Blog Posts: September 2014

September 26th, 2014

Fighting for a Frack-Free Europe

By Katherine Cirullo

BlogThumb_GFD_Geert_globalfrackdown_global_frackdown

Geert deCock, Food & Water Europe Policy Officer, is joining this year’s Global Frackdown to fight for a ban on fracking.

With just two weeks until the Global Frackdown, we called up our colleague Geert deCock in Brussels to get the low-down on Europe’s fight against fracking — the progress that’s been made and the work that still needs to be done. Prepare to be inspired.

Geert, to start us off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Why did you become involved in the fight against fracking?

My name is Geert deCock. I’m Belgian, and I work for Food & Water Watch in Brussels for the European program. My main focus is to campaign for a ban on fracking in Europe and to generally support the groups that oppose fracking in Europe, providing knowledge about fracking, its many harmful impacts and that ways in which we can organize to stop it.

I became involved in the fight against fracking when living in Alberta, Canada (Edmonton), quite close to the tar sands, where I was exposed to a lot of the rhetoric around oil and gas extraction and its “supposed” benefits. That’s when I became politicized about energy and climate and fossil fuels. I saw that there was such a huge gap between what the government was saying about “minimal” risks of tar sands extraction and the real experiences of nations and communities — the very real health impacts tar sands extraction has on people living in those areas and the environment. There’s such a close parallel to fracking where, again, the industry claims the benefits are huge and the risks are minimal, when really, if you talk to the people on the ground, it’s the other way around.

Food & Water Watch is calling for a ban on fracking and an aggressive transition towards renewable energy, all across the globe. Why is it important that communities around the world become involved in this fight, not just those in the U.S.?

Right now in Europe, we don’t have particularly large-scale fracking operations yet. So, it’s important to ban fracking now, before it is too late — before fracking begins and contaminates local water supplies, pollutes the air, industrializes once agrarian communities and really exacerbates global climate change. Read the full article…

September 16th, 2014

Keep Calm and Ban Fracking: Shale Gas in the UK

By Geert Decock

A view of the South Downs in from Devil's Dyke in southern England. CC by SA©IngerAlHaosului/commons.wikipedia.org

A view of the South Downs in from Devil’s Dyke in southern England. CC by SA(c) IngerAlHaosului/commons.wikipedia.org.

OK, I admit: I had never before heard about the South Downs National Park in England. However, last week, I learned that the planning committee of the park had voted unanimously to turn down an application by shale gas explorer, Celtique Energie, to start drilling and maybe fracking at Fernhurst, a two hour drive south of London. A couple of hours later, I can call myself a South Downs fan. Yes, I want to go on holiday there. Except maybe for blue sky and warm temperatures, the South Downs has lots to offer. Wikipedia informs me that the South Downs has “a rich heritage of historical features and archaeological remains, including defensive sites, burial mounds and field boundaries”. Within the park, there are 37 “Sites of Special Scientific Interest”, protecting the very little that remains of the old chalk grassland. Needless to say, South Downs is a “popular recreational destination, particularly for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers”. And by drilling and fracking in such an area of outstanding beauty, UK shale gas explorers hope to win the hearts and minds of locals and public opinion more generally? How out of touch can you be? A recent report of the federal environment agency of Germany (covered in our previous blog post) details what is required to extract shale gas from an area of 260 square kilometers (about 16 by 16 kilometers) over a period of 10 years.

  • 144 well pads (one per every 2 square kilometers!)
  • 864-1440 wells (assuming 6-10 horizontal drills /pad)
  • 12.000-48.000 truck movements per well

Despite these facts, the CEO of Celtique has the temerity to state that his application “has been refused on subjective and unjustified grounds”. What is more likely to be the case, is that the planning committee analysed the existing pressures on their national park from agriculture, traffic and housing development and drew the common sense conclusion that adding fracking to the mix simply was not going to work. Despite all this, the UK government’s energy strategy continues to be “going all out for shale”, stressed Prime Minister Cameron. The efforts of shale enthusiasts like David Cameron (but also other mainstream political parties) will continue to fight a losing battle, as people get better informed about shale gas and fracking. In the latest licencing round, almost 60 percent of the UK territory was offered to shale gas explorers to start drilling for shale gas. It should not come as a surprise that new groups are popping up like mushrooms in areas singled out for shale gas drilling. Some of the most vocal groups are Residents Action on Fylde Fracking in the Blackpool area or the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association, where exploratory drilling was halted last summer due to protests. They are not only determined to stop this terrible development, but they are well organized. Just take a look at all the resources available on the website of a grassroots campaign like Frack Off. This summer, the No Dash for Gas campaign hosted a “Reclaim the power” anti-fracking action camp. And they have the support from larger groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. The combination of a vibrant and growing anti-fracking movement with the non-stop PR disasters committed by shale gas explorers and the UK government will mean that their shale gas strategy will slowly but surely grind to a halt. With more than half of the UK territory now licensed for shale gas and oil exploration, anti-fracking groups in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will be at the forefront of the campaign to ban fracking. On October 11, the Global Frackdown – an international day of action against fracking – will offer a great opportunity to express our solidarity with those communities in the UK under siege from the shale gas industry and its political supporters. Join us on October 11 for the Global Frackdown: http://www.globalfrackdown.org/.

September 2nd, 2014

Citizens Won: Greek Water Remains in Public Hands

By David Sánchez

Referendum about water privatization in Thessaloniki, Greece. Credit: Save Greek Water

Referendum about water privatisation in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Credit: Save Greek Water

There is an ongoing struggle in southern Europe, where water privatisation is promoted as a way out of the economic crisis. But this summer, a turnaround victory was achieved in Greece: the Council of State ruled against the privatisation of Greek public water companies. Citizens have shown, again, that privatisation can be defeated through a combination of grassroots mobilisation, legal actions and international solidarity.

The story goes back some years ago. Under conditions imposed by the Troika (which includes the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank) to reduce Greece’s debt, public water companies in Athens and Thessaloniki were about to be privatised by the government, among other painful and socially unfair measures.

The mobilisation against this measure was massive, and great campaigns were launched in Athens, with a great success in media, and Thessaloniki, where a popular referendum showed an overwhelming opposition to water privatisation. A solidarity effort was coordinated by the European Water Movement (Food & Water Europe is an active member). Over 130 civil society organisations and trade unions teamed up with 50 members of the European Parliament to send a letter to the bidders of the public water company in Thessaloniki urging them to drop their bid. Those companies included French multinational Suez Environnement and Israeli group Mekorot. The situation in Greece was central in the campaign for the European Citizen’s Initiative that collected nearly 1.9 million signatures to support the human right to water and to stop liberalisation in the water sector.

This victory in Greece sends a clear signal to the European Commission and to the transnational water companies that were trying to make profit out of Greek crisis. The myth that people cannot resist against the Troika’s demands has collapsed. And as our colleagues from Save Greek Water say: “we can all, without exceptions, feel proud of this major victory.”

While we definitely celebrate this new major step to stop water privatisation in Europe, we are aware that we cannot be naïve. Public water management is still under threat in Greece and the rest of Europe as long as the European Union and the U.S. negotiate a new free trade agreement (known as TTIP or TAFTA), as long as the Troika pushes for water privatisation in many other countries, and as long as the European Commission goes on with their liberalisation agenda. These threats will require renewed mobilisation for the recognition of water as a human right and a common good.

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