GUEST BLOG: “I am sorry Ecotricity, but shopping will not save the world”

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.

EcotricityImage5Entering 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.

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One Response to GUEST BLOG: “I am sorry Ecotricity, but shopping will not save the world”

  1. Jay says:

    Frack-Free Cleveland- Standing as a Community

    Right from the very first meeting of Frack Free Cleveland we have had members with the desire to join forces with other (usually local strands of National organisations) groups they themselves are affiliated with. We have also been approached by National companies like Ecotricity offering money to our group in return for advertising their support.
    There are some strong arguments for joining forces with others, strength in numbers, perceived political clout or being taken more seriously, opportunities to explore other environmental concerns, money, legal backing or support, resources and for some people consolidating their interests.
    As a group we have decided not to take up any of these offers for several reasons; becoming a local group of a National organisation such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or The Green Party means we would have to do things ‘their way’, follow their National campaign, give out the messages they want to send to the public and follow their rules on how we act, behave and what action we can or can’t take. This in itself may not appear to be a particularly bad thing as we all want the same outcome, to stop fracking and extreme energy, however it takes away our individuality as a group, we are capable of deciding amongst ourselves what information to put out to the public, we as community members know our area and the people that live in it, what’s important to them and how to engage them much better than a National organisation ever will. We hope that in the future it doesn’t come to having to take direct action – but if it does we would have to act in accordance with that organisations stand point and it could well inhibit important moves for us locally.
    We have to also consider that these organisations are about much more than fracking, the majority of our members probably do agree and support most of these organisations other campaigns and aims but if we are representatives even if we are focussing purely on their fracking campaigns do we have to go through every one of their campaigns, policies and procedures and check them against our own ideals as a group? One of the great things about the anti fracking campaign is that it is made up of such a diverse group of people of all ages and from all walks of life, many of these people have never been part of any activism or campaign before and many haven’t before and some still don’t consider themselves environmentalists so trying to create a local anti-fracking movement under the heading or advertising of another wider environmental organisation could very easily put some people off joining, especially here in the North East where there isn’t and hasn’t historically been a great deal of environmental campaigning and in very general terms it isn’t the priority for a lot of local people.
    In a lot of ways we are a single issue group, that’s not to say great things wont spin off from this group of people coming together to protect their community, but we have come together to try and prevent extreme energy in our area as well as trying to support other groups doing the same; adding any extra dimension to this can muddy the waters. The motivations for each individual in the group and what they feel are the biggest threats from extreme energy are different but we all want the same outcome and we can decide how to do that together as a local community who understand their local area and the people who live there. We use consensus decision making to make sure the way we operate and the actions we take into account everyone’s point of view. We want to take back the power to decide what happens to us and where we live- we don’t need to advertise businesses on our posters, follow organisational rules or use generic resources to do that. We welcome with open arms the support of National campaigns, organisations, financial support, we want to foster great relationships and partnership working with local branches of some of these organisations- but we want to keep our own individuality, community and spirit.
    Please note the above is a personal account and perception from one individual Frack Free Cleveland Member

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