While fossil fuel use trashes our planet and threatens our future, communities local to extraction sites suffer the health effects of extraction:
- Recent studies have shown high rates of asthma, certain cancers and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in communities near opencast coal mines, who suffer from exposure to dust and machinery diesel fumes.
- The effects of the Alberta Tar Sands on First Nations communities in Canada are devastating. The Tar Sands development project has created toxic tailing ponds so huge they are visible from space, leaking poisons into the local water supply. Communities on land where Tar Sands extraction has been imposed are experiencing disturbingly high rates of rare forms of cancer and auto-immune diseases.
- The health effects of fracking are well documented.
Because fossil fuel extraction often takes place in communities with high unemployment rates, the industry uses the promise of jobs to create divisions in that community between those who are in favour of the project and those who are against it. But these jobs are actually highly specialised and generally don’t go to local people. For example, few open cast coal mines create jobs locally. The industry is so mechanised that hardly any employees are needed to operate the mine, and most open cast workers commute from outside local areas. Jobs are usually short-term and on a temporary basis and conditions are poor and dangerous. Genuine investment and job-creation in these communities would definitely not be in the form of energy extraction.
Across the planet, communities are standing together to defend their homes, health, land and water.
For over ten years there has been an on-going attempt by Shell and the Irish state to devastate a remote coastal area of Mayo, Western Ireland with a toxic refinery and a high pressure production gas pipeline. Since then there has been an ongoing struggle to keep Shell out of Mayo. The project has been delayed by over a decade, making it three times over budget. This is due to the efforts of local people and campaigners, who have been picketing the refinery, engaging in planning enquiries, organising mass actions, engaging in direct action and doing outreach.
Shell’s appalling legacy of pollution and human rights abuses in Nigeria has been globally condemned. In August 2011, the UN exposed the horrifying impact of oil spills in Ogoni, many of which are from Shell’s facilities. The company tries to cover up the extent of its pollution by certifying heavily contaminated sites as “clean”. Oil spills have destroyed people’s livelihoods, devastating fisheries and farmland. Since the 1990s, communities have regularly held protests and blockades in response to Shell’s environmental injustices in the Delta. Shell has routinely worked with Nigeria’s military and police to violently suppress community opposition.