This is a personal response from a Somerset resident and member of Frack Free Somerset to Ecotricity’s offer of financial help in return for advertising space.
I love this campaign. With all my heart. Since February 2012 when I first heard about unconventional gas and a new wave of industrialisation that threatened the land that I loved, everything changed in my life. In that two years the movement has grown exponentially – there are local groups across the country, self-organising and building resistance, there have been blockades, meetings, actions. This was no accident, and was the result of handwork by individuals like you and I, with little support, a general public with no idea what fracking was, and very little funding. But we did it, and we are doing it, and hundreds, if not thousands of people, have been empowered by the process.
For our work is not just about defeating fracking, its about social change, and realising that we do have power, that we can reclaim our lives and fight back. And we’ve learnt from other countries that the only way these industries have been effectively defeated has been by community resistance – locking gate by gate, farm by farm, and getting huge community consensus that resistance is necessary and justified, and most importantly, that we can all be part of the process.
Entering into business arrangements with apparent competitors to fracking undermines the credibility of our movement as motivated by concern for people and the planet, rather than greed and self-interest.
We have also learned about the industry. We have busted the myths that fracking is about meeting our energy needs. We have exposed the power games at play that this isn’t about energy security at all – its about the power and profit of a few over the many, using the guise of an energy crisis, to accumulate wealth at the expense of our local ecosystem’s and community’s health. Therefore to get into bed with an energy company, isn’t really going to serve our aims at all – renewable energy companies are not going to challenge the power of those who actually produce most of the greenhouse gas emissions, or the inequalities in how we produce or distribute energy. The only people that are going to challenge these inequalities of power is us – the grassroots, and we face co-option at every turn.
Promoting energy consumption, which is the driving force behind fracking, is not the way to fight it. Massive reductions in amount of energy used is inevitable as fossil fuels deplete, the only question is how much damage the present system will be allowed to do scrapping the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel, before that fact is accepted.
There are no good energy sources at the scale of the economic system’s present energy consumption, just some slightly less bad ones, and promoting the slightly less bad ones will not stop the worse ones from being used, especially in a world with sky high energy prices.
A lot of us crave building alternatives, we want to see appropriate technologies generating energy for our needs, however I believe it is harmful to our movement to engage in campaigning that perpetuates the framing of these issues as “fracking vs renewables”, and working with Ecotricity will only muddy the water in this. It can’t be business as usual. We have got this far as a movement, in resisting this industry and building towards a new paradigm.
Yes, its attractive to have an offer of funding and resources. But if Ecotricity really cared, why couldn’t a grants scheme be anonymous? Without the entanglement of branding or sponsorship? Its not, because their primary purpose isn’t to support our movement, or to support social change. They have pound signs in their eyes witnessing the growth of a movement that could do their marketing for them. In promoting Ecotricity we will be feeding the delusion that some “Alternative Energy” source will allow the present system to continue indefinitely and that is just helping to justify the continued existence of that system, which is the driving force behind fracking.
Yes, fundraising can be hard, and frustrating, but it is part of how we build power and awareness locally. Grassroots fundraising offers us the opportunity to start and strengthen relationships. Benefit gigs, stalls, crowd funding appeals.. yes they can be laborious but they create opportunities for participation. Take a short cut and you lose that. You lose the feeling that this movement is powered by us, that we don’t need big business, or big NGOs, or political parties, to resist this industry.
We have learnt with Frack Free Somerset, that the ‘what you can do’ pitch is the most important of all. A lot of people may only do one thing to support a campaign. We’ve tossed and turned about what we ask of people, and now our main pitch is that the first step someone takes is to make contact with a local group, and organise. If that one demand becomes ‘Switch to Ecotricity’, people will think all they need to do is make cosmetic consumer changes in their lives and everything will be fine. Where is the empowerment in that? This is not about energy supply. This is not about consumer choices. This is about rising up together, all over the country, all over the world, to make this industry unable to function due to the community dissent that faces them. And during that process, we are changing our lives and challenging the alienation of modern life by working together and reclaiming our power. I’m sorry Ecotricity, but shopping will not save the world.
We don’t need Ecotricity, we don’t need corporate NGOs, we don’t need politicians that will sell us out down the river to toe the party line. We need each other and so lets look behind us now as a young movement and feel empowered by what we have achieved without their support, and know that we can do it without compromising our values and we are not alone, because together we will defeat unconventional gas, you and I, ordinary folk changed by this campaign forever.