Fragments - or the beginning of the endgame
Phil Newton gives his take on the report giving the go-ahead for Fracking
Photo from Ribble Estuary Against Fracking
14th May 2012
Wherever in the world would we be without our fledgling post-1950s baby-boom spree of fresh faced redbrick universities? Keele University began its life in the grounds of a stately home on a windswept hill growing up between rows of ex-naval training huts. You can’t miss the affirmative sign on the campus entrance – ‘Science Park’ – but long gone is the foundation year idea where you could choose your specialism after the Foundation Year. It’s all in a different gear now since 1970 when the New Statesman published historian EP Thompson’s notorious essay on Warwick’s academic integrity entitled The Business University. Well, Keele’s done it again, like an Academic Ambridge with subliminal national issues dealt with for our own good woven into the report on fracking.
Arising like an earth druid sacrament from the relatively rusticated seclusion in the North Staffordshire countryside comes the earth fracturing news that fracking is now ok despite contrary goings on. Immense amounts of water and chemicals are forced into stratas of shale where a world energy bonanza awaits. That is until fire floods out of your water taps like in reported cases in the US.
But Keele’s research claims that local earthquakes caused by old mine works out-strip [excuse pun] any recent local tremors that have occurred in the Blackpool coastal trial fracking area. Pluto has spoken from the Stygian Creek, the Pit of Acheron will provide endless safe energy for future crowded campus crèches and, after the press conference, earth scientists can revert back to the romantic image of Humanities geology academics until such a time when they’re wheeled out again to assure us on the next stage of the Earth’s termination via mineral exploitation. The report is delivered with undisputable moral certainty to our government. So there! Never again, even in jest, let it be said to be the only university to be named after a motorway service station. From the choir within the grey college multi-faith campus chapel with its dreaming twin towers opposite Geology (correction; Earth Sciences now) may we hear the strains of Rock of Ages Cleft for me - Let me hide myself in Thee? (AM Toplady, 1740-1778). Assuming its content was more than about simple arithmetic, when Keele sold, from its private collection, Isaac Newton’s 1st edition manuscript book Pricipia Mathematica in 1998 to an unknown bidder before anyone in the public got a gander at it, the issue was that the public (if we had been consulted) could have cost its heritage value against the mere six-figure price it fetched.
Just Google ‘Selling the Family Silver’ and see my readers letter to North Staffs Sentinel, Nov 1998 – Disbelief at Sale of Books – I was a little surprised that no senior common room nor students union appreciated my coda to the letter – “If it weren’t so sad you’d have thought they’d appreciated the gravity of the situation” and “How about [scientifically] parking some of our heritage back here”?
But could the silence have meant I’d been taken seriously? Just a wee bit?
Therefore, in a similar manner, by failing to publically question the fracking issue of Keele’s influential decision, are we not failing the future of the planet by disregarding the risks to our natural world against the current price(s) of gas? The last time I saw EP Thompson at a peace rally in the 80s, from the sombre debate about Cruise vs SS20s, he seemed mindful of changes ahead in planetary threats – to the effect "they’re even campaigning to save the minnows and whales now". If he came back could we expect a current essay for these times along the lines of ‘The environment university’ or ‘The University of the Future of Integrity’? Or how about “The Universality of our Environment”?
For more on fracking see The Guardian 17.04.2012:
Comment left by johno on 18th May, 2012 at 9:43
Comment left by phil newton on 25th June, 2012 at 20:29
Comment left by phil newton on 23rd July, 2012 at 19:38
Comment left by phil newton on 7th October, 2013 at 20:08
Comment on this article: