Fracking has emerged as a new area of environmental confrontation, particularly in the UK and the US. On one side of the confrontation are environmental activists who are passionately attempting to stop fracking; on the other side are the businesses engaged in fracking and the government, which is subsidising their activities. In this article I outline how the fracking confrontation relates to my philosophical worldview.
In my books I outline the 'two' forces which are driving the evolution of human culture – the force to environmental destruction and the force to environmental sustainability. These two forces are represented by the two sides of the fracking confrontation:
· The force to environmental destruction – The businesses engaged in fracking, the government which is subsidising fracking, the millions of people who like to use lots of energy and like it to be as cheap as possible, and the transnational flows of technology and resources which cause governments to seek to be competitive on the ‘world stage’ (which requires utilising the latest technologies and having cheap energy costs for business).
· The force to environmental sustainability – Those people (individuals, groups, charities) who passionately believe that fracking is a bad thing because of potential environmentally deleterious consequences.
The force to environmental destruction is currently the dominant force in human culture; more than this, it is the underlying force which has driven the entire evolutionary progression of planetary life from simple beginnings billions of years ago to globalised technological society. It is an exceptionally powerful force. In contrast, the force to environmental sustainability is currently in its infancy; it is puny in comparison to the destructive force, it is weak but it will gradually grow in strength over time.
I should stress that these forces are just the workings of the universe as it gradually unfolds; there is no ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ involved in the forces. The force to environmental destruction is not ‘bad’ simply because it involves the word ‘destruction’. I could have used another phrase to refer to this same force; I could have called exactly the same force the force to planetary ecstasy, and this would be an equally appropriate name.
What does this mean when it comes to fracking? Well, the powerful force will be victorious. Fracking is already a major energy source in the US and it will become so in the UK. However, in some sense, talk of being ‘victorious’ misses the point. The environmental activists who are passionately opposing fracking should not be thought of as wasting their time. These activists, and the force to environmental sustainability of which they are a part, are a crucial part of the unfolding planet as it moves towards a more harmonious future. In the future, the Earth will be in a state where the two opposing forces (destruction/ecstasy and sustainability) are in a state of perfect balance (or to put it another way, the singular force will have fully matured). This state will only come about because of the growing strength of the force to environmental sustainability. In other words, despite losing the fracking confrontation, those who are passionate about the environment should continue to channel their energy into similar activities.
What I am saying here needs to be seen in the context of my wider philosophy. Environmental activists typically take a narrow view which focuses wholly on the effects of a singular activity. For example, a typical activist view would be: fracking is bad because it involves risks such as contamination of the water supply, air pollution, and geological destabilisation; it will also contribute to global warming. We can get our energy from safe and renewable resources; we have no need for fracking. My philosophy gives a wider perspective within which the human presence on the planet is a positive joyous one; this is because through the human species life on Earth is currently evolving itself a set of ‘technological armour’ which will ensure its future survival. Furthermore, our current use of fossil fuels is playing a major part in us fulfilling this objective of bringing forth the ‘technological armour’.
If one takes a narrow view then one can make a case that fracking is ‘bad’. However, if one takes the wider view then, if anything, fracking is ‘good’. In other words, the fact that the Earth has reached the stage in its evolutionary progression where life is using and deploying fracking technologies means that life is positively thriving. So, in one sense fracking is neither good nor bad (see paragraph six), and in another sense it is both good (a sign that the Earth is thriving) and bad (some local deleterious impacts).
There are dangers with all technologies – cars, guns, knives, helicopters, airplanes, trains, food processors, wind turbines (they kill lots of birds), drilling platforms and nuclear power stations. There have obviously been some very severe environmental impacts resulting from technology in the past. Given this, it is not surprising that people protest against new technologies, whether this is genetically modified food, nuclear power or fracking. It is also not surprising that many people often believe that the dangers of new technologies are more extreme than they actually are; a fear of the unknown can be a healthy thing.
The fracking debate is symptomatic of the wider relationship between the human species and the planet. The human species is that part of life which has become technological; it is the bringer forth of technology, the saviour of life. Having this pivotal place in the evolutionary unfolding of the planet is not necessarily a desirable one. Humans can suffer terribly as a consequence of being the technological animal; they suffer mentally (Why I am here? How can I be happy? Why did my friend have to die at such a young age?), and they suffer because of the dangers of technology itself. In the UK the fracking industry has to comply with high safety standards in order to prevent harmful environmental impacts. Despite this it is certain that fracking will be the source of suffering for some humans and non-humans (even if this is just due to the machinery being an eyesore and/or noise pollution); this is one of the reasons why people feel that they need to take part in fracking protests. This suffering is a local phenomenon, it affects individuals and local communities; at the national level there is no suffering but there are great benefits. This microcosmic example is analogous to the larger reality of the human presence on the planet; humans suffer in order to help the Earth move to a greater state of ecstasy.