No fracking way!

For many years the government has been spending a large amount of money on the research of the highly controversial process of ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process in which holes are drilled deep in to the earth’s crust and small explosions are set off deep underground in order to extract shale gas. This research has also been to find out what areas of the UK have good enough shale reserves to carry out the process and there have been up to 8000 fracking sites proposed for the country, including in Herefordshire! Recently Herefordshire Council has revealed three potential sites in the east of the county in which fracking could take place; Fownhope, Much Marcle and Eastnor.

What’s the problem?

Since similar areas have been used for exploratory sites, the problems have been clear to see. These problems are both environmental and economic. In the US, where ‘fracking’ has been established for a number of years, water supplies have been poisoned, seismic activity has increased and some people have experienced several linked health issues. In 2011, earth tremors were caused in Lancashire after test drilling there. Likewise, heavy vehicle activity associated with fracking in such small, rural places is neither good for the quality of life of residents, their health or the environment. Many are also opposed to it as it furthers the use of fossil fuels, a trend which environmental campaigners argue should be reversed.

The economic issues are equally as serious, house prices in some areas have dropped up to 30% in some areas of the country where the oil company Cuadrilla has started the construction process and many people have struggled to obtain house insurance.

Herefordshire is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with prestine countryside and what is generally seen as a green and healthy area to live. Fracking will almost definitely have an impact on the landscape of the county, with tourism likely to suffer. As an agricultural county, there are also potential risks to this industry from fracking. Experience in the US shows that fracking can create problems for local agriculture, including the loss of agricultural land, and concerns about clean water supplies.

Opposition rising

Opposition to fracking has been hitting the headlines recently. National newspapers have been running pieces on the practise of fracking, and the opposition to it, for a number of weeks now; namely because of events in Balcombe, West Sussex. Residents and environmentalists there have peacefully been opposing the site recently erected by Cuadrilla and have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. They successfully stopped the process from starting for over a week, despite the army of police officers deployed to push it through. This weekend saw a ‘weekend of action’ by protesters at the site, with camps set up for the weekend, a protest march which was 2,000-strong and a series of blockades, occupations and other forms of ‘direct action’ taking place against Cuadrilla and associated companies.

The opposition to fracking in Herefordshire has also been building. Nearly 400 people have signed an online petition to get Herefordshire council to reject all planning applications they get that relate to fracking, both exploratory and sites proper. A facebook campaign page has also been set up and meetings are being arranged to discuss the possibility of fracking in the county and what to do about it.

The coming weeks and months will show which way it’s going to go; will drilling companies start applying to drill in Herefordshire or is it just a case of ‘what if?’ Time will tell but the wheels are already in motion to oppose such a move. For any campaign against fracking to be successful, it needs to ensured that local people and the concerns of their communities are at the forefront of any camapign, as we have seen to an extent in Balcombe. Professional activists parachuting in from elsewhere just won’t cut the mustard, especially if drilling is rolled out to thousands of potential sites across the country.

Resources and more information

Petition against fracking in Herefordshire

‘Ban Fracking in Herefordshire’ facebook page

Frack Off (UK)

by Meadow Ender

Lime trees not limelight

The fight to save the Edgar Street trees continued this week with a demonstration of local residents and activists. Those who attended made their feeling known with music, song and the redecoration of the trees. It was a good turn out for the first demo, but almost inevitably it was hijacked by politicians. In the resulting video that was produced from the demo (which can be viewed here) these politicians feature heavily.

All residents of Hereford have an opinion on the trees, politicians included, but why they have to be thrust to the front of the campaign is unclear. Councillors from the ‘It’s their County’ party in particular have a bad record when it comes to community led organisations. Lets not forget that they destroyed the anti-Edgar Street Grid campaign in order to get themselves elected. And since when did the Tory party give a shit about the environment. Clearly for these individuals the limelight is far more important that the trees.

The people who really matter are those directly affected by the planned road widening scheme. Local residents like Anne-Marie Dossett who are working tirelessly to ensure that the public are listened too. These are the people who are driving the campaign, and should be commended for doing so.

What matters is the opinions of local people who feel passionate about saving these trees. Let hope their views aren’t ignored in favour of self serving politicians

The fight continues.

Graffiti Knitters bring splash of colour to threatened trees

Late last night, Sunday 3rd, a group of local activists brightened up yet another dark chapter in the policies of Herefordshire Council. These graffiti knitters showed their support for the campaign to save 14 lime trees on Edgar Street by decorating them in a multitude of coloured woollen creations. If you haven’t experienced the joys of graffiti knitting, or yarn bombing as it’s also known, we recommend you take a stroll along Edgar Street and see their work.

Vandals?

It is hoped that by drawing attention to these trees more pressure will be put on the council to reverse their decision to fell them. It seems incredible that while cities the world over are striving to increase urban tree cover, Herefordshire Council continues to support the opposite. Of course, Jarvis and his cronies will view last nights antics as the work of vandals trying to stop progress, but the reaction of passers by suggests that there is public support for the campaign.

For more information on the campaign read here

Conflict in the countryside as badger cull set to start

Yesterday over a hundred people gathered outside the annual Tory Party Conference in Birmingham to protest against the upcoming pilot badger cull planned for two areas in the West Country, the latest part of an increasingly intense debate over the morality and practicality of killing badgers to lower TB in cattle. 

For a number of months now a battle has been brewing in the countryside, between dairy farmers and those advocating a cull of badgers, and seemingly the vast majority of the public who’re opposed to the cull alongside the animal rights activists vowing to stop it. It looks like the cull is about to begin and this battle may finally come out into the open.

This cull is to be a ‘trial’ held over 4 years, consisting of 6 week periods when badgers can be shot. Although the exact locations of the cull are being kept secret, this initial trial will be held in two general areas; west Somerset including parts of Exmoor and the Taunton Deane district and west Gloucestershire, including the Forest of Dean and stretching to Tewkesbury (including parts of the Malvern Hills district and small areas of southern Herefordshire). Areas near badger sets will be ‘baited’ with peanuts to encourage badgers, where marksmen will be waiting to shoot them at night.

 

DEFRA and the National Farmers’ Union are claiming that a cull is an effective way of lowering tuberculosis in dairy cows, a disease which some claim costs the farming industry and the government an estimated £75-100m a year. If carried out correctly and meeting certain criteria, culling could reduce incidence of bovine TB by an average of 16% over 9 years. For it to be effective, it is said that over 70% of badgers in the cull areas will need to be killed. It is believed that up to 130,000 badgers could be killed during the cull period.

 

Opponents from all corners are slamming this move for its immorality as well as its scientific invalidity. Many believe that the figures simply do not add up, and that the number of badgers that would need to be killed far outweighs such a small decrease in cases of bovine TB. DEFRA have issued guidelines to marksmen taking part in the cull, including diagrams of which areas of the body they need to target. Despite this, it is still likely that some badgers will not be killed outright and will suffer a longer and more painful death. Vaccination is being cited as a much more ethical way of controlling the spread of TB, rather than a mass shooting. Vaccinating badgers that are caught in cages is currently being used and trialed in an area in Devon, as well as in Wales and Gloucestershire.

 

The science and the figures used to support the cull are also being questioned. Lord Krebs, a government science adviser and the mastermind behind another, more wide-spread trial badger cull in the 1990s recently came out saying he believed the cull scheme was ‘crazy.’ The Badger Trust went to the High Court earlier in the summer, hoping to get the badger cull overruled. Their case was built on their belief that the cull would be both ‘illegal and unscientific.’ It failed, but one of their main points what that the shooting of badgers would actually spread TB, as it would disperse badgers over a wider area more quickly and others would move in to take over territory that they had vacated.

Hunt Saboteurs Association members join others in a protest against the cull outside the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham at the weekend

A whole host of badger and animal rights groups have come out to oppose the cull. ‘Team Badger,’ consisting of well known groups such as the RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports, the Badger Trust, including a number of celebrities (most notably Brian May), have been involved in a mass publicity campaign, through the media and by holding a series of well-attended speeches and meetings. They also created an online e-petition, calling on the cull to be banned. Within 3 weeks of being launched it reached over 100,000 signatures, meaning it will be debated in parliament.

 

Animal rights and vegan out-reach organisation, VIVA!, have been calling on the public to boycott the milk and dairy industry, stating the fact that it is dairy farmers and their lobbying groups initiating the cull.

 

Grassroots group ‘Stop the Cull’ have also been hitting the headlines, leaking sensitive information on the cull on their website and gathering information to help them take ‘non-violent direct action’ to disrupt the cull when it starts. The Hunt Saboteurs Association have also released statements saying they have recruited a number of new activists who are willing to go with them into the cull areas when it starts to sabotage  it. Hunt saboteurs groups and groups associated with ‘Stop the Cull’ claim they will turn up at night with powerful torches, air horns and wearing hi-visibility vests to scare off badgers and make the job of the marksmen difficult. Marksmen carrying out the shooting have been instructed to disarm their weapons and move away from the area if the come across demonstrators at night.

Animal rights activists have been collecting information and carrying out surveillance in the cull areas to help them take action when the cull begins

It was thought that the cull may have to be delayed until next year following the failed judicial reviews, appeals and delays in the issuing of the licenses allowing farmers to carry out the cull. But last week the second license was issued allowing farmers and marksmen to shoot badgers in Somerset and it now looks like it is set to start imminently. Police leave for Gloucestershire Constabulary has been cancelled until January in anticipation of protests and the media circus is sure to arrive soon. Whether the badger cull will be effectively carried out it yet to be seen, but it is almost certain that there are many who will be out in the countryside prepared to stop it.

 

People interested in helping to stop the cull or help with donations of money or equipment have been urged to get in touch with their local hunt saboteurs group or to contact Stop the Cull. Details for these, and other resources regarding the cull can be found below.  

Stop the Cull (Coalition of groups and activists collecting information and coordinating groups to take action against the cull)

Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs (Hunt saboteurs in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire who’ll be taking ‘non-violent direct action’ to try and stop the cull)

Hunt Saboteurs Association (National Hunt Saboteurs website with press releases and information about the cull)

Team Badger (Coalition made up of the Badger Trust, RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and others)

VIVA! pledge to boycott dairy

‘Stop the Badger Cull’ e-petition

h.Energy: Sustainable Herefordshire Week

h.Energy kicked off early last week with a flash mob in Hereford High Town. Over 100 people surprised shoppers by breaking into song. The organisers were equally surprised when many of the shoppers joined in for the encore. (click here to see footage of the flash mob)

Now in it’s third year, h.Energy has over 100 events taking place throughout the county. Describing itself as “a week-long county-wide open exhibition of events and activities about living more sustainably in Herefordshire.” Their mission is to “demonstrate that using renewable local resources, avoiding waste and reducing energy usage is just common sense”.

Climate change is something everyone is aware of but not everyone feels they are in a position to do anything about it. It’s also not a priority for everyone. If you are facing housing, employment or social problems, getting your recycling sorted isn’t going to be top of the list. Hopefully this years h.Energy will be more accessible to people outside of the ‘green ghetto’. They have certainly made the effort to involve more families with the ‘Ladybird Safari’ of events. A full list of what’s happening can be found here.

Organisers are hoping that this years attendance will exceed that of last year when 2500 people took part. With a diverse group of participants from schools, farms and community groups to shops, restaurants and charities, every aspect of sustainability is covered. Transport, energy generation, food, energy saving, recycling, community empowerment, local economy, permaculture and alternative finance, the list goes on.

So even though the h.Energy folk aren’t yet pushing for the revolution that would rid us of the climate damaging profit driven economy, it’s certainly something to get involved with and support.

h.Energy runs from 13th-21st October, download thier brochure here

@Rural_Anarchist