The news about the zombie apocalypse in Brighton and Hove has not, I feel, been given the attention it deserves. You’d have thought that real live – well, undead – zombies lurching through the streets on the south coast would have caused a bit of a stir. Granted, we’ve been hardened by four series of The Walking Dead, but are such grim sights already passé?
Of course, it is possible that people mistook them for drowned-rat commuters, but when Brighton station tweets that trains are at a standstill due to ‘zombie apocalypse’ it is disquieting, to say the least.
ITV News did mention the quote – adding that it was ‘probably an exaggeration’ (huh?) but when roads are being turned into rivers of ice by hailstones the size of coins, passengers are stranded in cars by terrifying flash floods and lightning bolts of Biblical proportions split the darkened heavens during the Monday morning rush-hour, it is easy to get a little over-excited.
Footage of the destruction caused by the storms was broadcast in the same bulletin as the announcement about the expansion of fracking across Britain and, as is the way with sound-bite news, no connection was made between the two items.
The story was that the government has decided to put up half of the country for onshore oil and gas exploration and, by way of attempting to placate the anti-fracking brigade – an increasing number of which are not only Tory voters but Tory MPs – have told us not to worry because fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites will only be allowed if Eric Pickles says so.
Since Pickles, the communities secretary, is prone to granting planning permissions for building houses on allotments and is turning down applications for wind and solar farms faster than you can say ‘renewable energy’, we should not feel reassured by this.
So what’s the link between freak weather and fracking? I know what you’re thinking. We’ve heard about the earthquakes, we’ve watched the clips of tap water igniting and seen the Matt Damon film with the poisoned water and the dead cows but no-one’s mentioned zombie hail. Isn’t that just scaremongering, Kate?
Well, no. Global weirding is, actually, a thing now (it was on Horizon!) though generally it refers to crazy, unprecedented weather rather than a plague of drooling undead. Polar freezes, heatwaves, violent storms, flooding – it’s all part of the volatile and extreme weather that is increasingly becoming a part of our changing climate and will become the norm in the years ahead.
And fracking? Let me quote you the man who was Britain’s own Special Representative for Climate Change to three successive UK Foreign Secretaries, spanning the current Coalition and the previous Labour Government. Sir John Ashton, CBE, spoke at the recent London debate for Talk Fracking chaired by Jon Snow, and said, ‘You can be in favour of fracking for shale gas, or you can be in favour of fixing the climate. But you can't be in favour of fracking for shale gas AND fixing the climate .’
He also said fracking wouldn’t bridge the gap between coal (the timeline doesn’t work) or reduce energy prices or provide long-term energy security, and he called fracking ‘politically fraudulent and economically, an illusion’. Strong words indeed from a former diplomat with 34 years’ service to Government behind him.
I’d take Sir John over Eric Pickles any day.
AT A LOCAL LEVEL, politicians in York seem mostly to get this, or at least to be more open to questioning the party lines on fracking (and, FYI, the national Labour Party is also in favour of drilling for shale gas, even supporting the government’s change to the trespass laws).
I attended the debate at the City of York Council meeting at the Guildhall on 17 July and spoke in favour of the petition by Frack-Free York, which had gathered over 2,000 signatures in total, calling for York to declare itself frack-free.
Regardless of the politics, there are issues to do with national planning regulations that make this difficult, but that doesn’t stop us taking a stand on the principle. What was interesting to see was that many councillors had reservations about fracking, too.
Perhaps it’s not surprising – fewer than one in four people are in favour of fracking in their community; it’s not a vote-winner for any party. A Defra consultation (also published on Monday) reported overwhelming opposition to it.
Fracking is not the future. It’s part of the apocalyptic endgame.