No matter what legislation is passed or planning permission granted, the ultimate licence for any activity lies with the people.
This is the social licence
. For a project or industry to enjoy social licence, people must agree to it. If enough people object
to something, and do so visibly
, it becomes embarrassing, expensive and ultimately unsustainable.
Neighbour to neighbour democracy (the Toxin Free strategy)
Communities are often not given a democratic say in toxic industry projects. These might involve (eg) fracking, or mining, or incineration. But there
is nothing to stop a community from surveying itself, door to door, to determine local opinion.
Several communities in the UK have now done exactly this, leading to the community democratically declaring itself Toxin Free (more info at the
Toxin Free Community
website). The percentages obtained from this exercise
are a powerful tool.
Balcombe in Sussex followed this community strategy in 2013 when threatened with fracking by drilling company Cuadrilla, and the "85% want to be Frack Free"
result hit the headlines nationally and internationally - and ultimately led to Cuadrilla leaving without fracking.
In 2016 several communities in the Forest of Dean
also undertook the surveys and again, very high percentages emerged as wanting to be Toxin Free. The company that was offered the licence to frack in the Forest decided not to take it up,
citing public resistance as one of its reasons.
Inspiration for new solutions
The community involvement engendered can yield some very practical, creative and positive results...
for example, Gloucestershire, after two local Toxin Free surveys and a well-subscribed
38 Degrees petition
, now has a
community group actively planning a recycling plant
to make the threatened mass burn incinerator redundant
(see Community R4C
). It has also successfully enlisted the help of the Environmental Law Foundation to analyse
the incinerator contract, finding it to be terrible value for money and
- reviving the possibility of stopping the project in its tracks.
Non-violent but non-negotiable
Informed and organised communities are the best defence in the face of toxic industry.
Declaring your community Toxin Free
is a way of pledging to protect it. This pledge is non-violent, but it is also non-negotiable.