A call for democracy in West Sussex

Cheryl Howeld is an artist who lives on a peninsula next to Chichester harbour. She is of an age as advanced as mine. Put it this way, last time either of us were out protesting, it was the 1960s.  The demo she joined at the weekend was partly about fracking, but perhaps more about democracy and the right to protest since the council is seeking to remove the last remaining campaign tents from near the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe. Here are two posts from her Facebook wall in the past week and a link to the full story from the BBC.

“I joined in an anti-fracking demo this weekend, moved by my convictions over the abuse of our responsibility to be in stewardship of the earth. I was challenged though by the fear that I might get involved in a conflict situation. I also feared that I was aligning myself with an unknown group who would probably represent perspectives that I did not share. As I am/was, friendly with the leader of WSCC (West Sussex County Council) which supports fracking, I had to face up to complications around loyalty. I wanted to avert personal conflict and achieve a respectful harmony based on agreeing to disagree, if that was possible. Hell, it was so much easier when I was 17 and oblivious to such considerations! As it was, I met and joined with a disparate group, connecting warmly to one another through a basic instinct that fracking was wrong. The regular activists had a close sense of community with each other and yet I found them willing to meet openness with openness. The two policemen that I went to talk to, were friendly ( with reservation), helpful and not expecting the worst of the demonstrators. So, it was a positive experience which taught me very practically, about being willing to relate to everyone on a deeper level than usual and not being wed to my own or other people’s identities. Passers-by, through the demo, were given the opportunity to consider or re-consider their own opinion….glad I went.”

And then, a couple of days later:

“Such a good result from the anti-fracking demo. Amazing what only 25 people, committed to a cause, can pull off…. given gentle strength and good leadership on both sides. A willingness to listen with an open heart and respect for another point of view brought conflict resolution with huge democratic gains. The leader of the Council has agreed to press David Cameron for an independent assessment of the fracking industries claims and is halting forward action until the relevant questions have been satisfactorily answered. A useful dialogue was achieved with a two hour meeting and further meetings set up so that the channels stay open. The occupation of the land was therefore effective and no longer necessary and the team that had camped out, agreed to move off the land the next day…today. As we all listened to what had transpired from the 5 person team that went in, a spontaneous round of applause broke out . Lessons have been learned from Balcombe ….on both sides. I learnt that Direct Action is sometimes needed, that it can be peaceful and forceful at the same time. All part of looking at how we do things from now on.”

Her determination not to be in conflict is key. Councillors are human, and they are unlikely to be won round by people shouting in their faces. Keep asking questions.


The following document is a fracking information kit put together by scientists (The Center for Science and Democracy). It is INVALUABLE. Use it to ask questions of your councillors, politely and persistently.




What can I do? Find out if your area is in the shale gas region. Check your postcode at http://www.wrongmove.org/


UK organisations who are actively against fracking:

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, National Trust, OBOD

Valuable blog to follow is Philip Carr-Gomm’s Fracking Industry Collapse 



Those who I’m in touch with on Facebook  know how keen I am to prevent fracking in the UK. However, most of the major posts I made in the summer coincided with my settings being changed (by whom?) to ‘local’. I have only one local friend, and he’s already committed. So I’ve decided to make a compilation of the most informative videos and sites I’ve collected over the year and will post them in a series of blogs.

First, some questions. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of them, and especially if you answer ‘yes’ to more than one, I beg you to follow these leads.


will do no harm

will do a bit of harm but it’s the price we have to pay

is a viable source of energy

will help us be self-sufficient, and self-sufficiency in energy supplies is vital

is our only hope in the fight against nuclear

is better than nuclear

will not be noticed by the majority of the population

will make no difference to my quality of life

will not significantly alter the landscape


knows what it’s doing

is acting in our best interests

wouldn’t do anything to harm us

I’ll try and cover this list with the series of clips and sites I’ve collected. First, let it be known that this is not about the threat of earthquakes in Blackpool. It’s about your land and your water supply, if you live in south/central/north eastern England. That is, just about everywhere apart from Devon, Cornwall and Essex (and I think that green blob in the middle of the map may be Yorkshire).

Fracking map, Daily Mail

Fracking map of UK, source Daily Mail

Let’s start with the video that set me off on this path of youthful rebellion in my twilight years. It’s ‘Fracking Hell’ by Earth Focus. It features a former Vice President of Mobil Oil and one of the pioneers of hyraulic fracturing. And guess what they have to say!


This film, made by the UK’s Ecologist Film Unit, examines what has happened in Pennsylvania since fracking began there. It shows the effects you will feel in your community. You may not get methane coming out of your taps, but your roads and lanes definitely will be clogged with tankers.

That’s enough for today.



What can I do? Join the National Trust and tell them why you are joining (they are being ‘worked on’ by the government and need our support and encouragement).


UK organisations who are actively against fracking:

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, National Trust, OBOD

Valuable blog to follow is Philip Carr-Gomm’s Fracking Industry Collapse