Published on The Guardian website on 21st August 2015
Story by John Vidal
They tried to influence government – but it stopped working. So now the new boss of Friends of the Earth is taking a more radical approach. And, as he predicts a storm of protest over a massive expansion of fracking, he’s ready to take on George Osborne in an ‘ideological war’
For someone who spent the night celebrating a Welsh community’s rejection of a giant opencast coal mine, Craig Bennett seems pretty clear-headed.
The new head of Friends of the Earth (FoE) may not have known the words of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh national anthem, but he sang them along with ex-miners in the Blast Furnace Inn pub in Pontlottyn, he says, and the experience of working with them and others to reject the Nant Llesg mine rammed home the point that environmental groups must become relevant again to all kinds of people.
“We were one gang together in the Blast Furnace,” he says. “The point is, the Nant Llesg mine was going to extract 6m tonnes of coal, and it’s obviously a massive climate change issue. But for local people it’s much more than that. It’s an air pollution and a health issue because of the dust it would cause; it’s an economic issue because of the jobs needed; it’s a social justice issue because all this Welsh community had been offered was more dirty jobs by a bully-boy company. It’s completely artificial to think that it’s only a climate issue.”