I may be mistaken, but I think in England we are on the brink of doing something really bad, from which there will be no way back.
If you live in England you will probably know that fracking sites are proposed for well over half the country. The first one, at Balcombe in West Sussex, should be starting drilling soon. This is at present being delayed by staunch and substantial anti-fracking protest at Balcombe; it reminds me strongly of the protest at Greenham Common.
Fracking, whether for gas or oil, is short for 'fracturing'. There's a good explanation of it here.
The basic deal is that, to release the gas or oil deposits, chemicalised water is forced into places deep in the earth. This involves poisoning the waters in the aquifers, which means water we could have accessed for drinking will become poisonous.
When I wrote to members of our Hastings council about this matter, I was assured that no fracking sites have been identified for 'our area'. But when it comes to the aquifers, the air, the rivers, Balcombe in West Sussex is our area. Airborne gas respects no county or borough boundaries. Even so, if this is the only means of communicating to the UK civic authorities that we care about this, adding our voices to the protest here is the least we can do.
Here in the South East of England we have just received a leaflet from our water authority, explaining that we are still in serious water shortage - semi-drought - conditions. All of us soon will be having metered water to encourage us to use less, and the leaflet reminds us of a number of ways we can all use water responsibly, to make it go further and alleviate drought.
Fracking is a very thirsty process. Not only does it necessitate poisoning (not for a brief temporary period but long-term) water we could have accessed for drinking, but it also requires millions of gallons of water to run the heavy machinery.
They have a fracking plant in Texas, in an area already challenged by extremely arid conditions. Here's the result.
Of course fracking, whether for oil or gas, and also oil extracted from tar sands and piped away, will affect the air and the land as well as the water. Read here about some of the implications for rural America. You'll notice that ExxonMobil is one of the firms behind fracking in America. Exxon have been extracting oil from tar sands too. Read about the effects of their work here.
Of course, at least initially fracking will be done in the countryside. There would be too much of an outcry if towns and roads were spoiled to dig up the area and drill for gas. So there will be a need to cut down more woodland. And of course, one of the many benefits of trees is that they slow down the movement of water through the landscape, protecting us against both drought and floods.
Fracking is what's called a 'dirty technology'. The benefits are not great and the pollution and damage is massive. The cost in terms of the wellbeing of the Earth is huge for the commodity we produce.
It shouldn't need much explaining for it to be clear to you that the consequences of all this are sombre indeed. But the urgency and importance of it is made clear in this article about Earth Overshoot Day.
Our life is good. Our family runs a car, we have a gas boiler for the winter months (our summertime water is heated by solar tubes on the roof). But I would be more than willing to have our government insist we stop using gas and oil forever and just do without it, rather than seek fresh supplies this way. I look at the people walking around our neighbourhood, ordinary people, parents with little kids in tow, old folks struggling along slowly with walking frames, many immigrants, many who are very poor. And I try to imagine what will happen if, just as the government is cutting assistance to people living with disability, fracking in West Sussex gives us here in East Sussex breathing difficulties nausea, asthma. I try to imagine us turning on the tap to find the water is gone, ordered to let our gardens die because the fracking machinery needs the water, watching our dairy cattle and sheep in the meadows sicken and die because the rivers are poisoned, seeing our orchards perish because the land had been sucked dry and a secret cocktail of lethal chemicals blasted into the deep earth.
Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, is firmly in favour of fracking, saying it will make only a tiny difference to the English countryside. He says "We must make the case that fracking is safe. International evidence shows there is no evidence why fracking should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated." Hmm.
Once this Pandora's Box has been opened, there will be no stuffing back inside what we have unleashed. In my soul, to the very depths, is such a dread of the future we are creating, such a grieving for the Earth, for the rivers, the hills, the wild creatures, the trees. This is not the road of blessing.