thatcher entirely misjudged the mood of the British people when she pushed for the Poll Tax, and it led to her downfall.
I predict that the same fate awaits Cameron. He thinks the British people won’t care if their land is fracked, as long as the money rolls in.
Watch as over the coming months ‘Middle England’ becomes increasingly disturbed by the thought of their countryside being assaulted. Members of the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, number in their millions – and guess what? They don’t want water and chemicals blasted into the earth beneath them to release gas and oil. They want development money and tax breaks given for a sustainable energy industry, not for an old boys’ network that will bleed the earth dry beneath their feet for a fast buck.
Here is a short film of the poem ‘Praying’ by Mary Oliver. As a writer, this poem speaks to me as I reach to find that ‘doorway into thanks’. It also says much about the importance of being present in the moment. When we focus our awareness – when we truly see – we can become witness to a world that magically expands in beauty and meaning before our very eyes. Mary Oliver knows all too well, that capturing life through words can help that shift in focus to occur. Writing, so often, becomes seeing…
With only two performances to go, you need to act fast if you want to see a great show in London. Dwina Gibb’s farce ‘The Last Confession’ follows the time-honoured structure of a farce with frequent exits and entrances, cases of mistaken identity, asides to the audience, and delicious climaxes of tension as everything is about to go horribly wrong.
The premise is simple but brilliant – a man is dying in bed, he’s afraid of going to hell because he’s been a bad boy, but absolution from a priest isn’t an option because he’s been influenced by his family’s Druid ancestry so he believes no other person can give him this. He must do it himself, and the priest suggests he confesses not to him but to everyone he has sinned against, so that they can each forgive him. In that way the ‘truth will set him free’ – he’ll clear his debts before leaving. A perfect set-up for disaster! One by one the locals are called in, like witnesses being called to court. He confesses every manner of misdemeanour, and then miraculously this ‘purging of the soul’ results in him feeling much better. He recovers and now has to face the wrath of those he wronged. Cue a fake death, our man in drag, and a great deal of laughs.
Brilliant stuff – crying out for development into a sitcom that would be as hilarious as ‘Father Ted’. Info and tickets here from Tristan Bates Theatre.