The Acorn – 2

acornmastheadnew

Number 2


In this issue:

  1. Fracktion stations in Sussex
  2. Fracking’s far from finished
  3. Infrastructure is the enemy
  4. M18 – gatecrashing the Euro-bankers’ party
  5. Smart spies in our homes
  6. Acorninfo

1. Fracktion stations in Sussex

Sinister: Celtique's heavily-defended drilling site near Billingshurst in West Sussex
Sinister: Celtique’s heavily-defended drilling site near Billingshurst in West Sussex

Razor wire lines the top of the 15-foot high fence surrounding the concreted compound in the heart of the West Sussex countryside between West Chiltington and Billingshurst.

It looks for all the world like some ghastly concentration camp, but here the fortifications are designed to keep “miscreants” out rather than in.

Oil and gas firm Celtique Energy has permission for an exploratory oil and gas borehole at Wood Barn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge – work on the site between Prince’s Wood and Pocock’s Wood off the B2133 is nearly complete and drilling could start any time now.

Bill-fence3

 

The formidable defences around the drill compound betray the business’s knowledge that their activities are highly controversial and liable to meet opposition. There are some “enemies of progress” out there who strangely don’t welcome the prospect of contaminated water, soil and air, of devastated countryside, of lorry-congested roads, of a night sky constantly lit up by flares and of the occasional frack-induced earthquake.

Bill-fence1

But so far things have been fairly quiet in this corner of the Weald. Perhaps locals are happy to take Celtique at their word when they insist that their aims here are purely “conventional“ and will not involve fracking?

That’s certainly not a claim being taken too seriously by Frack Off, the extreme energy action network, who have exposed what they call the “Celtique borehole deception”.

Cynics suggest that Celtique’s non-fracking line was merely what they needed to get drilling permission from West Sussex County Council – and to try and keep the protest wolves at bay for as long as possible.

Inside the compound
Inside the compound

It just happens that in boring down 10,000 feet in supposed search of conventional fuel, their drill will pass through the both the Kimmeridge Clay and Lias shale layers, giving them a coincidental chance to assess the fracking potential.

Celtique’s joint investment partner Magellan Petroleum was certainly selling the shale side of the West Sussex operations in a letter to its American shareholders in May 2013.

It boasted: “In the UK, we maintain a large acreage position in the Weald Basin, which we believe is a very promising unconventional play.  In recent months, it appears that the regulatory and political climate has warmed considerably to unconventional production onshore UK.

“The Department of Energy and Climate Change recently lifted its moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, and the government is exploring new tax incentive proposals to encourage unconventional drilling onshore.  We believe that these developments should have a favorable impact on the perceived value of our acreage.

“In order to substantiate this value, we, together with our partner Celtique Energie, plan to drill one or two evaluation wells at the end of 2013, through which we will gain a better understanding of the shale potential of our acreage.  In the meantime, Magellan remains one of only three publicly traded companies to offer significant exposure to this emerging UK shale play.”

Bill-view2
The Celtique Energy site at Broadford Bridge, near Billingshurst

 

And Celtique itself somewhat gave the game away on a page that has now mysteriously disappeared from its website, but has been preserved on the Frack Off site.

The firm is more or less rubbing its hands together in greedy delight as it details the profits to be made by despoiling the Central Weald area “located in countryside south west of London, close to the large south east UK energy market and proximal to major gas trunk lines and refineries.”

Celtique declares: “Several material size conventional prospects and major shale oil and shale gas unconventional resource potential have been established within the boundaries of the licences. The shale oil and gas resource position provides a low risk and very significant up side to the conventional prospects.”

“In the Weald Basin, it is believed that the oil shales in their acreage which cover an area of 1,000 sq. kms (123,000 acres) could hold up to 200 mmbbls of recoverable oil resources, with a mid-case estimate of 125 mmbbls”.

Anyone still tempted to believe that Celtique’s drilling plans are strictly conventional might also want to take a look at the IGas conventional site at nearby Cootham. No sign of any barbed wire, let alone razor wire, on top of the modest fencing around that compound… So what’s so different about Broadford Bridge?

Compare and contrast: no sign of any razor wire on top of the gate or fences at this conventional drilling site at nearby Cootham
Compare and contrast: no sign of any razor wire on top of the gate or fences at this conventional drilling site at nearby Cootham

 

Celtique's prison-camp style front gate - note the second line of defence inside!
Celtique’s prison-camp style front gate – note the second line of defence inside!

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2. Fracking’s far from finished

frackoffposter

The temporary drop in crude oil prices, drops in fracking firms’ share prices and the talk of fracking moratoriums in Scotland and Wales, is in danger of lulling some opponents into a false sense of security.

But there is absolutely no reason to imagine that the threat is over or even diminished.

As Frack Off point out succinctly in a new poster, the much-heralded protection for certain parts of the English countryside has failed to materialise, Scotland has no moratorium, just a 12-week “public consultation” period and Wales has no power to halt fracking even temporarily.

The Infrastructure Act (see below), which some naively imagined might rein in the frackers, in fact leaves them stronger than ever.

Meanwhile, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) due to come into effect later this year will further boost corporate power.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in the EU-US (TTIP) and EU-Canada (CETA) agreements would allow corporations to sue governments for damage to profits as a result of measures taken to protect the environment, public health, etc. This means that even if fracking bans were introduced, they could be overturned by the industry, via closed tribunals outside the control of any national or European court.

And, of course, the British state continues to deploy large numbers of its hired thugs to intimidate fracking protesters and deter all opposition.

Democracy is a sham anyway and business interests have always ruled behind the scenes. What we are now seeing is the rapid abandonment of even the pretence of democracy – welcome to the new era of totalitarian capitalism!

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3. Infrastructure is the enemy

No-Tav

In the first issue of The Acorn we mentioned the position of The Invisible Committee, which has recently described localised battles against infrastructure – like the NO TAV campaign in Italy – as the front line in the global struggle against capitalism.

It is appropriate, then, that the latest capitalist assault on our communities and environment in the UK should come in the form of the new Infrastructure Act!

The legislation unleashes yet another new wave of neoliberal insanity upon us.

*  It will turn the Highways Agency into an “arms-length” government-owned company, Highways England, charged with funding a £15 billion programme of more than 100 road schemes between now and the end of the next Parliament.

* It will promote the selling-off of publicly-owned land and property to private developers, via the Homes and Communities Agency, cutting the “red tape” holding back business profiteering.

*  It will allow property developers to avoid some planning conditions with a new ‘deemed discharge’ provision to “help speed up house building”.

*  And, of course, the Infrastructure Act represents a significant intervention on the side of the fracking industry, as set out in detail on the excellent Drill or Drop website.

Fracking flare

The frackers are delighted, with Marcus Pepperell, spokesperson for Shale Gas Europe saying: “The UK has taken a decisive step in embracing the shale gas opportunity. We may now start to see the emergence of Europe’s first commercial shale gas industry.”

Most significantly, the Act actually makes it a principal objective of the government to maximise the economic recovery of UK petroleum and grants the right to drill underground someone’s land without their consent.

There are hardly any restrictions on fracking, with firms allowed to leave land in a different condition than they found it and to leave any infrastructure or substances in the land. Despite all the talk of National Parks being protected, it even allows fracking companies to drill horizontally under national parks from outside their boundaries.

The official government statement on the Act makes it clear as to what it is all about, for all those capable of translating Capitalese into plain English.

It says: “These powerful new measures will drive investment, making it easier, quicker and simpler to get Britain building for the future”. This means: “These draconian new laws will pander to our global corporate paymasters, making it easier, quicker and simpler for them to walk roughshod over the concerns and interests of the public and carve up the country for their own profit.”

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4. M18 – gatecrashing the Euro-bankers’ party

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Anti-capitalists from all over Europe are converging on Frankfurt in Germany on March 18 to gatecrash the opening party of the new European Central Bank (ECB).

Says the Blockupy network, which has been staging protests against institutional European capitalism since 2012: “On March 18th 2015 the European Central Bank (ECB) wants to open its new headquarters in Frankfurt. A dizzying 1.3 billion euros was spent on a 185-meter-high fortress-like twin tower building, surrounded by a fence and castle moat. This intimidating architecture of power is a perfect symbol of the distance between the political and financial elites and the people.”

Adds the call-out on the M18 site: “The ceremony will allow the representatives of the European member-states to pat themselves on the back for their crisis-solutions whilst using the celebrations to prepare themselves (and us) for the next round of austerity programmes. They want to institutionalize the state of exception.

”But a lot of people are going to crash the party – because the solutions for the crisis that is capitalism are a catastrophe for the people. Hence the spring of 2015 will hopefully also see a landmark of resistance against the European crisis regime as thousands of different people from all over Europe and beyond travel to the action days against the ECB-party. We call for the antiauthoritarian movement to participate in these actions and discussions. Let’s use this possibility to promote transnational self-organisation in the fight against state and capital and turn this party of domination into our party.”

At a previous protest in November 2014, some 2,000 protesters climbed over barbed wires and threw stones and bags full of coloured water at the ECB’s new building.

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5. Smart spies in our homes

telescreen

The new privacy policy for Samsung’s smart TVs allows the company and its partners to listen in on everything their users say, it has been revealed.

The policy states: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

Similarities have been widely spotted with George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which telescreens listen in to people’s conversations, ensuring they do not criticise the police state personified by “Big Brother”.

The issue goes further than merely listening to conversations – the webcams fitted to the latest TVs for internet use can be activated to secretly spy on people in their own homes, as hackers have demonstrated.

This all goes a lot further than specific companies or equipment, of course. The whole new generation of “smart” devices are designed to build an “internet of things”, where privacy, freedom and, indeed, humanity will be consigned to the past and we will all be reduced to the status of permanently monitored and controlled slaves to a techno-industrial global state that will make Orwell’s nightmare look like a whimsical daydream.

That is, if we don’t bring it down first.

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6. Acorninfo

A new article by Nafeez Ahmed, published by Insurge Intelligence,  a crowd-funded investigative journalism project, explores the dystopian implications of Britain’s new Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, and the efforts to rush it through without public scrutiny. He writes: “In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.”

* * *

The anarchists of Class War have restarted their campaign against separate doors for rich and poor residents at a London development, with a protest held at Aldgate East on Thursday February 12. They had paused their efforts at One Commercial Street after new owner Taylor McWilliams promised to discuss the ending of the socially divisive arrangement. Writes Daniel Brett of the controversial development: “Included within its heavy shaft is 70 units of affordable housing. Generosity? They have apartheid doors to prevent the socially transmitted disease of class awakening. One door for the Rich, one door for the Poor. The Rich have concierge service, executive kitsch and chandeliers, while the “poor” scurry round the back to an ill-liturine-smelling alley. Segregated refuse areas, segregated parking, segregated post: a barrier that sterilises society.”

PoorDoors2ndRound

* * *

An eco-activist journal that inspired a generation has now been archived online. Do or Die, the world’s biggest English-language anarchist journal, was published in the British Isles from 1993-2003, crammed with reports and analysis from the world-wide ecological frontlines. The voices collected here are not those of outsiders, journalists or academics, but of those involved in the struggles themselves. In these times of concrete alienation these voices shine hope from movements that took action to defend nature, create revolution and re-wild humanity.

Dor or Die

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A guide to the Euro Zone Crisis has just been published in English by Corporate Watch and is available to read online, as well as to buy in printed form. The work by Christina Laskaridis, called False Dilemmas: A Critical Guide to the Euro Zone Crisis, has a particular emphasis on what has been happening in Greece and shows how to debunk common myths about the crisis, and counter arguments justifying austerity . It asks who profits from the crisis and provides information on grassroots resistance and alternatives.

* * *

Animal rights activists around the UK campaigned against “The British Heartless Foundation” on Saturday February 14. Says the campaign: “The British Heart Foundation are huge funders of sick animal experiments. A quick look on PubMed, a publicly accessible archive of research papers, reveals over 1,500 papers documenting cruel research funded by BHF involving animals on this website alone. Despite their claims of transparency and openness, BHF do not make public a list of which animals and how many are killed in the course of the research they fund. What have they got to hide?” More info at www.britishheartlessfoundation.co.uk

BHF demo

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The Acorn 1

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The Acorn – 1

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Number 1


In this issue:

  1. Road fight is back on
  2. Battle of Hastings
  3. Rising Up in Bristol
  4. French resistance to concrete future
  5. The end of endless growth
  6. Rewilding journalism
  7. Acorninfo

1. Road fight is back on

A protest walk in 2003
A protest walk in 2003

The fight to save a treasured piece of Sussex countryside is back on – 12 years after a protest camp halted road plans.

Campaigners from groups such as South Coast Against Roadbuilding are calling for support in the fight to save Arundel’s beautiful watermeadows and nearby Binsted Woods and Tortington Common.

With £270 million being made available for a scheme by central government, a nightmare scenario is on the cards, in which a new dual carriageway bypass of the existing Arundel bypass would be built on hideous concrete stilts across the River Arun south of the town.

Details are unlikely to be confirmed until after the General Election, but opponents fear one of the two possible “offline” routes, bypassing the current bypass, could well be chosen. More info can be found here or here.

Both these routes include the viaduct and would ruin the wetlands and surrounding area. As Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee point out: “Option A damages Tortington Common’s ancient woodland; Option B wrecks Binsted’s countryside.”

Behind the revived plans for an Arundel bypass-bypass are the usual business interests and their political placemen in government.

An “A27 Action campaign”, led by West Sussex County Council, has been set up to blow the road-building trumpet.

It barely conceals the truth that private profit is its major motivation, declaring on the home page of its website that the existing non-motorway A27 “is congested route which is inhibiting business investment and growth”.

Residents have been deluged with constant propaganda (officially termed a “publicity campaign”) via compliant local media to try and persuade them that they want to sacrifice their local countryside on the altar of economic growth.

But this has been unable to disguise the fact that there has always been major local opposition to the proposals from local people whose vision of life extends further than a company balance sheet.

The last battle against the A27 at Arundel culminated with a tree protest camp being set up in the woods on the proposed route of the road – see this report in the Indymedia archives.

Arundel protest camp
The protest camp in 2003

And it ended in a spectacular and unexpected victory. In the summer of 2003 it was looking as if the road would be given the go-ahead. Local Tory MP Howard Flight had even sent out a statement to local press welcoming “the Government announcement to proceed with a bypass for Arundel”.

But then, at the last minute, the Government dropped its support for the environmentally destructive scheme. Said one local campaigning newsletter at the time: “Those brave few who took to the woods at Arundel for the sake of the watermeadows and the woodlands deserve the thanks of all of us who value Sussex and want it to remain something other than a vast grey desert of ring roads, superstores and ugly commuter housing estates.”

There had been a flurry of media interest in the Arundel protest camp at Tortington Common, with reports everywhere from BBC TV and Meridian to the Evening Argus, The Times and The Guardian.

And a hint as to the reasons why the Government backed down in West Sussex, while ploughing ahead with road plans elsewhere in the country, came in a report on the Evening Standard website.

Written before the announcement, and seemingly expecting the Arundel road to be given the green light, it added: “The Government will be desperate to avoid clashes with committed activists such as ‘Swampy’ – so-called ‘king of the eco-warriors’. It is still nervous of provoking the kind of confrontations that created ugly scenes at Twyford Down and the Newbury bypass in the late nineties.”

Maybe it is time for the authorities to start feeling nervous again?

South Coast Against Roadbuilding can be contacted via: info@scar-uk.co.uk

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2. Battle of Hastings

The battle continues against the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road in East Sussex.

A few hardy campaigners braved the sub-zero temperatures and the snow last weekend to camp out in Hollington Valley, site of the proposed Queensway Gateway road.

coombe haven
Protesters in Hollington Valley

The valley has a rich variety of habitats, including meadowland, ancient woodland, and carr (woody vegetation on the margin of a bog) – all of which would be trashed by the road.

Asks the Coombe Haven Defenders website: “How many more of our green spaces are going to be destroyed before those making the decisions realise how utterly short-sighted and destructive is their roadbuilding mania?”

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3. Rising Up in Bristol

Eco-activists in Bristol have been camping in trees which are due to be felled to make way for part of the city’s controversial MetroBus scheme.

The Bristol Post reports that people with Rising Up, a campaign group, have been in the trees and occupying the ground between the M32 and the Feed Bristol project at Stapleton Allotments.

Bristol trees
Bristol campaigners

The planned road for the MetroBus North Fringe and Hengrove link route will destroy a conservation area containing wildlife habitat and prime agricultural land. There would also be an inevitable impact on Feed Bristol – an Avon Wildlife Trust community food growing project – that is situated there.

Rising Up spokeswoman Belinda Faulkes said: “We think the development plans and actions taken by the council have been a travesty. This piece of land should not even be an option for any development. We do not buy the planners’ reasons for building here – the reasons are economic.”

For latest info check http://www.alternativebristol.com

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4. French resistance to concrete future

Fighting for the countryside in France
Fighting for the countryside in France

Over in France, the spirit of the UK anti-roads movement has expanded into a full-on resistance movement against capitalism and its infrastructure.

The original ZAD (Zone À Défendre) against a proposed airport at Nantes has been followed by dozens of other protest camps across the country, opposing everything from dams and railway lines to holiday parks and golf courses.

In October 2104 a young student, Rémi Fraisse, was murdered by gendarmes while protesting against a proposed dam at Le Testet, near Albi in the south of France, sparking angry protests all over the country.

This is being followed up on February 21 by two big protests “against the concreting of our countryside and the militarisation of our towns” in Nantes and Toulouse.

In France, there is a significant “décroissance” (degrowth) movement ranging from well-known environmentalists like writer Pierre Rabhi or MEP José Bové to radical groups determined to fight the destructive domination of the capitalist system.

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The Invisible Committee (le comité invisible), an influential writing collective, has recently described localised battles against infrastructure as the front line in the global struggle against capitalism. Interest in their ideas is already spreading to the UK – they are giving a talk at the Cowley Club in Brighton on Saturday March 21.

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5. The end of endless growth

In a well-researched two-part online article, author Nafeez Ahmed explores the idea that “the economic crisis is symptomatic of a deeper crisis of industrial civilization’s relationship with nature”.

He looks at the groundbreaking work of University of Turin economist Mauro Bonaiuti, who uses the term “degrowth” to describe a new science of post-growth economics: “This perspective recognizes that endless growth on a finite planet is simply biophysically impossible, literally a violation of one of the most elementary laws of physics: conservation of energy, and, relatedly, entropy.”

Adds Ahmed: “This year we could discover that the very disruption of capitalism itself is part of a major tipping point in the transition to a new post-industrial, post-capitalist paradigm.”

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6. Rewilding Journalism

A call for a new kind of journalism has been launched by campaign website Media Lens.

They write: “It seems to us that the public is sick to the back teeth of corporate media pretending to supply the truth and nothing but, while miraculously satisfying the fanatical demands of media moguls, corporate advertisers, parent companies, supportive state news sources and other business allies. What a pitiful lie this is!

“Many readers are aware, on some level, that the profit motive distorts and cheapens every last thing offered by a ‘mainstream’ media system that in fact represents the extreme viewpoint of 0.1% of the population.

“Imagine if George Monbiot, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, David Peterson, Jonathan Cook, Mark Curtis, Glenn Greenwald, Nafeez Ahmed, Robert Fisk, Naomi Klein, Russell Brand, Michael Moore, Julian Assange, Chris Hedges, Sharon Beder, Seumas Milne and others rejected the media moguls, billionaires, parent companies and advertisers, and offered their work completely free of charge from a single media outlet. Would the global public be willing to support such a group, such a cause, through donations? The answer, we think, is blindingly obvious.”

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7. Acorninfo

A glimpse into the future being lined up for us by the industrial prison-system – a new Swedish office block is implanting workers with RFID microchips under the skin of their hands. They can use them to open doors or use the photocopier and could soon be used to pay for food at the canteen or to access computers. They are also capable of communicating with smartphone apps.

* * *

Southwark Council backed by police smashed up 8 empty council homes next to a political squat. Part of the emptied Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, South London, has been occupied since the March for Homes in the capital on January 31

Said a statement from the occupiers on February 5: “Around 4.45 PM police and workers attacked one of the buildings we had reclaimed. It was not the main part of the occupation, but the building immediately adjoining. Cops blocked off the walkways while council workers smashed their way into the houses.

“We are tenants, squatters, and other people who care about how our city is being grabbed by the rich, by developers and corrupt politicians, socially cleansed and sold off for profit.”

fightforourcity
Whose city?

* * *

Earth First! Winter Moot will be held from February 20-22 in Bristol. This is a weekend gathering for people involved or wanting to know more about ecological direct action around the UK including fighting opencast coal, fracking, GM, nuclear power, new road building and quarries with discussions and campaign planning – emphasis on the tactics and strategies, community solidarity and sustainable activism.

* * *

The Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair / Ffair Lyfrau Anarchaidd Caerdydda 2015 will be staged on Saturday February 21. More info at https://southwalesanarchists.wordpress.com/

Cardiff

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Anti-fascists are being urged to head for Dudley in the West Midlands on Saturday February 7 to oppose the EDL. Says the Anti-Fascist Network: “The racists of the English Defence League (EDL) are planning to have their national demo on Saturday February the 7th in Dudley. They are treating it very seriously, and anti-fascists need to be just as committed and more organised. In the context of Charlie Hebdo, Islamophobia from the government, the media and the far-right is on the rise. Letting them feel they can have these views and gather in an attempt to intimidate Black, Asian and other minority ethnic populations is not an option.”

* * *

Oi Polloi and Flatpig are among the bands lined up for an anarcho-punk gig at The Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, on Saturday February 28. Also on the bill are Bug Central, Slug, Refuse/All, and The Disinclined. Entry £8. From 7.30pm.

oi-polloi
Oi Polloi

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