Global Frackdown Seeks to Boost Public Opposition to Gas Extraction
International day of action set for this Saturday
Fracking is under fire. Opposition to the controversial natural gas extraction method is increasingly well-organized. The more people know about hydraulic fracturing, the greater the opposition, as studies expose risks of groundwater contamination and increased seismic activity.
But the growing outcry doesn't mean that fracking is finished. Energy companies have deep pockets and they're doubling down on slick PR and funding industry-friendly scientific reports. From New York to South Africa, government bans on the practice are poised to expire.
Fracking opponents are hoping to tip the scales on September 22, when organizations and communities across the globe band together for a day of action. The plan? Combining local efforts into a massive international wave of protest to draw more media attention and government action. They're calling it the Global Frackdown.
The day of action is being organized by Food and Water Watch, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, with help from numerous allies including Democracy for America, CREDO Action, 350.org, Environment America, and Friends of the Earth. The frackdown truly is an international affair, with more than 100 events scheduled to take place across five continents, including major actions in South Africa, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Argentina. The actions are as varied as the locales. In Cartagena, Colombia, fracking opponents will screen the Josh Fox documentary Gasland (one of many Gasland screenings scheduled for the day). In Trutnov, Czech Republic they will march in the streets. A hip-hop flashmob is scheduled for Albuquerque, NM, while in Charlotte, NC, people will form a human sign demanding an end to fracking.
“This really is a demonstration of the breadth of the movement to ban fracking,” says Mark Schlosberg, organizing director for Food and Water Watch. “It’s an international movement and a localized movement. This is going to be a very powerful day of action, when groups come together across the country and across the world to call out misleading propaganda from industry and to protect their communities.”
The timing couldn't be more critical. Many communities taking part in the Global Frackdown are facing imminent decisions from lawmakers about the future of fracking in their region.
In New York, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering lifting a moratorium on fracking in five counties in the southern tier of the state. New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition of more than 150 groups, aims to amplify the pressure against Cuomo by taking part in the frackdown. In California, Governor Jerry Brown has floated the idea of implementing weak regulation of the practice instead of putting in place a ban. Organizers there are hoping to call attention to California's shortcomings when it comes to fracking: in a state known for being ahead of the curve on environmental legislation, fracking is basically unregulated. In South Africa, fracking opponents are hoping to redirect attention to the danger of the practice as the government prepares for an end to a nationwide moratorium on fracking.
The push comes at a critical time for public opinion, as well. Fox's 2010 documentary Gasland served for many people as an introduction to fracking's dangers, and since that time media coverage has been increasingly skeptical of the energy industry's safety claims. But increased negativity in media coverage does not mean uniform opposition. In the United States, where 90 percent of the world's fracking takes place, public opinion still favors fracking in many surveys. A Rasmussen poll from March of 2012 indicated that 57 percent of Americans favor hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil in gas in shale reserves, with just 22 percent opposed. A Pew Research poll from the same month indicates that more a third of Americans don't know anything about fracking. When it comes to getting the word out, anti-fracking groups still have some significant ground to cover. Organizers are hopeful that the Global Frackdown can turn some of those numbers around.
“We've seen from New York what we can do when we work together,” Schlosberg says. “In New York, over 150 orgs are working together in a coordinated way to protect communities, and we're seeing more and more of that happen. I think that’s a good thing, and hope that can continue. I hope this event will lead to more coordination and a more powerful anti fracking movement.”