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 

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