September 6th, 2018

People Power Blocks Extraction at Europe’s Biggest Gas Field for Fifty Hours

On 30 August, what was likely the largest mass civil disobedience action against gas extraction in the Netherlands to date came to an end after protesters managed to block important infrastructure for the extraction supply chain for 50 hours. The Dutch government plans to phase out gas extraction in the field, but what is planned is too little, too late.

About 700 Dutch and neighboring Europeans gathered to peacefully protest against the ongoing gas extraction in Groningen. After participating in an action camp in the days leading up to the action, activists marched, danced and cycled to a gas tank farm in Delfzijl. Things seemed calm at first, but shockingly, Dutch police soon started to repeatedly make use of sticks to

The Main Message of the Protest: Fight the Climate Crisis

In 2017, similar cases happened during a mass disobedience action in Germany, in an area close to Cologne that is about to be sacrificed to coal extraction. It is critical that these violations of our human rights get attention and face consequences to protect what is left of our democracies, which are yielding more and more to corporate interests and deploying the police like private security for industry giants like ExxonMobil, Shell, Cuadrilla or Wintershall. Still, we must also make sure that the main message of these peaceful protests does not get lost: The climate crisis is real, and it is here, now. And it is our responsibility to fight it.

Human activities, and particularly our continued use of all fossil fuels, oil, coal and gas, are the main drivers of the current extreme weather, floods, droughts, crop losses, etc. that we see. While oil and coal have a bad name already, this is not so much the case for gas: it is often sold as a clean, green climate solution, and alternative ways of generating so called “renewable gas” are often promoted as a silver bullet but are mainly an excuse for the industry to continue promoting fossil gas.

Only basic knowledge of math is needed to realize that our carbon budget is melting fast and that we cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions with natural gas. We need to kick all fossil fuels out of the equation to reach an economy able to keep our world a livable place.

The “Gas Colony” is Fighting Back

Many people from the Groningen region welcome the protests and the awareness it creates for their struggles nationally and internationally. And the climate is not the only issue connected to gas extraction: Groningen is Europe’s biggest gas field and estimated to be the ninth biggest in the world. Food & Water Europe wrote in 2016 about the environmental, economic and societal impacts that gas extraction, which started in the area over fifty years ago, has had on Groningen. Because of thousands of earthquakes triggered by gas drilling, more and more houses there get cracks, become dangerous to live in and unsellable, and ultimately break down. Groningen inhabitants call this a “drama in slow motion” and say that they are the Netherland’s “gas colony”, carrying the consequences of gas extraction with ridiculously little compensation – while big corporations make billions selling the gas within the country and to neighboring states such as Germany, Belgium or France.

Gas Down Frack Down – Rise Up! Action Day on 13 October

But there is hope! The Groningen protest is not the only action against fossil fuels and gas. On and around 13 October, people from all over the planet will stand up and join the Global Action day against gas and fracking. The Global Gasdown-Frackdown connects individuals, grassroots activists and NGOs – everyone who want to show with creative, colorful activities that the worldwide movement against fossil fuels is growing – and winning! Learn more here.

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