Category Archives: health

How Organic Food is a contrick

A concept used by some for ideal food is LOAF i.e. Local,. Organic ,Animal friendly and Fair Trade.  Organic becomes contentious and this blog of David Zaruk explains why. (I did not write it but like it)

How Organic is a marketing concept

Rickmonger is Dr David Zaruk a prof at a Belgian Univ  https://risk-monger.com/about-2/

https://risk-monger.com/2017/08/04/how-organic-is-a-marketing-concept/

For almost two decades, the Risk-Monger and others have held the belief that scientific facts, data and evidence were sufficient for rational decision-making. In the case of the rise in public demand for organic food, he was foolishly wrong and quite tragically Stupid. Facts don’t matter in our decision-making process (although we all agree they should), emotions do. And when we come to emotions, we are in the domain of marketing, not scientific facts.

Using scientific data to address the emotional messages crafted by the marketing geniuses from the organic lobby is like bringing a knife to a gun-fight. The organic lobby has slaughtered science and common sense on agri-tech with their marketing machine, expensive campaigns and networks of special interests filling the well-funded troughs with their brands, referral fees and sponsorship deals.

Definition note. I use the term: “organic industry lobby” to include interest groups dictating and defining organic. Lobby groups like IFOAM and OCA (which funds USRTK and many anti-industry campaigners), NGOs like PAN, FoE or CFS, Internet generators like SumOfUs, label bodies like Non-GMO Project, Trojan Horse organisations like Moms Across America or GM Watch, funding foundations like Rodale or Cliff Family, internet gurus, activist scientists, retailers and organic brands (most usually led by outspoken “philanthropists”). Often I hear organic farmers and advocates correct me that these groups do not represent “organic”, but rarely do they stand up and speak out against their lobby’s unethical marketing practices.

This week I released a summer series of memes on twitter to illustrate how the organic industry is built on a number of basic marketing concepts. People on social media often talk about “organic” merely being a marketing label, but I have never read an analysis of which marketing tools they use. These six concepts are by no means the only tools used by organic industry marketing experts, but they are standard tools taught in schools. As you read through the sections, ask yourself if there is anything to organic food other than a series of slick marketing tricks. I asked myself that and have drawn a blank.

As you read through the sections, ask yourself if there is anything to organic food other than a series of slick marketing tricks.

1 fear1. Marketers use fear to sell

Hands up: Who wants to eat toxic chemicals?

Most people will spend more on organic food to avoid pesticides or chemicals. A UK survey stated that 95% of consumers choose organic to avoid exposure to (conventional) pesticides. This was the motive behind the Swedish retailer, the Coop, with their chemical-free “Organic Effect” campaign (since ruled by a Swedish court to be false advertising forbidding the Coop to continue to make such claims). Marketers merely have to mutter: “chemicals in your body” and frightened consumers run to their wallets.

Marketing organic is overly built on fears and doomsday scenarios. In the last month, like most of the months before, we have been told the following:

  • that biodiversity and the agricultural system is on the verge of collapse,
  • that humanity will go extinct from pesticide influence on the endocrine system,
  • that autism will soon affect half of our children.

There is no reasonable evidence provided for any of these claims; the mass repetition on social media is justification enough. Other daily doses of fears on the threat from conventional farming include: bees, water, biodiversity, cancer, obesity … and, of course, climate change. Need I also add corporate domination of the food chain, particularly by a company that begins with an M (which apparently I troll for!)?

Few people ask whether organic (non-GM) farming actually is better for health, biodiversity, bees, pesticide reduction… Why? Well the scientists with the evidence are not marketing alternative products; the companies with the data have ethical codes of conduct that restrict them from openly assaulting competitors’ products; and people want to believe organic is better (a fear is only effective if there is an antidote). Whenever the Risk-Monger tries to show these marketing experts are full of shit, he gets a load dumped on him!

cachet2. Marketers create a false perception of  luxury

Whether it is a designer label, a technology trinket, a gourmet burger or a sleek logo, the marketing sweet spot has always been associating your brand or product with a perception of quality or luxury.

Organic food carries a cachet of being better: better taste, better nutrients, better quality, better for you, for the environment and for biodiversity. None of these perceptions are true by the way (see links) but this perception of being better implies that the consumer who buys organic is better. The price for organic food is mostly not justified (any more than an iPhone or Burberry trench coat price is justified), but is often a luxury levy for the organic label. Chains like Whole Foods do well with the increased margins, but their price gouging does hurt the overall image of organic food.

Organic’s marketing message is clear: conventional food is cheap, unhealthy and toxic. You and your family are worth more; the planet is worth more. The message is clear: organic is smug. It doesn’t help that the organic lobby has embraced elites and celebrities to speak on their behalf.

3 star power3. Get your product star-struck

Of course any luxury brand gets its cachet from the star power it generates. Marketers have known this simple equation since the early James Bond films. Not since the glory days of tobacco advertising has the marketing world seen anything like the golden carpet the organic lobby has laid out for celebrities having grown tired of remembering their lines. The rush for pixie dust has allowed B-listers like Paltrow, Alba, Cox and Hurley to profit handsomely from putting their names on organic operations.  It is a win-win. Today a celebrity needs a “cause”, and standing up for the organic lobby is righteous enough without the need to get your hands dirty. All it takes is a few lines in front of a camera!

We all aspire to be like the famous, to be “Like Mike”, and we are willing to pay for it. Given the number of small, emerging organic food brands, a simple endorsement from a celebrity is enough to bring a hitherto unknown brand into the mainstream with shelf-space. It is not uncommon for these small brands to pay celebrities in part-ownership of the companies: more product placements, more shareholder profits.

If you are a typical celebrity, with all the personal quirks, then promoting organic brands is a lot safer than identifying yourself with other environmental causes. You can still fly on private jets, check into rehab (Hey! That even offers more marketing opportunities with a new ‘detox’ line!) – hell, you can even wear fur! And once the organic lobby sniffs that a star may drift towards the foodie side, they handle all the coms … and they never impose ethical expectations or codes of conduct!

The organic lobby has also created their own home-grown star power (Vani, Dr Merc, Zen, Ranger Mike and the Avocado can move millions and product referral fees pay handsomely. Mamavation even organises an event called Shiftcon which helps emerging bloggers to network and find organic industry reps who will support them (a mutual “wellness” exchange!).

4 simple4. It’s all about feeling good

Consumption is based on our need to feel good about ourselves, and those choosing organic (more natural, fewer inputs) are told to feel wonderful about themselves. The organic lobby has presented an image of benign consumption with clear simple messages: Buy local, from small farmers, chemical-free, all-natural, less waste, sustainable …

Activists who engage with me on social media want to let me know how they are solving all of the world’s problems with simple solutions: organic roof gardens, getting homeless people to work in urban gardens, saving seeds, organic food banks, school lunch contributions, fighting industry domination … These are little solutions, however, to big problems. They are promoted with a religious zeal by opportunists who understand that complex debates have no marketing value. Of course we can feed the world with organic, we just need to stop food waste and build more roof gardens! Stupid Risk-Monger!!!

Scientists addressing these problems with agri-tech solutions are attacked as being the source of the problem. GMOs don’t work! Get industry out and let the little farmers feed the world. Stop pumping poisons into the soil and these farms will flourish. Stupid Risk-Monger!!!

Science looks at all possible solutions and decides on the best approach to take. If organic or agroecology provided a better solution, it will be accepted. Agroecology does not consider all solutions … only the organic ones (sorry, but in my books, that is the definition of a religion, not a science). That makes the message simple and clear – exactly what organic lobby marketers want. And if a pro-organic scientist cannot find the facts or data to back up what he wants to say, no problem. Just say: “I guess we just have to trust our intuition at times. I’ve met many people who say they just feel better eating organic foods — or foods that are sprayed less often.”

Science looks at all possible solutions and decides on the best approach to take. If organic or agroecology provided a better solution, it will be accepted. Agroecology does not consider all solutions … only the organic ones (sorry, but in my books, that is the definition of a religion, not a science).

5 narrative5. Follow the Cultural Narrative

Our cultural and social narratives define how we perceive the world, order the stories we tell and structure our values. Narratives don’t have to be true or factual but simply trusted (and trust is emotion-based). A dominant cultural narrative in many affluent countries is that products coming from nature are good (and that which is man-made is suspect). Recently this has led to a growing negative public perception of conventionally grown produce, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and vaccines. The more Western societies are relying on technological advances, the less consumers understand or trust them.

Marketers are not in the business of educating consumers with science and data. Their goal is to sell more and satisfy consumer wants. If the narrative defines these wants as being nature-based then the marketing gurus will put some ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ label on the product.

pinkunicornBrands do not have a moral imperative to do what is right; they have a fiduciary imperative to their shareholders to do what is profitable. Marketers simply take whatever narrative is widely accepted, and fashion a campaign around it. So if your society’s narrative convinces you that invisible pink unicorns grow organic salt, brand marketing experts will put a picture of a cute unicorn on the package. More than that, they will develop a religious fervour around unicorns to ensure you keep buying their salt.

Intensive marketing of products around an illogical narrative will reinforce it and insulate consumers from rational discourse. It took several generations to get mothers to return to breastfeeding and today the stigma still resonates. The more companies, brands and retailers promote high-margin organic food brands as attainable luxuries, the more the stigma of conventional farming will spread. I fear this marketing episode will take more than a generation to return the narrative to a rational balance, and with a growing global population, I am not sure the food chain can survive such a prolonged stretch of Stupid. Lives will be lost (… but not those involved in the market research studies!).

While the narrative shift towards organic and natural has created enormous marketing opportunities, without any scientific guidance, it has also led to significant societal risk. Some examples: Pepsi has started promoting soft-drinks with traditional (natural or real) sugars; Chipotle has grown beyond the capacity of a safe, organic supply chain. I cannot fathom the depth of depravity of snake-oil supplements salesmen like Joseph Mercola or Wayne Parent who invest heavily in spreading the narrative mischief that underlines their bottom line. The most blatant marketing offender though has been Cargill, who recognise that the anti-GMO science is wrong, but, with zero integrity, spot the market opportunity of the growing cultural narrative and are working with the activists to take over the organic supply chain.  Pepsi is not responsible for the rise in obesity levels (or the environmental damage of increased sugar cane production), nor is Chipotle responsible for growing public distrust in the food chain, and it seems Cargill will not be accountable for serious stresses in global food security and potential famines.

6 You Suck6. You Suck!

The key marketing trick is to convince the consumer that he or she sucks. Shame, (fear of) humiliation and peer inadequacy are key tricks for motivating consumption. If you don’t buy my expensive fashion label, use my high-end mobile phone, eat in this expensive gourmet hamburger joint or drive the right type of car, well, You Suck!

Nobody wants to be a bad parent, bad boyfriend, bad person so the solution is to buy an overpriced product, shop at the Organic Emporium, wear trendy clothes from Goop, get designer nappies from Honest … please spend all of your money to finally be someone. Otherwise, … You Suck! (Ironically, I developed this idea from an early piece from the head of Greenpeace America, Annie Leonard.)

Organic retailers like Whole Foods Market create an aspirational brand – a smug: “You’ve made it and can afford what is good for you and your family!”. A Belgian Bio-Planet supermarket (equivalent to Whole Foods in its elitist foodie pretentiousness) is on my running route, and each time I pass, I can’t help but count the number of Beemers and Mercs in the car-park (strangely, no bicycles). What sort of person who could afford a luxury lifestyle would not then pop a couple thousand extra a year for luxury food? Only one who sucks!

Mamavation and Moms Across America are the most unethical exploiters of this marketing trick, aiming at the marketer’s sweet spot: the guilt-prone mother. When Mamavation published its smug Top 10 Reasons to Feed Your Family Organic (let’s face it, only a bad mother would not!), I lost it and wrote my Top 20 reasons not to feed your family organic. I was not prepared for the positive reaction that blog received from people who were fed up with the condescending nature of these marketing experts.

What the organic lobby has done so brilliantly is turn the “You Suck!” nuclear option back on the brands and retailers themselves. Just Label It and USRTK tell brands that if they use GMOs or don’t put GMO-free on the label, then their consumer movement will reject the brand or company. Vani Hari, The Food-Babe, used “You Suck!” to cower chains like Subway and McDonald’s to fall in line to her organic simplicity. Recently, the Organic Consumer Association used their patsy in the New York Times to try to “greenmail” Ben & Jerry’s to go all organic. Until now, Unilever are resisting the “You Suck!” pressure tactics.

Even more interesting is how the organic lobby has made divisiveness core to their campaigns. Without any ethical codes of conduct, organic lobbyists are fighting dirty, attacking anyone who disagrees with them, labeling them Monsanto shills (the ultimate sucking!) and portraying conventional farmers as evil capitalists poisoning the planet. If you don’t farm organic, then You Suck! If you support science and agri-tech, then you’re a shill and … yes, … You Suck!

Apparently I suck so bad that quite regularly some pro-organic actor wishes me dead on twitter.  I suppose this blog isn’t going to make that go away.

I had mentioned at the start that there were other marketing tools that the organic lobby uses. For example, our yearning for the good ol’ days (nostalgia) is very effective. How often do you see superficial memes reminding us that all agriculture used to be organic? The organic farmer is often portrayed as an old, friendly man with a straw-hat (as opposed to the conventional farmer in a hazmat suit).
Every marketing textbook will tell you that sex sells and a goal in making your product attractive. Sex is used as a marketing tool by the organic lobby (but not as much as one would anticipate). Besides the obvious efforts of Vani Hari’s Food Babe character, Rodale and Cliff have been trying to show how an organic life leads to better sex.

The Risk-Monger has Hope

I know, I know, … “hope” is a pathetic straw clutched by losers still in the game … but I need something to fuel these lonely, late night writing sessions!

I cannot see any intrinsic value to promoting organic food (note this blog did not get into the negative consequences, of which there are many), which implies that the organic lobby has used superficial marketing tricks alone to grow their business. Ironically, this is good news long term (although history will judge the present period as pathetically stupid).

Building your house on the marketing concepts discussed above is not a sound business decision. While scientific facts, evidence and data are reliable for long-term planning, fear and emotion are not. People may wake up tomorrow and realise that the arguments and tricks these marketers built up are quite hollow, ethically-challenged or, simply put, scams. Consumers may see the elitist privilege behind the labels and look for other meaningful brand identification. Or the supply chain may struggle under the weight of such marketing success, leaving retailers and manufactures to race to find alternative marketing tools (remember “organic cotton”?).

The rise of Big Organic, its marketing muscle and its regulatory influence has been impressive. Social media in the Age of Stupid, combined with the affluence of western societies persuading people to fear commerce and industry, has allowed this new consumer sector to flourish. Such a tower built on sand can, however, collapse in a heart-beat … and then what?

In the autumn, I will publish a series of blogs providing an alternative to the mess these marketers have forced upon us. The solution will not be more science and facts however … but more clever marketing tricks.

Yes, indeed, The Risk-Monger sucks!

 

GMOS and science, money, and fake news

 

Some Greens have several shibboleths; usually  pro-organic, anti certain pesticides and glyphosphate and most certainly anti-GMO. (I forgot renewables and fracking)

To focus on GMOs many Green GMOs , like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth oppose them. As do the Green Party.

As a Christian I am concerned that they also are a shibboleth for Christian Greens and groups like Christian Aid. Eco-congregation encourage you to oppose, and as I don’t like people starving to death I don’t do Eco-congregation

GMO EU action

Typical Greenpeace fake news

GMOdeaths

Black humour on the lack of danger of GMOs

NonGMO salt

This sums it all up. But I take non-GMO salt with a pinch of salt.

 

Well, here is a good article on the subject, based on the film Food Evolution

Source: Food Evolution documentary looks at science, money, and fake news around GMOs | PLOS Synthetic Biology Community

Food Evolution aims to take a look at the science underlying the heated rhetoric of the GMO debate. Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy, narrator Neil deGrasse Tyson and on-camera experts walk through the major claims and key players. While the documentary tries to communicate the science, it also realizes that the GMO debate isn’t just about the science. It’s about financial interests, fear, and fake news.

Follow the money

The financial interests in GMOs, and GM foods in particular, are enormous. We’re talking about the food supply of billions of people and some of the biggest brand names in the world. On the GMO side sits one of the most hated brands in the world, Monsanto. Food Evolution talks about their history producing harmful pesticides like DDT and the infamous herbicide Agent Orange. Crowds of people rally against the company and at one point even singing “Monsanto is the devil” in a church choir style.

When the documentary looks beyond the United States, we see countries dealing with the fear of GMOs against the real threat of crop shortages. In Uganda, farmers watch as fields of banana trees are lost to the “Ebola of the banana” called banana wilt. We meet the scientist who has to explain how the new GM banana gets its banana wilt resistance from sweet pepper genes and how the government has to act to let the technology move forward. Then one of the farmers has to explain to her that others “think your work is against humanity”. This is the result of anti-GMO messaging being pushed across the globe.

There’s big money to be made from both sides of the GMO debate. Obviously companies like Monsanto have been derided for their profits while selling GM crops. but Food Evolution also gets into the financial incentives of the anti-GMO side. Companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle can build their brand as a healthy and all natural by demonizing the GMO products. Millions are spent on ad campaigns to make things sound healthier, even if there are no studies to back it up. Making GMO foods sound scary gives an advantage to the products with the no GMO sticker on them and more profits to places like Whole Foods.

Fear still wins a lot of arguments

The biggest tool that anti-GMO activists use is fear. Genetically modifying sounds like something from a poorly written supervillain. Inserting more uncertainty into the discussion helps bolster the argument for sticking with traditional agriculture. While scientists want to see multiple studies supporting a claim, activists interviewed in the film were more than willing to stake claims based on one study even if it’s later refuted. The argument goes that any chance that the study is right puts a risk on us. One speaker even instill the fear in parents of giving their children diseases by having fed them GMO or non-organic foods. No parent wants to feel that there’s any chance they may have given their child cancer.

Environmental activist Mark Lynas knows from experience that fear is a more effective tool than facts. He used to be an anti-GMO activist and is still active in raising awareness about threats from climate change. Upon researching the science he found the anti-GMO position on shaky ground and the climate change position with the scientific consensus. However, his tools for convincing people and motivating change remained largely the same.

“It’s much easier to scare people that it is to reassure them” ~Mark Lynas in Food Evolution

Arguments based on fear can sound convincing regardless of how sound the underlying facts are. Food Evolution pokes holes in many anti-GMO arguments but does find partial truths in some of their arguments. The trick is to take partial truths and uncertainty and dress them up as science. On the consumer end, it’s difficult to discern the validity of sources and scientific claims.

GMO science has its own fake news problem

Fake news knows more than most that fear is one of our most motivating factors. Fear sells because it drives ratings on TV and clicks online. Like fake news in other areas, the stories are driven by viral content regardless of its accuracy.

In the GMO debate there’s a narrative that genetically engineering crops brings threats that are totally non-existent in traditional breeding and farming. As anti-GMO activist Zen Honyecutt puts it, “Organic food is the way God made it”. These scenes with Honeycutt and other activists aren’t flattering when juxtaposed with the scientific evidence that humans have been changing crops since the dawn of agriculture. That doesn’t mean they’re not effective in clickbait headlines.

Some information can avoid being completely false while still being misleading. A major chunk of the film is devoted to the back and forth over the use of the herbicide glyphosate, commonly called Roundup. Plants engineered to be resistant to glyphosate–Roundup Ready crops–have lead to the increased use of  glyphosate since it now only kills weeds without harming the crop. This has lead to the increase in glyphosate in our food supply and environment. However, it’s significantly less toxic than the pesticide DDT or other herbicides. In fact, by some standards it’s rated less toxic than caffeine. The argument over GMOs and glyphosate usage hinges on what our alternative is. Are we willing or able to drastically reduce yields without an herbicide? Or do we go back to the more toxic versions? We rarely get to these questions as it’s much harder to settle a common understanding of the facts.

So what do we do now?

The film acknowledges that science and facts aren’t enough to change people’s minds. There are no clear answers here on how to convince the skeptical public. The scene at an Intelligence Squareddebate in which the GMO side wins shows that it may be possible to convince an audience of people with open minds, but it certainly doesn’t show you how to change the mind of those who have already dug in with a position. It might however give you some science-based answers to your GMO questions.

Food Evolution’s distribution is now being handled by Abramorama with a planned New York release of June 23 and select cities after that. See the trailer and more movie info at www.foodevolutionmovie.com.

Aaron Dy is PhD student in Biological Engineering at MIT.

Fracking doesn’t damage your health: an impartial study

Anyone who has heard of fracking will have heard of horror stories of ill-health caused by fracking, summed up by Dame Vivienne Westwood’s shocking doll, supposedly showing the effects of fracking on new-borns.

(NB This is NOT Westwood 🙂 )

frackedbaby

Or the scaremongering of Friends of the Earth, who could not prove their claims. Poor Bosworth got tied in knots on BBC TV.fracking-sand

 

and the grossly misleading signs outside Maple Farm at Cuadrilla’s site in Lancashire

dscf6015

Dishonest memes resulting from usual Guardian reporting

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This nonsense

CaJVbzFWEAgmsif

or these two Nanas afraid of getting cancer

Frackingsmoking

This type of scaremongering is the staple of anti-frackers in Britain and America.

It comes out in the newsletter of the Chartered Inst of Environmental Health in this article by the recently arrested Gina Dowding

Green view: the 10 ways fracking ‘may harm your health’

Gina Dowding

 

http://www.ehn-online.com/news/article.aspx?id=13110

2

She includes this picture of close oil wells not realising that gas uses christmas trees not donkeys and wells are not closely packed. Tut tut.

10. Inadequate regulation

 

Her stuff on regulations seems to be nicked from Mike Hill

Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

and so this report from the USA helps to counteract these silly myths.

It points out how weak the actual claims are, and that the increased health risks are either non-existent or minimal.

Quite a few of these pee(r) reviewed papers by academics have had to be withdrawn.

This does science no good at all.

If you want a longer report here is one; http://eidhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Positive-Health-Compendium.pdf

So here we go.

 

 

Environmental Research Group Report Exposes Flaws Of Fracking Health Studies

BY SETH WHITEHEAD JULY 3, 2017

http://eidhealth.org/environmental-research-group-report-exposes-flaws-of-fracking-health-studies/

Ever notice how fracking opponents tend to focus on quantity rather than quality when touting studies claiming shale development harms public health? The following 2015 comments by Food & Water Watch’s Emily Wurth are just one example,

“In 2014 alone there were 154 peer-reviewed studies that came out on the impacts of shale gas development, many of which found serious concerns. So that’s about three studies a week. I mean, those of us who work on this issue thought to ourselves, wow, it seems like there’s a new study on the problems of fracking every other day.”

A comprehensive report released earlier this month by environmental research group Resources for the Future (RFF) — certainly no shill for oil and gas — reveals why anti-fracking activists are focusing on quantity rather than quality. RFF reviewed 32 of the more prominent shale-focused studies on birth outcomes, cancers, asthma, and other health effects, including migraines and hospitalization.

Cumulatively, none of those major categories of studies were deemed “high quality,” while studies on birth defects, hospitalizations and multiple symptoms were cumulatively deemed to be of “low quality,” as the following matrix from the report shows.

 

 

Report authors Alan J. Krupnick and Isabel Echarte of RFF were rather blunt in their critiques of the shale-focused health studies they evaluated. As EID has pointed out many times before, a vast majority of studies released linking fracking to adverse health outcomes fail to prove causation, and the RFF report also notes this prevalent, glaring flaw,

“Overall, we find that the literature does not provide strong evidence regarding specific health impacts and is largely unable to establish mechanisms for any potential health effects.”

“Due to the nature of the data and research methodologies, the studies are unable to assess the mechanisms of any health impacts (i.e., whether a certain impact is caused by air pollution, stress, water pollution, or another burden). Even where good evidence is offered for a link between unconventional oil and gas development and health, the causal factor(s) driving this association are unclear.”

Krupnick and Echarte took particular issue with epidemiological studies, which represented a vast majority of the literature reviewed, including several studies EID has debunked (more on those in a bit). Epidemiological studies are inherently limited in that they can only determine associations rather than proof of causation. Notably, such studies have been employed prominently since a 2012 activist memo was released detailing a strategy to use scientific research to drive opposition to fracking and expand regulations. And although such studies have proven to be an ideal vehicle to generate alarmist headlines despite the continued trend of failing to prove causation, RFF notes that the epidemiological fracking health studies “all had shortcomings that were most often significant,” adding:

“These studies furthermore reported contradictory results for each impact. Some studies, for example, found increases in preterm birth, while others found decreases or no association. As is illustrated by the Community Risk-Benefit Matrix, all impacts had inconsistent findings across the literature for that outcome. Where the results of these studies did not contradict each other, the impact was only analyzed by a single study.”

Though the report does not directly identify exactly which studies it categorized as being “lower quality” — which is defines as having “multiple, serious flaws” that invalidate its conclusions entirely — it is not difficult to glean which studies are considered “lower quality” by RFF, based on the following comments made about the following epidemiological studies EID has debunked.

• Casey et al. (2016). Authored by researchers affiliated with the Post Carbon Institute, this study, attempted to link fracking to premature births in Pennsylvania. EID pointed out soon after the study was released that its data not only failed to establish such a link, the researchers failed to use available baseline data, take measurements and didn’t factor in genetics and socioeconomic factors. The study also drew sharp criticism from Dr. Tony Cox, a clinical professor of biostatistics and informatics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. RFF notes many of the flaws flagged by Cox and EID in its report:

RFF: “The authors found no correlation of unconventional natural gas activity with Apgar score, SGA or term birth weight. Cox (2016) critiques the study, primarily on the issue of using proxies to estimate exposure (an issue present in most studies). The problem with the methodology of the study is that Casey et al. (2016) have addressed only for mothers in 2010 and 2013 yet analyze 2009 through 2013. Between those two years, almost 80 percent had the same address, with 6 percent moving within 1,500 meters (m) and another 10 percent moving 1,500 m to 16 km from their original addresses. This discrepancy has the potential to introduce some error into the estimates — particularly those from 2009.”

• Jamielita et al. (2015). This University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University study asserts correlation between natural gas development and an increase in hospitalizations based on zip codes in three Pennsylvania counties: Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wayne. But among a myriad of flaws highlighted by EID — including the fact that the county with the highest number of wells (Bradford) actually had the lowest overall inpatient occurrences, are two reoccurring themes repeatedly flagged by RFF in its report: failure to prove causation and failure to determine other contributing factors.

RFF“This issue with this analysis — simply comparing zip codes with and without wells — is that a number of unobservable differences may bias the results, meaning zip codes that have drilling might be different than zip codes that do not have drilling in a way that affects the prevalence of inpatient cardiology or neurology rates. Additionally, this level of analysis likely is not able to address within-zip code variation in exposure.”

• Hill (2013a, 2013b) Despite the fact that these papers by then-Cornell doctoral candidate Elaine Hill purporting that there is a “causal” relationship between natural gas development and low birth rates, hadn’t (and apparently still haven’t) been subject to peer review, they were used to justify New York’s fracking ban. Outside experts interviewed by the New York Times said the paper was “devoid of meaningful data” and a “badly suspect piece of work,” and the RFF report also noted that criticism:

RFF: “[T]hese working papers have received critical reviews and are not yet published in peer-reviewed journals… The most important is that they relied on the assumption that mothers who live near a permitted well and mothers who live near a drilled or producing well have similar characteristics — that their socioeconomic characteristics, which may also influence birth outcomes, do not change between the time a well is permitted and when that well begins producing… This is an important issue, as mothers who are more well-off may move away from oil and gas development, or mothers who are less well-off may take advantage of decreased home prices.

• McKenzie et al. (2014) This study, which suggests a link between fracking and birth defects, was authored by a team of researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) led by Lisa McKenzie. The researchers were actually disavowedby the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which provided the state birth records used for the paper. It was so poorly researched, and its findings were so alarmist, that the CDPHE demanded the inclusion of a disclaimer in the paper itself: “CDPHE specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.” Considering it is the only birth defects study mentioned in the RFF report, it is clear this study alone led to RFF’s “lower quality” label for such studies, and the report notes further criticism of the 2014 paper:

RFF: “Fedak et al. (2014), in a published critique of the study, also took issue with the study’s hypothesis that benzene is the mechanism through which the defects occur, as the study provides little evidence to support this claim.”

• McKenzie et al. (2017) This study, claiming to find an association between oil and gas development and childhood cancer, was immediately disavowed by the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) for a myriad of reasons, including its small sample size, failure to measure individual exposure and failure to address additional or alternate risk factors. The RFF report kept its criticism of this universally panned study short, but to the point:

RFF: “There are many issues that might bias the results of the study.”

• Rasmussen et al. (2016) This well known study, the second of a series of three Johns Hopkins University study spearheaded by researchers affiliated with the Post Carbon Institute, claimed to establish a link between proximity to natural gas development and asthma flare-ups. EID exposed several of this study’s flaws, most notably the all-too-common theme of lack of proof of causation and other factors among the population that could contribute to asthma exacerbations. RFF notes the latter flaw in its report:

RFF: “[T]he study, however, did not report the characteristics of populations within each exposure quartile, and it is therefore difficult to assess whether the results are credible.”

• Stacy et al. (2015). This study, which was funded by the anti-fracking Heinz-Endowment and published in a journal that does not require peer-review, claimed to find a link between fracking and low birth weights. The study (as usual) failed to prove causation and included contradictory data. None of the average birthweights found were actually considered “low” by the medical definition of the term, and all regions studied had average birthweights above the national average. Furthermore, the study’s data actually showed that the average birth weight in study area farthest away from shale gas wells was 3,343.9 grams, much lower than those in the second region (3,370.4) and third region (3,345.4), which were closer to shale gas wells. RFF noted the latter in its report:

RFF: “The study did not find any significant effects of well density on premature births, except for a higher average birth weight and a lower share of premature infants born to mothers living in the second exposure quartile — an odd result. The study also uses a 10-mile radius, larger than many other studies for analysis, which makes it difficult to control for variation within that area of interest. This large radius means the results could reflect differences in health outcomes due to socioeconomic status, for example, rather than proximity to natural gas development.”

• Tustin et al. (2017). The third in a series of Johns Hopkins University studies led by a researcher who is a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, this study trumpeted a link between migraine headaches, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms and severe fatigue. But as the RFF report notes, one of its numerous flaws was failing to take into account the myriad of factors that can contribute to these ailments and — once again — failure to even remotely prove causation.

RFF: “Each of these symptoms can be caused by multiple factors, such as stress, sleep deprivation, noise, odors, hormonal issues, toxins, allergens, and more. Though too much weight should not be placed on the results, because of the aforementioned issues with bias in self-reporting symptoms and with exposure proxies, it is suggestive of a relationship between natural gas activity and health effects. Like many of the studies discussed in this section, however, the mechanism for such effects is not able to be ascertained.”

Conclusion

This RFF report confirms the prevailing flaws of fracking health studies EID has been highlighting for years: lack of proof of causation, contradictory findings, faulty methodology and classic “more studies needed” mantra.

And the fact remains that fracking opponents’ preferred scientific study of choice — epidemiological studies — aren’t designed to prove causation in the first place, which means we can expect more of the same going forward, so long as the media continues to give the movement the alarmist headlines it truly desires.

 

 

Why not to buy organic foods

The problem with organic foods. For reasons like this I avoid organic food. I get fed up with the virtue signalling about organic

**********************************************************

 

Many consumers opt for organic food thinking it is healthier and is grown more sustainably. One plant scientist challenges the conventional wisdom…and raises additional questions about foodie activists.

Source: Why one scientist refuses to buy organic foods

Teaching critical thinking to combat fake news and bullshit: You have to start young

This road sign sums it up!!

Within science there is fakescience from the left and right, not only rejection of global warming , but creationism, fracking ‘elth studies, and the usual anti-GMO, anti-vaxxer, pro-organic garbage

Thanks to social media, fake news, conspiracy theories, and health scams spread faster and farther than ever. The world is in need of critical thinking skills now more than ever. Fortunately, there…

Source: Teaching critical thinking to combat fake news and bullshit: You have to start young

Labour MP Natascha Engel’s Views on Fracking

With the Labour Party being anti-fracking  ( and by implication in favour of importing higher GHG emission fracked gas from the USA) , here are some wise comments on fracking from a Labour MP in Derbyshire.There is little to disagree with her apart from quibbles.

Congratulations to her and a pity that more aren’t as rigorous.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

Source: Natascha Engel’s Views on Fracking

 

Natascha Engel’s Views on Fracking

With the calling of the snap General Election, I wanted to try and set out in detail my position on fracking as a whole and the INEOS application for an exploratory well at Bramleymoor Farm in Marsh Lane in particular.

These are my own personal views which I have arrived at after a great deal of research. These views are not shared by the Labour Party nor local Labour councillors.

There has been a lot of pressure with the general election on June 8 for me to campaign to ban fracking. It would have been an easy campaign to justify and may well be a vote-winner. But those of you who know me also know that I stand by my principles and would never campaign for something I don’t believe in. I have always put my constituents’ well-being above all else and would never support anything that I thought was unsafe.

Since hearing of the possibility of fracking in North East Derbyshire, like many of you, I have immersed myself in the subject. I have read reports and talked to campaigners against fracking, the industry, experts, and academics on shale, geology and energy.

I have had several meetings with the Energy Minister who is responsible for shale to discuss my concerns and spent much of Easter travelling around North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire looking at the sites where fracking is due to take place as well as some of the existing oil and gas wells that are dotted around the country.

 MY CONCERNS

Lorry movements: My chief concern about the Bramleymoor Farm application is lorry movements. The route through Coal Aston will need to be looked at again both for residential parking, safety for people on pavements, traffic blackspots like at Snowdon Lane, HGVs managing the little roundabout towards the petrol station and garden centres. I am also worried about the number of lorries and the times of day they will be passing through.

Proximity to housing: I have also been talking to INEOS about how close the site is to the nearest residential houses and how noise and light pollution can best be reduced and kept to a minimum to make sure that those people who are worst affected are best compensated.

 PLANNING PROCESS

The government regards shale as an important potential industry and they are keen to see if there is enough of the right sort of shale in the UK to make it viable. If it comes off in the amounts that they hope, then this would lead to a huge tax take for them – in fact the government hopes that it will go some way to funding health and social care.

This means that the government has gone a long way to make sure that shale exploration will take place. They have done two things. They have made the planning framework for a shale application far more rigorous than any other conventional oil and gas application, but, once those planning requirements have been met, then if a council rejects an application it is called in by the Secretary of State who will almost certainly overturn the decision.

 DISRUPTION, SAFETY, HEALTH AND HOUSE PRICES

I know how upset and worried some people are about fracking especially about health, safety, house prices and security. From visiting sites, speaking to engineers and public health experts, I have not heard, seen or read anything that convinces me that shale exploration is any more or less safe than conventional oil and gas drilling.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique that has been used since the late 1940s to extract conventional oil and gas. We have had thousands of onshore oil and gas wells drilled over the decades (some of which have been fracked) and currently have over 200 wells around the country pumping quietly away with little or no concern to local residents.

There will, without a doubt, be significant disruption during the building phase of a shale site during the clearing, rig building and initial fracking phases, and there will be more than usual heavy lorry movements carrying water and aggregate. This is the part of the development that I have most concerns about and is the subject that I am in close communication with INEOS on.

But the disruption caused by the building and drilling phase is the same as with any large build project, whether it’s industrial, a new school or a new supermarket – and in the case of a supermarket, the increased lorry movements will continue throughout the life-time of the supermarket and there will be no compensation paid to locally-affected residents.

 THE WATER TABLE AND OLD MINESHAFTS

The other real concern that people have raised is over the water table, drinking water and the potential risk to disused pits and mineshafts. Again, this is something that we have to keep a close eye on but the regulations covering fracking are extremely tight and the planning conditions have been strengthened over the years.

It means that 3D seismic testing has to take place to find fault-lines or disused mineshafts before anyone can frack, and baseline testing has to have been carried out a year before fracking happens so that any changes in the soil, water or air are immediately noticed and drilling is stopped. These conditions are far more rigorous than any conditions the construction industry has to meet.

From what I have seen, the independent engineers I have spoken to at the Royal Society for Civil Engineers and the British Geological Survey, the casing of a shale pipe through the water table has to be three steel tubes, each injected with a layer of cement. The chance of any contamination of the water table from shale extraction in this country is almost impossible.

 RELIABLE INFORMATION

One of the biggest problems about shale exploration that I came across was that no-one knows where to get trustworthy advice or facts about fracking – what it actually entails and what the risks are. There is a lot of information on the internet and much of it is either not relevant to the UK or just plain scaremongering.

There is the industry on the one side which people don’t trust because they have a vested financial interest in downplaying any risks, and on the other side are the green campaign groups for whom anti-fracking campaigns have seen an enormous boost in donations and membership. They have a different agenda which is to see the country de-industrialise.

 PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

I totally agree with the green campaigners who make the case for more investment in renewables and winding down our reliance on fossil fuels. We should be doing far more to encourage wind, solar and water energy generation as well as putting more money into researching carbon capture and storage.

But spreading scare stories for which there is no reliable evidence about increases in cancer rates and low-birth-weight babies is unforgiveable. I have not seen credible evidence to support this and it should have no place in the debate about energy, climate change and shale.

While I agree that we should do all we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, I do not believe in de-industrialisation. Most people (including me) want to come home after work, switch on the lights, turn on the heating, run a hot bath and cook meals on their hobs.

Most people would rather pay less for utility bills and many people are also concerned for the environment and would rather have less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

But the fact is that at the moment only 7% of the energy we use comes from renewables such as wind and solar. The rest comes from gas and oil. A decreasing amount comes from our domestic wells in the North Sea, but increasingly we are importing shale gas from America and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from Qatar. As we become more reliant on imports, we can expect our energy bills to rise even higher.

And if our concern is reducing global greenhouse gas emissions then we ought to start calculating the real carbon footprint of importing oil and gas. We know working conditions are bordering on slavery in Qatar and health and safety regulations are almost non-existent with spillages, accidents and gas escaping into the atmosphere commonplace.

Once the gas is captured, it has to be frozen to liquefy it and put onto hugelypolluting diesel ships to transport to the UK where it is re-gassified and pumped into our domestic network. Each of those steps has a very large carbon footprint which would be avoided if we took shale out of the ground here.

From a green perspective, investment in renewables is essential. But gas will still have a role to play for the foreseeable future and we might as well make it as low-carbon as we can, controlling it better, and getting our domestic energy prices down. This will be especially important after Brexit.

 JOBS AND INDUSTRY

Energy is something which Derbyshire is expert in with its proud coal mining history and mineral richness. It seems that beneath our feet could be another large-scale manufacturing industry that is nowhere near as dangerous as sending people down deep mines. If the shale industry develops in the UK, it would use some of the most advanced civil and petro-chemical engineering technologies in the world and could create a whole new generation of jobs for our children and grandchildren.

In Danesmoor near Clay Cross, we already have the country’s best rig-building company being used by the industry all over the country. They are struggling at the moment with protesters chaining themselves to the factory gates. But if this industry comes off, we could see a massive expansion creating many more jobs in Danesmoor alone.

If, on the other hand, we allow the protesters to stop the company from supplying rigs, the opposite will happen. The jobs that exist in Danesmoor today will not be there tomorrow.

As a former trade union organiser, I am proud that the UK has the strictest Health and Safety regulations in the world. It means that the kind of gung-ho drilling and spillages that have happened in America are simply not allowed to happen here.

Our planning regime is extremely rigorous and our environmental laws so tight that the industry is constantly complaining about the hoops through which they have to jump. Quite right too. This, of course, does not mean that accidents can’t happen. It just means that the risk is minimal and the penalties great.

 MINIMISING RISKS

I appreciate that people ask why they have to put up with the disruption. We should look carefully at every application to make sure that drilling and fracking happens away from homes and in the remotest places with the least disruption possible. We should certainly not have wells covering every inch of our beautiful countryside.

Many people say that even a small risk is a risk too far. If this is how we lived our lives, we would have no development of any kind. It is about making sure any development is safe. We need an army of inspectors and environmental protection officers to keep a careful and constant eye on the industry to keep it safe.

I am not against fracking as long as the industry stays highly regulated and controlled. If taking shale out of the ground in the UK means that we have fewer greenhouse gas emissions, that we can control our own energy and get prices down because we are not importing it, if it creates a whole new industry with good jobs, if it is good for Derbyshire, then I support it.

Our next step has to be setting up a strong Community Liaison Group to negotiate with INEOS on lorry routes and times, on making sure that noise and light pollution are kept to a minimum and that individuals and the community are properly compensated.

Marsh Lane and Apperknowle need a bus service to Sheffield and Chesterfield. Let’s see if we can get a shale bus from the industry. And if fracking does actually happen, let’s ask for free energy for all homes within a certain radius. That would increase house prices and certainly reduce bills. Let’s see if INEOS can work with Eckington School (which has an engineering specialism), or pay for local people to train as lorry drivers.

If shale exploration is going to happen, let’s make sure that we get the most out of it.

I hope this will start a proper debate on shale exploration in which everyone can raise their issues and concerns. It has been very one-sided until now so I am looking forward to hearing your views on this and everything else!

All good wishes as always

NATASCHA ENGEL

Labour Party Parliamentary candidate

tel: 01246 439121 twitter: @nengel2017 email:natascha_engel@labour.org.uk

Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma – a revue

Over the last few years I have been drawn into the controversy over fracking in Lancashire. Initially I was hostile to it having picked up thinks by hearsay. I was finished off by earthquakes as I found the claims of earthquakes so silly as if a Mag 2.3 could do damage. After that I looked into all aspects and concluded that anti-frackers were like Creationists – either culpably  clueless about science or downright dishonest. I still can’t decide which, but then I can’t for Creationists.

Well, here is a serious “social Science” study of the effect of fracking applications on local communities in Lancashire causing collective trauma etc.

My response may be summed up in this meme

 

Well, here is the paper.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718517300519

Available online 17 March 2017 In Press, Corrected ProofNote to users

Geoforum is published by Elsevier, a highly respected publisher of journals. Among others it publishes The Proceedings of the Geological Association, one of the flagship British geological journals. I was pleased to have a paper published in it some years ago but this has taken the shine off it for me. (My paper was on the discovery of Ice Ages in North Wales in the 1840s)

At present you can download Short and Szolucha’s paper. I shall give some extracts and make comments, which are informed by my close observation of the progress of fracking in Lancashire over the last five years

Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma

Under a Creative Commons license

  Open Access


Abstract

To date there have been very few studies that have sought to investigate the crimes, harms and human rights violations associated with the process of ‘extreme energy’, whereby energy extraction methods grow more ‘unconventional’ and intense over time as easier to extract resources are depleted. The fields of rural sociology and political science have produced important perception studies but few social impact studies. The field of ‘green criminology’, while well suited to examining the impacts of extreme energy given its focus on social and environmental ‘harms’, has produced just one citizen ‘complaint’ study to date. It is vital that more social and environmental impact studies become part of the local, national and international public policy debate. To this end, in the following paper we seek to move beyond perception studies to highlight the harms that can occur at the planning and approval stage. Indeed, while the UK is yet to see unconventional gas and oil extraction reach the production stage, as this article shows, local communities can suffer significant harms even at the exploration stage when national governments with neoliberal economic agendas are set on developing unconventional resources in the face of considerable opposition and a wealth of evidence of environmental and social harms. This paper takes a broad interdisciplinary approach, inspired by green criminological insights, that shows how a form of ‘collective trauma’ has been experienced at the exploration stage by communities in the North of England.

 

Keywords; ‘Fracking’; Extreme energyPlanning policyCorporate influenceSocial harm; Collective trauma

 

The key words “extreme energy, social harm, collective” indicate the stance of the authors. To the authors Fracking is a “bad thing” as the authors of 1066 and all that would say!

Vitae

Damien Short is a Reader in Human Rights and Director of the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. His latest book, ‘Redefining Genocide’, was published by Zed Books, 2016. Currently he is researching the human rights impacts of the process of extreme energy.

Anna Szolucha is currently a postdoctoral Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, Norway. She is researching the intersections of energy and democracy in the context of shale gas developments and renewable energy in the UK and Poland. Her recent publications include: a report on the social impacts of shale gas in the UK: “The Human Dimensions of Shale Gas Developments in Lancashire” as well as “Real Democracy in the Occupy Movement: No stable ground” published by Routledge.

The paper takes an “Extreme Energy” perspective and thus is opposed to fracking by definition. They give their objections to it and are dependent on opponents like Moobs, Ingraffea, Smythe and others and do not interact with those who are more positive towards it like the RS/RAE report of 2021 or the wealth of materail from Refine, BGS, EA, and many academics, who are air-brushed out.

however they consider those whom they refer to as experts like Mike Hill or David Smythe, despite their arguments being generally rejected.

They are very critical of the  LCC planning officer’s dossiers and do not mention the activity of Friends of the Earth in Lancashire from 2011, except for the advice taken from FoE lawyers at the hearings in late June 2015. I gave a paper on the history of fracking exploration in Lancashire in Barcelona last year and gave a very different story, particularly on how Friends of the Earth conned and manipulated local communities thus infecting them with collective trauma

Friends of the Earth also sought independent legal advice and, following pressure from the resident’s groups, eventually LCC officials relented and said that such new legal advice could be circulated at the Monday hearing.

This is not what many at the meeting perceived. Many were appalled at the emotionalism and inaccuracy from those opposed to fracking. Further the committee refused other legal advice, which was seen as the committee showing a bias against fracking. I was appalled at their behaviour and reckoned they mocked local democracy, by their refusal to listen to the planning officer, who is maliciously rubbished in this “academic” study.

I give comments on some sections;

6. Exploration stage harms: collective trauma

From our work with the communities resisting the applications in Lancashire it seems that sociologist Erikson’s (1976) work on collective trauma is an appropriate description of the collective harms experienced. Collective trauma, according to Erikson, is ‘a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality’; it ‘works its way slowly and even insidiously into the awareness of those who suffer from it,’ and while ‘it does not have the quality of suddenness normally associated with trauma, but it is a form of shock all the same’ ( Erikson, 1976:154). From the data collected in interviews, participant observation and numerous conversations, and the subsequent analysis it became clear that many particular narratives and descriptions that emerged can be equated to the experience of collective trauma Erikson describes.

It is difficult to take this seriously.  I see induced “collective trauma” reflected in the mantra of one district councillor who repeats on social media “I am frightened”. Well, they would be if they swallowed the false horror stories from RAFF and FoE.

7. Application and Planning Officer report analysis

While the ‘rejection’ outcomes of the Lancashire hearings rightly pleased many in the anti-fracking movement, the process up to that point was deeply concerning on a number of levels, which do not bode well for local citizens who wish to resist future fracking applications. Specifically, there were key areas where the fracking company was clearly favoured at the expense of the views of, and evidence presented, by the local objectors and their expert witnesses. Moreover, the deciding Councillors were effectively threatened with legal action if they refused the application. They were told that to refuse the application would be tantamount to breaking the law, as it would be an ‘unsustainable’ decision lacking evidence, and would expose them to high appeal costs at a time when councils are badly affected by austerity. We will deal with each of these points in turn.

This does not say who threatened the committee, though LCC lawyers pointed out they could be liable if they rejected the PO’s report. The meeting was heated and fraught. however the charge of threatening the committee needs to be substantiated. I saw no evidence of it at the meeting, but I did witness the appalling pressure applied by anti-groups and it was clear that there were fiends pulling the strings.

7.1. The Planning Officer Report

The Lancashire County Council Planning Officer’s (hereafter PO) report published by LCC on 15 June 2015, which is meant to provide an unbiased appraisal to assist the Development Control Committee (DCC) reach a decision was, at best, fundamentally flawed and inadequately researched, and, at worst, biased and disrespectful. Development Control Committees give considerable weight to PO reports, especially when much of an application concerns material that is both highly technical and hotly debated. Thus, the PO bears a huge responsibility to evaluate the application, via a reasoned summary of the best available evidence, in an impartial and responsible manner. Unfortunately, in this case the PO reports fell so woefully short of such standards that they raise the obvious suspicion of undue political and/or industry pressure and influence.

To describe the report as “fundamentally flawed and inadequately researched, and, at worst, biased and disrespectful.” is simply unjust. What the PO did was to weigh up arguments on both sides, which he did admirably. He concluded that the arguments put forward against fracking in Roseacre and Little Plumpton were very flawed.

This alone makes this paper to be totally flawed and showing an extreme bias.

 

8. Conclusion

To conclude, it was evident from the interview and observation data, and can be seen from these excerpts, that evidence from the USA and Australia is having a strong effect on local residents. It is galvanising resistance and allowing people to organise opposition around certain key harms that have been experienced elsewhere. During the interviews it was striking how well informed the respondents were. In making their objections most respondents were aware of recent academic studies and were able to cite their findings. Being able to inform the planning process with evidence-based objections undoubtedly contributed to the successful result – notwithstanding the Secretary of State’s intervention in favour of the applicant. Even so, the whole process took a considerable toll on the local population. It was apparent from the research that a form of ‘collective trauma’ was experienced by the affected communities. This is an under researched phenomenon and we suggest more studies are conducted into the social impacts of, not just sites of extreme energy production, but also areas subject to industry exploration applications. This data should then feed into all public policy discussions around unconventional gas and oil developments.

The need for such studies in the UK is even more critical now than in the past. At the time of writing (early 2017), Cuadrilla have moved in and started work to prepare the PNR site despite pending legal challenges launched by local residents. After the Secretary of State’s decision to override local democracy and approve the applications in Lancashire the residents have engaged in direct action by “slow-walking” the trucks bringing building materials to the site. This has the effect of slowing down the works but also means that the residents as well as the police are present at the site every day, witnessing and reporting potential planning breaches, so far to no effect. This situation will have significant and long-lasting impacts on the local community, contributing to the collective trauma already experienced by the residents living in the vicinity of potential fracking sites in Lancashire.

The political and legal pressures brought to bear on the LCC Development Control Committee highlighted by this research could be a taster of a new normal if the highly controversial EU/US negotiated (neoliberal par excellence) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is resurrected, no doubt through a rebranding, repackaging process, or a post-‘Brexit’ US-UK version drawn up. Indeed, it is deeply concerning that neoliberal austerity ravaged councils, such as LCC, will be under immense pressure to permit fracking operations, despite the considerable risks of environmental and social harms, because under recent government guidelines if they reject an application and lose an appeal they will have to pay costs. On the other hand, if other councils, backed by committed and organised anti-fracking constituents, continue to object it may be that the prospects for a fledgling unconventional hydrocarbon extraction industry in the UK are bleak (Browne, 2017).

I am speechless.

One thing is very clear. The sample interviewed for this study was very limited and almost selected to give the conclusions required.

Why didn’t the two researchers contact a wider cross-section of people?

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I am afraid this academic paper has not raised my opinion of sociological studies as it demonstrates an extreme bias to the left and simply prejudice against fracking.

It calls to mind some of the crazy things which are highlighted on the twitter account @RealPeerReview

Here are some;

First a Ph D thesis from Salford Univ

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/40411/

The travelling gamer : an ethnography of video game events

 Law, YY 2016, The travelling gamer : an ethnography of video game events , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

Ethnography is the latest sociological study and auto-ethnography is when it is just done by the sociologist doing to be observing. (Check it on wikipedia)

Second is a peereviewed academic paper of an autoethnographic study of worring in a carrel in a library.

***This is the entire paper ***

I had thought Sage Publications published good academic joutrnals

 

Peter Joseph Gloviczki


Qualitative Inquiry

First published date: April-13-2017

Sage Publications

and lastly to get my claws in, a study of nail salons.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1532708614562886?journalCode=csca

If any reader thinks I am cynical about autoethnography or ethnography they might possibly be correct