There were extraordinary scenes in Lancashire on Tuesday 3 April, as ‘100 women’ took on a corporate fracking giant to highlight public concern over the industry.
Fracking in Lancashire
Preston New Road is at the centre of a row over fracking. Cuadrilla has permission to frack the site. But local people are against the company’s plans. And they have stepped up their protests since January 2017.
The government gave the go-ahead for Cuadrilla to frack there – reportedly the first site of its kind in the UK – in 2016. It officially began work on 5 January 2017. Ever since, protesters have been at the site.
Campaigners also used the hashtag #100Women to show the comparisons between the Suffragette movement and their struggle against fracking:
200 people at Lancashire fracking site today to stand with the local community against fracking! Love the suffragettes outfits of Lancs women leading this resistance & protecting our planet #100women #WeSaidNo pic.twitter.com/5YOxIjW9O9
— Helen Rimmer (@HelenJqRimmer) April 3, 2018
— Tina Rothery (@tinalouiseUK) April 3, 2018
Meanwhile, it wasn’t just feet that arrived at Cuadrilla’s entrance, but underwear too:
— Lady_Claire (@Lady_ClaireUK) April 3, 2018
United Resistance said:
[The] march celebrated 100 years of female emancipation but also served to highlight the health risks, of which women in particular, are susceptible to as a result of fracking.
100 women and women at risk
Studies appear to back up the group’s claims. One found that mothers living within 1km of a fracking site in the US saw a:
25% increase in the probability of low birth weight… and significant declines in average birth weight and in an index of infant health.
Another, as Forbes reported, found that:
Women with newborns who lived near fracking sites… found a 40% increased chance of having a premature baby and a 30% risk of having the pregnancy be classified as ‘high-risk’… Contributing factors likely include air and water pollution, stress from the noise and traffic…
Female mice exposed to a mixture of 23 chemicals used in… fracking developed mammary lesions and enlarged tissues – suggesting the chemicals may leave breast tissues more prone to cancer…
As Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire noted:
[The] ‘No Fracking or Bust’ action where the ground in front of the site was symbolically covered in discarded bras was a graphic illustration of this issue.
A controversial decision
The government’s decision to let Cuadrilla frack has been controversial. Lancashire County Council originally refused to let it frack the site. Then, communities secretary Sajid Javid stepped in back in October 2016 and gave the company the go-ahead. And since Javid’s decision, Cuadrilla has been dogged by numerous scandals. These include:
- Campaigners and local councillors accusing police and private security at the site of “disproportionate force” and trying to “provoke violence”; something both groups deny.
- Political interventions from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, and from Green Party co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley. Police at one point “dragged” Bartley away from the site.
- The Environment Agency altering the terms of the company’s licence. Friends of the Earth branded the decision a green light for Cuadrilla to “intensify” fracking at the site.
- Accusations by campaigners of attempts to “sway” a council planning vote on the site in its favour; something Cuadrilla denied.
- A former top civil servant on climate change accusing the government and fracking companies of peddling “lies” about the industry.
Not going away
Campaigners’ concerns about fracking are overarching. They range from polluted drinking water and earthquakes to its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. But the dangers to women’s health are particularly pertinent 100 years on from the Suffragette movement. It seems that for women (and men) in Lancashire, Cuadrilla is not going to be let off the hook easily.
– Read more about fracking from The Canary.