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The 2014 #GlobalFrackdown kicked off in Europe with games of "Fracking Risk" outside European Parliament. (Credit: Food & Water Watch)

For Europe, a Game of Fracking RISK?

Geert Decock

 by Food & Water Watch

Fracking is full of risks; It threatens water, air, the climate, public health, livelihoods and more.

That much we know.

But what if fracking were RISK? As in RISK, the board game, where the goal is to occupy as many territories as possible (keep in mind that the oil and gas industry’s goal is to frack as many territories as possible). The metaphor is not as farfetched as you may think.

This past Tuesday, ahead of the Global Frackdown, Food & Water Watch’s international day of action to ban fracking, we gathered outside the European Parliament in Brussels to play our own version of RISK — “Fracking RISK” — to bring lawmakers and community members up to speed on the many dangers of fracking.

Right now in the UK, European states are offering large swaths of territory to the oil and gas industry for shale gas exploration. Fearful of the many known risks of fracking, local communities are pushing back against this looming threat. Some states have even enacted local, regional and national bans on fracking. Much like the game RISK, the oil and gas industry is trying to control as much territory as it can.

Because of the crisis in Ukraine and the growing dependency of European Union member states, especially in Eastern Europe, on natural gas imports from Russia, the issue of drilling for shale gas has really shot to the top of the EU’s political agenda. Energy security and shale gas are now an integral part of geopolitical discussions in the European Union and in neighboring nations.

So, how does “Fracking RISK” work?

First, you will need to create or find a “board” with all the countries of Europe.

The rules:

Players split into two camps: On one side is Big Oil and Gas; its goal is to spread as many drilling rigs around Europe. On the other side is Local Communities; this team’s goal is to defend its lands against Big Oil and Gas by spreading fracking bans. The teams take turns throwing two dice.

If, for example, Big Oil & Gas throws a total of two or 12, they get to put in five new rigs. Throwing a total of three or 11 earns you four rigs, and so on. The rules of the dice are based on basic probabilities. The same rules apply for how many fracking bans Local Communities gets to put on the map.

There are also cards that each player receives after their turn, which they can cash in on the next turn.
For Big Oil & Gas, one card might read: “NATO Secretary General claims anti-fracking groups are KGB spies: Big Oil & Gas gets to put up five extra rigs.” Another could read: “Thanks to a ruling of a corporate tribunal (the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism currently being negotiated in the EU-US free trade agreement), Big Oil & Gas can overturn four fracking bans”.

Of course, the Local Communities team can earn these cards as well: “Public opinion demands a health impact study: Big Oil & Gas must skip a turn.” Or: “Another train with volatile shale oil blows up: Take three rigs away from Big Oil & Gas”. This one has particular relevance to a densely populated continent like Europe: “Government decides no fracking in densely populated areas: Take five rigs away from Big Oil & Gas”.

So, who won the test-round outside the Parliament on Tuesday? Unsurprisingly, Local Communities overwhelmed Big Oil & Gas by their numbers and quickly spread fracking bans all around Europe.

Check out some pictures and a video of our game. Feel free to suggest some extra rules and cards in the comments section below!

On Saturday, October 11, communities all over the world will participate in the Global Frackdown to challenge lawmakers to ban fracking.

Join an event near you!


© 2021 Food & Water Watch

Geert Decock

Geert Decock is Food & Water Europe’s policy officer, based in Brussels.

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