Fracking hell for Sussex?

I felt outraged when I heard that they are planning to explore for oil in Balcombe in Sussex, and that if successful they may consider fracking.

I have always been uncomfortable about the idea of fracking, not least because we really don’t need to find ways to extract more greenhouse-gas emitting fossil fuels. But although I was unhappy when I heard this was happening in the northwest, I felt furious about Balcombe.

Why the difference? Part of it is the NIMBY effect. Although Balcombe is definitely not my backyard – I live in south London – it is somewhere I know. But then I started thinking about how I know it. It is on the London to Brighton line, and just after the station the train goes over a viaduct with lovely views. So lovely that once I went on a circular walk from the station that took me under that viaduct. But it was only once and a long time ago. So in many ways Balcombe is more of an idea than a real place for me.

I think that this shows that the idea of places is as important sometimes as actually being there. Unspoilt wildernesses (which Balcombe certainly is not) need relatively small numbers of visitors if they are to stay unspoilt. But we can enjoy their existence without actually being there – and I don’t mean by watching television programmes, just by knowing they are there.

The other point is that the southeast is affluent and has relatively good employment. It probably doesn’t need the kind of jobs that fracking would bring, and the wages that it would pay (apart from a couple of consulting engineers) wouldn’t help anyone to buy a house nearby. So it does seem inappropriate.

If you think about how you feel about proposed developments, you will probably find a similar mix of logic and emotion. But since we are both logical and emotional beings, this just may be an appropriate response. 



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