What we learned this week

Three activists have been sentenced to jail for holding up a convoy of fracking equipment. The last time anyone was jailed for an environmental protest was 1932, so this is a sinister development.

A good practical campaign from 10:10 this week – onshore wind power was blocked in Britain after a letter from 100 MPs. So 10:10 have done some polling in the relevant constituencies, and found that 74% of people in them support wind power. Check the list to see if your MP is one of the wind-breakers, and write to ask them to reflect the voters’ views. All the details here.

If you’re a vegan in hospital, school or in prison, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be catered for. The Vegan Society are calling for a vegan option on every public sector menu. If you’re not a vegan yourself, sign it for your friends who are.

The book’s not out until the New Year, but it’s nice to see it being discussed already over at The Alternative.

This week I’ve been reading the news from Ghanaweb, which has been great for taking in a wide range of stories from around Africa.  Next week I’ll read the New Straits Times out of Malaysia.


  1. Hello Jeremy

    not sure if you know, but in Queensland, fracking has poisoned the water.

    famers light a match to their water and it is on fire; the gas is leeching through the water and burns like a gas stove top

    it appears that the water is on fire

    the water is poisoned and cannot be drunk by people or stock

    no wonder people are going to jail over fracking; these people know it is a dreadful mining technique

    very sad state of affairs when people with knowledge are sent to jail

    best wishes to you for your work


    PS MOTT are working to build the biggest in the ocean wind farm ever. near Taiwan I think.


    1. The government are convinced that those sorts of incidents are from doing fracking badly, and that if we do it better we can avoid contaminating drinking water. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, and a lot of people wouldn rather not run the experiment.

  2. Are you suggesting that the judge gave sentences that are harsher than they would’ve been if this wasn’t an environmental case? If not I fail to see how this is ‘sinister’. I think you should be careful before impugning the judge and the legal system like that. It’s not like there is some deep state collusion to imprison these people.

    1. If someone goes to prison for the first time for something, it’s worth asking why. It sets a new precedent, and that’s important. Secondly, we have the right to peaceful protest in Britain, so we have to ask what was different in this case. (The offence was public nuisance, so holding up traffic seems to be the main answer here)

      Then we have to look at fracking in its broader context. Only England is pursuing it, and the government has given itself the power to overrule local planning authorities. In this case Lancashire had said no, the government said yes. When the state then acts to quash protests against those undemocractic acts, I’d call it a sinister development.

      And finally, we have to question the sentencing. 16 months?

      1. If your first crime is serious enough you go to prison. The why is that this was serious.

        You have a right to peaceful protest but if you break the law you have to do so accepting the consequences. Trenton Oldfield was jailed for 6 months in 2012 for causing a public nuisance during the boat race. This occasion was more serious. It was much longer lasting ( blocking a public road for 4 days is serious) and the defendants showed no remorse, in fact are at high risk of reoffending. So a longer jail term seems appropriate. They can appeal the sentence and we will then see if a higher court thinks it excessive.

        Are you really saying that it should be one law for environmental protesters and one for those who have different motivations? I’d say demanding softer treatment for those you politically agree with is actually truly sinister.

        Justitia is normally represented as blindfolded since the law should be applied without fear or favour, it doesn’t put crimes in ‘a broader context’ given the scope for abuse by politically motivated governments and judges (Imagine a Corbyn appointed judge clearing some Class War thugs of threatening behaviour against a Tory because of the broader context of capitalist oppression or some such).

        You can give me the actual legal reasons and precedents why this was excessive or you can take the tin foil hat off and stop implying that the judge was somehow corruptly not applying the law correctly which is all I can infer from your assertion this is ‘sinister’.

  3. Calm down – corruption, special treatment, state collusion – these are your words, not mine. And I have very good taste in hats, tin foil or otherwise.

    Sure, to a certain extent it’s a matter of applying the law and I’m not blaming the judge. The end outcome is the symbolic nadir in a whole sequence of bad decisions (probably including some from the protestors), beginning with a government set on fracking when the broader public is against it, and prepared to overrule democratic processes to get it done. The government’s commitment to fracking at any cost has now put people behind bars, and I don’t like what it says about us as a country right now.

    John Sauven from Greenpeace sums it up well: “Peaceful protest is the safety-valve of a healthy democracy. It allows ordinary people to protect their health, families and homes from harm when all other safeguards have failed. It’s a strange society that massively rewards those responsible for causing more climate change while putting those trying to stop it in jail. Ministers have changed laws, taken away homeowners’ rights and distorted the planning process to make way for the shale industry, yet it’s four peaceful protesters that get punished for climbing on a lorry.”

    1. Yet again its down to language. Sinister’s meaning from the OED (ignoring its heraldic one) is “Giving the impression that something harmful or evil is happening or will happen; Evil or criminal”. You labelled a judgement harmful,evil or criminal. You have heard of contempt of court. If you didn’t mean that then use the right word. You’re the writer.

      Greepeace (and you) are seeking to minimise the actions of these protestors. They didn’t just ‘climb on a lorry’. They blocked a public road for 4 days causing severe disruption for people not involved in fracking. They did so knowingly and have no remorse and would do so again. If they don’t think what they were prepared to break the law to protest isn’t important enough to acept the consequences then they shouldn’t protest. If they do then they should take their punishment and not whine that nice middle class people like them should have special treatment.

      Or are you saying any protestor can block a road for 4 days without threat of imprisonment. How about anti-wind turbine protestors? Father’s 4 Justice? The BNP? The law has to apply equally, you don’t get to claim your virtue puts you above it.

      1. Was it your road they blocked? You seem very worked up about it.

        I think the way due process has been undermined to push fracking is sinister – yes, sinister – ie harmful to democracy and to communities. Something harmful is happening, the culmination of which, this week, is these convictions.

        It’s not difficult.

        1. Look at that shift, rather than defending your saying the court verdict is sinister, you try to claim you were saying it was the governments planning laws that were sinister. No dice.

          These sentences are the culmination of people who thought that their claimed virtue would save them from the consequences of their actions. You break the law, you take your punishment. They would have done this whatever planning process had approved it. The Public Nuisance laws aren’t sinister.

          The rule of law is deeply important, not something that applies to little people who aren’t in a virtue circle.

          1. I stand by everything I’ve written. I’m just trying to explain why I think this incident is worthy of note, and why it represents a new low.

            Fracking activists get arrested all the time – 350 so far at this particular site. Given the right to peaceful protest, it’s very rare for someone to get charged unless they damage something. Public nuisance is unusual in this context since there are specific charges for obstruction of a highway, which is what they did. Furthermore, activists found guilty in a court usually get a fine or community service. A prison sentence is unheard of since 1932. So something has changed here – and activists worry that it’s a deliberate clamp-down. If so, I suspect it will have the opposite effect and radicalise people instead.

            What I’m arguing isn’t difficult to understand, and neither is it controversial. If I was saying the things you keep accusing me of saying – of wanting special treatment for people I agree with, or that the rule of law is unimportant – then it would be. But those are your words, not mine.

            As it happens, an open letter signed by over 1,000 academics was published since I wrote this post, asking for a parliamentary enquiry into a ‘dangerous precedent’ and ‘absurdly harsh’ sentencing. They’re going to be more influencial than I am, so if you want to stand up for the rule of law and the right to frack the countryside, I suggest you go and argue with them instead: bit.ly/openletterUK

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