Why funding for fracking hurts indigenous communities and what you can do about it

I literally cannot wrap my head around this: the UK is planning to invest £1bn finance meant for green energy to support major oil companies such as BP and Shell to frack for shale in Argentina.

This money won’t just damage the environment and line the pockets of companies who are some of the worst polluters in the world, but it will only serve to further damage the ancestral homeland of Argentina’s indigenous Mapuche people.

An oil fire burned for more than three weeks next to a freshwater lake in Vaca Muerta earlier this year and the ongoing use of the site for fracking is putting the local community in danger, according to reports.

This couldn’t be a clearer example of environmental injustice and a second wave of consumption-led colonialism: the poor global south suffer while the white west prosper.

I can’t read something like this and not feel angry.

People might read this and think ‘Well she’s prospering from a capitalist society and she’s white – if she has a problem with it she shouldn’t drive a car or use electricity anymore’.

Yes, you could argue that but its a moot point and unreasonable. There are individual actions we can take.

I drive a hybrid electric car for what it’s worth and walk as much as I can.

But these alone won’t rein in a beast as big as the fossil fuel industry.

We need real political leadership and the infrastructure to support a more carbon neutral economy that’s less reliant on fossil fuels.

We need to make sure all of this is done along equal terms in the name of greater environmental justice, so it doesn’t just benefit the rich.

So how can we reach that goal?

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Greater inclusion. We need to include indigenous groups and those most affected by climate change, such as the Mapuche people, to a seat at the table 
  2. Stop investment in fossil fuels. Surely the most obvious solution but apparently comes with risks of its own. Green energy must be regulated to ensure it is really green.
  3. Roll out large scale carbon capture and storage. Oil companies apparently have the expertise to trap and bury the C02 from fossil fuel burning but it’s not deployed at scale, because the commercial incentive simply does not exist. Yet ironically, without this action the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says tackling the climate crisis will be a hell of a lot more expensive.
  4. Put a price on carbon. Controversial, although it would help provide a much-needed commercial incentive. It would need proper regulation to ensure there are no economic losers.
  5. End fossil fuel subsidies. I didn’t know this but the coal, gas and oil industries benefit from $5tn dollars a year according to the International Monetary Fund.  According to the Guardian, even direct consumption subsidies for fossil fuels are double those for renewables. This means your taxes are effectively helping destroy the world. That’s powerful stuff. Not in my name.
  6. Put climate on the ballot paper, so that politicians feel this is a priority for their electorate. How will they know you don’t want your taxes going to fossil fuel companies if you don’t vote.

Some of these ideas take huge guts on the behalf of governments to act, but they can be motivated by the strength of public opinion.

It’s easy to feel powerless, but for the sake of the planet and the sake of environmental justice we need to keep sharing those petitions, protesting and raising our voice.

We owe it to people such as the Mapuche.

What are the ways you think we can rein in the fossil fuel industry and achieve environmental justice? Let me know in the comments below.


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