Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Damien Short (SAS University of London)
At the time when international reports highlight the urgency of climate change action on the global scale, many communities worldwide are struggling with the effects of new fossil fuel extraction projects. Chief among them are unconventional hydrocarbon developments which tap into the previously inaccessible deposits of oil and gas such as shale gas. Exploration and extraction of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has many varied impacts such as: land use changes, increased traffic, economic benefits and community disruption. It also contributes to climate change through the emission of carbon dioxide and methane from its operations as well as the eventual burning of the extracted gas. However, the impact of fracking on climate change is not only physical, but also social.
Fracking is a way of living toward climate change. Building on almost four years of ethnographic research into the impacts of fracking in the UK, we analyse shale gas developments as a social construction of value embedded in the day-to-day workings of resource environments. As such, fracking is actively restructuring social and political relations at different levels in an effort to adapt corporate hegemony to the changing climate. At the same time, local communities engage in new forms of organisation and practice as an alternative to the dynamics of the corporate state. In this presentation, we want to attend to the inherent tension between egalitarian/democratic and hierarchical/authoritarian potentials of climate change action as it is being refracted through the social dynamics surrounding fracking in the UK.