Realities of Fracking page 1 (cut). Image: Toxin Free Community.
Anti-fracking campaigner Jojo Mehta among the campions and cow parsley in her garden. Photo: via Jojo Mehta.
Realities of Fracking page 1. Image: Toxin Free Community.
Realities of Fracking page 2. Image: Toxin Free Community.
'What does FRACKING mean?' 80,000 leaflets already distributed across the UK
Jojo Mehta / Toxin Free Community
15th June 2015
As Lancashire planners come out in support of the UK's first fracking well, Jojo Mehta has something to celebrate: the resounding success of the 'What does FRACKING mean?' leaflets she crowd funded for in April. So far 80,000 have gone out to campaigners and volunteers all over the UK, and requests for more are piling up.
The power of these leaflets is that they are going directly into the hands and through the letterboxes of the general public, bypassing the usual information 'feed' of TV, radio and newspapers.
As reported in The Ecologist, I put all UK Members of Parliament on legal notice earlier this year that they were in dereliction of their duty to the nation if they voted to fast-track fracking in the knowledge that it would cause harm.
I provided them with that knowledge in the form of a comprehensive summary document on the risks and harms of fracking.
I then realised MPs were not the only ones with a dearth of knowledge on the subject. Most members of the British public, especially those disinclined to dig around online, were limited to the information found in conventional news channels - TV, newspapers and radio - and these were failing to show what happens when fracking is put into practice.
Discussion always seems to be around the idea of an exploratory well here and there, nothing to interrupt anyone's business as usual. The sheer scale of industrialisation and harm to environment and communities that a frack field in production implies has never been shown.
Crowdfunding £3,000 in 2 weeks for 80,000 leaflets
What I felt was needed was something printed - simple and straightforward, with clear images and graphics and carefully referenced information, easily understandable for someone with little or no knowledge of fracking.
So I designed a 4-page A4 full colour leaflet with exactly that in mind. I included quotes from the major UK political parties on fracking, ranging from an outright ban (Green) via moratoria (SNP) to enthusiasm (Conservative). I also included an open letter to the British Medical Journal by a long list of eminent professors and academic leaders.
All pages of the leaflet are linked to from the Toxin Free Community website (or see above right).
I felt that there was an urgent need to provide this information especially in the run-up to a general election and launched a crowdfunder which reached its target, enabling a print run of 80,000 leaflets.
I then put the word out via email and Facebook and a month later we had none left! They had all been requested for distribution by campaigning and volunteering groups all round the country.
Bypassing the mainstream media - just like political parties do at elections
The feedback has been extremely positive from those giving them out on high streets or delivering door-to-door. Apparently they are getting people talking ... and we know they have been seen by fracking companies Cuadrilla and Ineos too. Clearly these leaflets are filling an urgent need.
What I now realise is that with the May election results as they were, and a frack-happy Conservative majority in power, this information is all the more useful and necessary especially in those areas directly affected by drilling applications including Yorksire and Lancashire - where planning officers came out in support of the application today, making it harder for councillors to turn it down next week.
The brakes (of whatever degree) that might conceivably have been applied under a different Parliament are clearly off under this one, so planning procedures and regulations are not going to be strong enough to restrain the industry. Complacency is not an option.
The power of these leaflets is that they are going directly into the hands and through the letterboxes of the general public. They bypass the usual information 'feed' of TV, broadsheets and tabloids and thus the contents are not diluted or misrepresented.
It's a lesson learned the hard way - the Conservatives (certainly where I live) were the only party able to get information directly through my letterbox on a regular basis, and I realised that there would be many people whose only political information would be received that way. It apparently worked.
Doing the same thing with some home truths about fracking therefore seemed an obvious step.
It's all about social licence - and not letting the frackers have it
Campaigners and volunteer distributors have found all sort of ways of making the leaflets visible.
Some have been handed out from stalls at markets and on high streets; many whole villages have been leafletted door to door; some have been given out at campaigning or community meetings as well as at the door of meetings hosted by fracking industry representatives.
They have also ended up in dentists' and doctors' waiting rooms, cafe tables and inside the menu cards in busy pub restaurants ... anywhere that ordinary folk will encounter them.
As the Lock the Gate movement in Australia has already show, and as the protests at Balcombe in Sussex proved in 2013, no matter what government permits or what industry promotes, the social licence for fracking - indeed for any industrial activity - ultimately lies with the people and that licence is ours to grant or withhold.
Having informed communities is the first step to making that licence mean something, and that is what these leaflets are about.
I hope the success of the first run will inspire people to support this public information project so that before long everyone in the UK will have access both to the sobering facts and the inspiring truth that energy does not have to be sourced this way.
Jojo Mehta is a mother-of-two living in Nympsfield, near Stroud, Gloucestershire. She describes herself as an "earth activist and concerned human being" and (with Katy Dunne) is co-organiser of Frack Free Five Valleys and co-founder of Toxin Free Network which promotes the Toxin Free Community strategy. She writes, speaks and advocates on behalf of communities and the earth.
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