Critique & critic

Understand fracking with Vivienne Westwood

Capture d’écran 2014-03-02 à 14.18.46

Yesterday, as I was trying to avoid Facebook like every loner who has work to do on a Tuesday night, a most welcome invitation popped up in my mailbox. “Vivienne Westwood calls upon EU citizens to vote for end ecocide in Europe”, I read promptly the resume of the conference and tried to understand a bit more.

“As David Cameron promises councils 100% of business rates from shale gas (fracking) and French multinational Total announces its plan to invest the highly controversial technology in the UK, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood calls upon EU citizens to vote for End Ecocide in Europe, aimed at recognizing environmental destruction as a crime”.

It needed some explanations so I tried to figure things out.

“As David Cameron promises councils 100% of business rates from shale gas (fracking)” means that David Cameron offers a tax break to councils willing to accept fracking. As you probably know fracking, or hydraulic fracturing is a method of gas extraction.

Before all, a quick explanation about fracking and why is it different from other gas extraction methods. Unlike traditional fossil fuels, shale gas is trapped within rocks. To reach it, water, sand and chemical substances are injected at high pressure in a hole (wellbore). Once the liquid hits the shale formations, it creates small fractures and liberates the gas, which can be then exploited.

So why is David Cameron bribing councils to encourage them to accept what could be a solution to the natural resources shortage? A short review of the situation in countries already using fracking could explain Cameron’s offer.

The USA are an excellent example of fracking quick expansion. In 2010, shale gas stood for 1% of the total US gas production while in 2012, it has raised to 23%. Since the rapid proliferation of shale gas extraction sites, numerous articles relating environmental damages can be found in the press.

In Pennsylvania, a study published in the Proceeding of National Academy of Sciences determined that the closer your house is from fracking installations, the more likely your tap water is contaminated with methane. Facts confirmed in Texas, where “Steve Lipsky, a resident of Fort Worth, Texas, complained to the Environmental Protection Agency that his family’s water seemed to be bubbling in a way that made it appear similar to a glass of champagne” . It is what one can expect when the injection of water and chemical products used to destroy rocks is left in the ground, where it infiltrates all levels and ends up contaminating groundwater tables.

Noise also must be mentioned as a major inconvenient for surrounding habitations, as breaking rocks never proved to be a silent activity. Air pollution risks and surface contamination are also part of the fracking package. And let’s not forget about the visual effect of wellbores and extraction platforms in the famous romantic British countryside. I am sure Jane Austen would have found lots of poetic words to describe bulldozers razing wood to the ground, I personally can’t find any.

When examining all fracking inconveniences, far from being generous, Cameron’s offer of taxes exoneration appears a bit weak. The real question is; how much money would you accept to see your tap water mixed with methane, your daily life poisoned by noise and your health and the one of your family endangered by toxic emanations?

“French multinational Total announces its plan to invest the highly controversial technology in the UK” means that since fracking has been forbidden in France (guess why), greedy French companies are willing to find other playgrounds.

“Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood calls upon EU citizens to vote for End Ecocide in Europe, aimed at recognizing environmental destruction as a crime”; Her she goes again… Vivienne Westwood, British, 73, militant. The one who infuriated Margaret Thatcher with her cover of Tatler is back again (see pic). After her antinuclear engagement and her “Bradley Manning Truth” tee-shirts, Westwood today volunteers for End Ecocide in Europe.

At that point my curiosity was clearly aroused. No need to follow media carefully to be submerged by recent polemics about fracking. Since Cameron decided to support the environmental catastrophe, the debate is on every lips. I don’t know why, at this point I was convinced that a crowd of over active militants and journalists were fighting for tickets. Maybe I showed too much enthusiasm, as my host pointed out; “it is just a press conference”.  The next day, what was my surprise to discover a conference held on a boat (yes, a boat), followed by five photographs, one AFP reporter and 3 journalism students.

As I learned during the conference, End Ecocide in Europe is a non-political association aiming at convincing people that fracking is a damaging process for the environment. Their goal is to give the label “ecocide” to fracking methods. An ecocide is the partial or total destruction of ecosystems. To benefit of a public hearing by the European Parliament, End Ecocide in Europe must gather 1 million signatures. Only 100 000 persons have signed yet and the deadline is January the 21st.

While observing Vivienne leaving the place on her bike, dressed in orange from head to toe and her hat well pulled down, I wondered if it was the role of a 73 years old lady to defend our earth, as valiant as she can prove to be. Because I could not say yes, I signed the petition. It took me five minutes and I had the impression to have contributed a lot. I don’t want any countryside to be destroyed. I am convinced that with technological progresses we make everyday, there will always be a way. I do not believe we have the right to destroy our environment because lobbies decided so. I am a citizen, I have a voice, and I drink tap water.




3 comments on “Understand fracking with Vivienne Westwood

  1. Jim Wood
    January 20, 2014

    Reblogged this on Time for Action.

  2. Daniel Weatherman
    January 21, 2014

    To play Devil’s advocate……
    I’m in the “drill baby drill” ,”Frack baby Frack” camp. In my eyes mother nature can take everything we throw at her short of an all out nuclear holocaust. Whatever damage we do by pumping water into the ground now will not matter in a few decades time. Geologically speaking the gas we pump out of the ground is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Considering of ratio’s of the gas content in regard to the Earth’s crust shale gas doesn’t represent a thousandth of a thousandth of what is beneath the surface of the Earth.

    Where Fracking becomes an issue is the damage it does to the people and communities that live in the environs of the process. Water bubbling like champagne? everything smelling of bleach? Pissing Blood? That sounds like pretty good grounds to sue an energy company and I think environmental damage should be factored into the costs. Simply buying off a council is not enough, any citizens disturbed by the process should be paid off as well.

    The U.K currently has 292,000,000,000 cubic meters of gas worth by my estimates 40 billion dollars at whole sale prices. Why not Profit from the abundance of resources currently beneath the surface of Britain. Its not as if we don’t need the gas or the money.

  3. JJBollOX
    January 21, 2014

    Signing … Though it’s not enough…

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