Over 1,000 protesters marched on Saturday 20 October against a new fracking site in Lancashire. The site was given the green light to start a few days earlier that week, the first frack since 2011 and the week after the IPCC issued dire warnings about climate change.
IPCC’s report stated that “rapid and … unprecedented [transitions] … in all sectors” are necessary to limit global warming, which, will displace many millions and cause health problems. The slower the transition, the worse this will be. Central to this is the fastest possible reduction in fossil fuel extraction, transitioning instead to green energy sources. Allowing new and polluting extraction methods is the opposite.
The protest was “supported” by local and national anti-fracking and environmental campaigns, trade unions, politicians, and at least one Labour Party branch, as well as many individuals. They were also joined by the three protesters recently released from jail. Their cases had been quashed as “manifestly excessive” in a court of appeal, following widespread public pressure. The judge which sentenced them is being investigated for links to the fracking industry.
Many trade unions (and the Labour Party) have policy on fighting climate change, and some against fracking — although crucially not the GMB. They could do much more than sending speakers to a rally or sponsoring banners. Organising Trade unions and the Labour Party could be instrumental in organising much larger numbers to campaign against fracking, and for serious action on climate change. Loud working-class environmental campaigning is needed, making positive and sometimes controversial demands.
We should not accept environmentally destructive industrial developments which sections of the ruling class want, such as fracking or the third runway, simply because they would create jobs. We must recognise the broader interests of our class, of humanity, and of the planet’s ecosystems and their inhabitants, and organise to bring about the industrial developments needed — a transition to a “zero carbon” society. There are plenty of jobs to be done in this transition, and it would reduce energy costs.
The environmental movement must make positive demands, and orientate towards the labour movement. This protests’ demands were negative: “No to fracking anywhere and everywhere”, “No to prison sentences for protectors”, “No to climate change”, and so on. The first two are important demands, the third insufficient. Positive changes must be made — internationally — to tackle climate change.
Against fracking, such demands could include the nationalisation of the energy industry under democratic control, with huge investments in transition to renewable energy. In this transition the workers in the industries affected can and should play a central role. Environmental activists should engage with and where possible become workers and rank-and-file activists in these industries, while continuing to organise vital protests.