Some of the world's largest energy giants are moving into eastern Australia and investing billions of dollars to exploit coal seam gas reserves so vast they could rewrite the world's energy map. Despite generating massive amounts of revenue and creating thousands of new jobs, they are being met by a groundswell of public protest and a rising chorus of concern about the long-term impacts of coal seam gas extraction on the nation's health, environment and land. Coal seam gas has the potential to make Australia an energy superpower, but at what price?
12 protesters were arrested this week during a demonstration of about 150 people at a coal seam gas drilling site. Activists had locked themselves to trees and trucks.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham criticized police for being forceful:
"It's a sad reflection on the coal seam gas industry that police have to arrest local residents and force their way through a community blockade so that they can drill for gas," he said in a statement.
"There is no future for coal seam gas in NSW if each drill rig needs to have a police guard to force its way into communities."
The protesters have been keeping a blockade of the drilling site going for nearly two months now, but police seem determined to break any protest that interferes with drilling.
Yesterday, after a weekend training in nonviolent civil disobedience, protesters from the Tar Sands Blockade jubilantly swarmed the Keystone XL pipeline's construction site in Winnsboro, Texas. Keystone XL pipeline opponents have tried petitioning the government, filing lawsuits, and bringing their issues to the media's attention, but with Obama's recent endorsement of the southern leg of the pipeline, the Tar Sands Blockade feels justified to resort to civil disobedience.
Here, protesters emerge from a “sit-in” 70 feet in the air, in trees which stood in an area already cleared to make way for the pipeline. Protesters holler and cheer as they flood into the construction site, scrawling “blood for oil” on the machinery and holding up a banner that read: “All pipelines leak, all markets peak”. Some people locked themselves to pieces of equipment and others stood, defiantly, in the way of the dirty oil machines.
Eight were arrested yesterday but six of those were released from jail today on charges of criminal trespass. The two who chained themselves to Keystone XL machinery will be in court today.
Today only 7 families remain of the former 32 who made up the community of Riverdale Mobile Home Park, in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, after the land beneath them was sold to Aqua America, a water company dedicated to fracking.
On June 12, a blockade of residents, volunteers, and members of Occupy Cleveland made their last stand as private security contractors, and the Pennsylvania State Police were called in and arrest warnings issued. As you can see in the video above, Riverdale residents stepped in, fearing for the safety of those who had stood and fought with them for their homes, and asked volunteers to leave as the police ordered.
Also of note in the video, as the volunteers struggle to keep the blockade going, they try to communicate with the crew who are called in to install fencing. They try to tell one young man that he could get another job(that doesn't involve helping people lose their homes.) and he replies "Not where I come from." He says that he has a family, too, and that they were about to be evicted from their home as well.
Construction has been ongoing for over ten days now, as the remaining families negotiate with Aqua America for financial compensation. To keep any protesters from returning, "There are three private security guards at all times and floodlights on the place all night. They can't get their mail; the mailman isn't allowed in there. They can't get anyone to come help them move their things. It's like they're incarcerated."
But former Riverdale resident Eric Daniels, a truck driver in the natural gas industry, wants everyone in the country to know this: "We were a small group of people who stood up against this injustice."
And it looks like Riverdale won't be the last Pennsylvania community that gets fracked. Just yesterday, residents of nearby Bucknell View Mobile Home Park received notice that they would have to pay thousands of dollars to raise their trailers to higher ground—or get out by August 1. "The issues in our area are out of control," Daniels said.
Nor are community fights over fracking damages by any means isolated to the Susquehanna area. In upstate New York, five underserved counties are about to get fracked, and communities are split between their need for income and their fears of water contamination and other health risks. In California, 600 unregulated wells were fracked in 2011, and upset citizens have allied with national environmental nonprofits to coordinate protests.
"Fracking is always going to have to be fought largely at the local and state level because that's where the controlling government jurisdictions mostly are," said environmental activist and author Bill McKibben, whose organization 350.org used its clout to pass Riverdale's call to action on to its regional supporters via Twitter and email. "It makes it hard, but powerful."
The global Occupy movement is undergoing a period of sustained tactical innovation. In the U.S. occupiers are experimenting with new techniques of nonviolent protest inspired by the Black Bloc. In Quebec, we are testing whether a sustained student uprising against fee hikes can spark a broad base anti-capitalist insurrection. In Spain, the indignados are imagining new ways of holding people’s assemblies without permanent encampments in the squares. And perhaps the most important tactical breakthrough has come from Germany where last week 25,000 occupiers took the streets for Blockupy, three days of visceral protest against capitalism and the logic of austerity.
The beauty of Blockupy is that it combined three tactics into one powerful event in Frankfurt’s financial district: Occupy, Blockade, Demonstrate.
One organizer explained that the goal was to transcend a narrow critique of the financial industry by broadening the movement’s tactics: “our action will visualize the different aspects of the crisis of the system we are witnessing and experiencing – a crisis of representative democracy, the destruction of the planet and our life resources, a crisis of traditional gender relations, of war regimes and militarized border regimes, of cities and urban life.”