She hasn’t slept well since 2012. Just about two to four hours a night. She had to quit her job and retire early. Lack of sleep is a consistent thread running through conversations with people living in the area of Europe’s biggest gas field nearby Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.
You don’t sleep well when you don’t feel safe at home, when earthquakes keep shaking your house, when you’re worried if you can leave your house quickly enough the next time the ground vibrates, your walls tremble and you find cracks on your ceiling.
The earthquakes are caused by Shell and Exxon who have been exploiting the gasfield with support from the Dutch government for the past 55 years. Over a thousand earthquakes have damaged tens of thousands of houses in the area. Some people already had to leave their homes because they have become uninhabitable.
For decades, the people of Groningen have been fighting for an end to the drilling and compensation for the damage Shell and Exxon have caused, while these companies have been making billions in profits.
The local people’s protests and worsening earthquakes have put enough pressure on the Dutch government to announce that the gas field will be closed by 2030. Marcel Drenth, who is involved in the local opposition group Groningers in Opstand explains why that’s not good enough:
“Even if gas extraction in Groningen stopped today, we will still be facing earthquakes for the next few decades that will continue to damage our houses. The compensation and support we’ve been promised never materialised. Exxon and Shell make millions of euros from drilling in Groningen every day at the expense of the people from Groningen and our climate. We need to hold these companies to account and make them pay for the damages they cause. That’s why we’re mobilising people for a mass direct action this summer.”
Together with locals from Groningen, grassroots climate network Code Rood (English: ‘red alert’) is mobilising for a mass sit-in on 28th August to disrupt the gas extraction. The action will emphasise that there is no time for promises for phase-outs in the distant future. Our climate is on the verge of irreversible collapse. We need an immediate phase-out of coal, oil and gas. And the people of Groningen need compensation to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Shell and Exxon need to be held accountable for the damages they inflict on the people of Groningen.
From 24th to 31st August, hundreds of activists from all over Europe will come to the action camp in Groningen to learn, connect, plan and take action together. Come to the camp, if you can! If you can’t be there, you can still help throw a spotlight on the struggle in Groningen by sharing this blog and keeping your eyes peeled for more stories coming out of the camp and action over the next week → #coderood