DANCE is a Buddhist group started in 2013 by a group of Dharma teachers to explore direct action as a tool to respond to the worsening climate crisis. Their London branch holds a regular protest outside (and occasionally inside) the Piccadilly branch of Barclays Bank.
The September protest began with a meditative walk, then outside the bank an actor lay apparently dying next to a pool of ‘oil’ while several people sat behind her in silent meditation and others leafletted passers-by and talked to them about Barclays’ major involvement through investment in dirty oil projects including shale gas exploration (fracking).
The government is currently “consulting” on plans to push ahead with a massive expansion of fracking sites after years of slow progress due to local legal challenges and protests. The government proposal is to introduce ‘statutory instruments’ to existing bills (a way to avoid too much scrutiny or a even a government vote) which will radically change the way frackers seek approval. The first of these is to include fracking exploration in the definition of ‘permitted development’ ie not requiring planning permission. This is currently reserved for things like garden sheds and small home extensions, but if the plan is successful, will extend to include exploratory oil rigs! Then if exploration shows viability, the next change is to bring full scale fracking production under the umbrella of National Special Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). Usually associated with projects like motorways, rail lines (eg HS2) and new towns, the inclusion of fracking wells will take decisions completely away from local people and local councils, so projects can be signed off by government directly.
Barclays announced some time ago that it was withdrawing its investments from fracking, but has quietly gone back in. It also supported the Dakota Access pipeline and Colombian tar sands. International climate conferences recommend a massive reduction in CO2 and methane emissions to avoid catastrophic runaway climate change, and yet these bank investments are powering further deadly exploration.
The striking imagery of DANCE’s action caught the public’s attention and the leafleters reported mostly positive responses. While a lot of people knew a bit about fracking, most weren’t aware of the new developments or how their own choice of bank connects to the issues. It’s actually pretty straightforward to move your current account, and websites like medium.com/move-your-money can help you choose, while currentaccountswitch.co.uk and others can ease and simplify the process. For more about the Dharma Action Network see thedancewebsite.org