The Don’t Dig campaign held a 2-day meeting in Istanbul from 31 October 2022 to 1 November 2022. The campaign started in September 2020 with a petition against the ongoing fossil fuel exploration in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean and received widespread support from Greece and Cyprus. The rich natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean have led to a new tension between Turkey and Greece, where animosity has been fuelled for years, and the growing tension has fuelled the arms race. In this region where the threat of war and of ecological destruction are ever present, the Don’t Dig campaign draws attention to the risk of a vicious cycle in which natural destruction will lead to war and war will lead to natural destruction. The organisation, which started with 4 signatory organisations from Turkey and then grew as many new participants joined, has been further strengthened with even wider participation from Cyprus and Greece.
Today, the Don’t Dig campaign brings together nearly 70 ecological organisations from Turkey, Greece and Cyprus around the main theme of opposition to fossil fuels and war. Don’t Dig emphasises the importance of international solidarity by saying “no to war” in this geography where war threats are often being issued and emphasises that the ecological and social costs of a country’s energy activities will also be paid by its neighbours; a leak from the nuclear power plants planned to be built in Sinop and İğneada will cause disasters in all Black Sea countries and the Balkans, an earthquake that may be triggered by offshore drilling may cause disasters in neighbouring countries.
Today Greece is facing a major energy crisis. Although this crisis is partly caused by the Russia-Ukraine war and rising natural gas prices, its roots lie in deregulation and energy privatisation based on neoliberal policies. Greece has actually made the right decision to end the use of lignite coal, which is inefficient and highly polluting. However, coal was substituted with increased natural gas imports. This led to an increase in energy costs and subsequently electricity prices. The state is taking steps to expand renewable energy based on wind and solar, but local community reactions and ecological impacts are being ignored. Forested areas opened up after the forest fires are soon filled with wind farms. Energy is perceived as a commodity sold on the market and a source of profit for companies. We see the same mentality in natural gas drilling in the seas and on land; drilling in areas of high ecological value is justified by appeals to “the national interest”: natural gas pipelines that will cut across the country are legitimised by the narrative that Greece will become an energy hub and that they are necessary for energy independence. While the tensions between the two countries are dragging the working people of Turkey and Greece into economic crisis and energy poverty, the US is calculating how to make the most profit from these tensions by selling large amounts of arms to Greece and trying to market the shale gas it produces. We know that at the end of the day the profits never go to the working people! We also know that capitalists will never utilise natural assets peacefully and in the public interest.
The situation in Cyprus is no different. When gas exploration began, the people were deceived with the unconvincing rhetoric that this gas was “peace gas” and that the northern part of Cyprus would also benefit from it. In Turkey, new gas pipelines have recently been added to the gas pipelines riddling the country; the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which transports Azerbaijani gas to Europe, does not bring any price advantage for Turkey. Turkey does not benefit from the gas carried by the Turkish Stream line, which destroys the forests and fertile agricultural areas of Thrace in order to export Russian gas to Europe, bypassing Ukraine. In addition, the FSRU (Floating Liquefied Natural Gas Storage and Gasification Unit) port built in Enez on the Greek border in the Saros Gulf, one of the world’s rare self-cleaning aquatic ecosystems that hosts endemic species, is also causing serious ecological damage here, and the liquefied natural gas (LNG) coming from Qatar to this port will not be used for Turkey’s needs. A similar project is being built across the border in Alexandroupoli.
The experiences of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey with natural gas exploration and extraction are similar in many areas. Common problems make joint struggle even more meaningful and inevitable.
Of course, nationalism fuelled by the ruling classes plays an important role behind all these conflicts. With increasing tension, rising nationalism carries the danger of turning into war. In this context, the main ideological background and methods that will come to the fore in our struggle are to express the relationship of extractivism with politics and the fact that it leads to warlike discourses. Especially we should publicise the abnormal amounts of energy consumed by armies. We must emphasise energy alternatives, advocate the installation of energy in harmony with nature and the nationalisation of the energy sector. To win people to our struggle, we must always be careful to speak the truth and expose the deception in the rhetoric of governments. We must advocate for the deployment of renewable energy in a non-capitalist system, defending climate justice and social justice. We should talk to young people who are sincerely interested in ecology about how we can create anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist policies. Concrete proposals on these issues should be brought to convince society. We must show working people the real costs and the exorbitant profits transferred to capital through rising electricity and natural gas bills. We must organise international caravans from Saros to Alexandroupoli, from the Aegean to the Black Sea and invite young people to join them.
Although only 2 years have passed since its inception, we as constituents have learnt a lot from the experience of Don’t Dig; we have experienced the tangible impact of focusing on a specific theme and the tangible benefits of international solidarity. We have understood that the enemy is not outside, the devastating effects of multinational corporations and their collaborators populist governments, that the overproduction-consumption cycle is making the world uninhabitable, and the importance of conceptualising climate justice.
Along with its political content, Don’t Dig opens its doors to learn experience from the world and develop international ties. We are determined to move forward with friendship and fraternity on the road we have set out and we challenge our rulers;
We do not want to fight a war against other countries, the only war we are willing to fight is a war between classes, not nations.
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