The Struggle Against Fracking: The View from Spain
It’s impressive to see how resistance to fracking has raced around the world like a spark travelling along a gunpowder trail. To me, this powerful struggle is in certain ways reminiscent of the global anti-nuclear movement of the 1970’s (in many ways, the forbearer of the modern-day ecological movement.) The sheer number of citizen groups, alliances and critical voices that have arisen to speak out against the practice of fracking continues to multiply. It is a struggle spearheaded by people, rather than organizations, many of whom have no background in organized activism, but who have been able to envision what is at stake – and have taken their opposition beyond NIMBYist objections, understanding that a change in our energy system is in order.
In addition, it’s important to note that this opposition movement, in general, and with the few exceptions of organizations with suspicious ties to industry, is characterized by a unanimous rejection of the practice and the understanding that regulation is not suitable and the only possible solution is total prohibition. Another recurring element in all corners of the globe is widespread criticism of the lack of transparency in the public fracking debate.
The case in Europe has turned out to be paradigmatic. When the first alarms were raised in France in 2010, hardly anyone in Europe had ever heard of fracking. The rapid social mobilization and organization of local assemblies, with many participants who had not before been activists, took place so quickly that in 2011, France passed a law that banned the technique.
Solidarity between peoples, accelerated by new technologies and means of communication, spread the alarm to other countries. It was precisely our French colleagues who first called at our gates when here in Spain, we had not even heard a word about the issue. In Spain, since the first groups arose in the north in the summer of 2011, new centers of resistance continue to emerge, each gaining insight from the experiences of the others.
The industry itself recognizes that social opposition will be the determining factor for its future plans. And a struggle of such widespread magnitude and intensity is clearly getting results. At the moment, the regional governments of Cantabria, Rioja, Navarra, Catalonia, Andalucía and Asturias have taken measures to protect themselves from fracking. Nearly 400 municipalities have passed some kind of resolution to become a fracking-free zone! Now it remains to be seen whether the initiatives of the central government, which is determined to promote the practice, can be defeated this time around. Let’s fight to make it so!
The Global Frackdown on October 19 will be a key moment in this fight. Events are planned in Barcelona, Cantabria, Kuartango and Xixón, among other cities. Together, we can protect Spain, and communities around the world from fracking!
Samuel Martín-Sosa Rodríguez is an international coordinator for Ecologistas en Acción.