A journey into Scientology

Currently much talked about and argued over in the media, Kenneth Eckerersley explains how he came t

I was born in 1927 and started my religious life in the Church of England, as a member of Sunday School and the choir. I joined the Cubs, then the Scouts and after serving in the Royal Navy, became a Scoutmaster. Work with the Old People’s Welfare Association and Road Safety Committee led to my joining the District Council and to later serving on the Magistrate’s Bench until my job moved me into Europe.

In 1950 I read the book: DIANETICS: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and was fascinated by the way in which that research related to the world around me, and how I could directly put it into practice in my life, to help myself and others. Later when Ron Hubbard’s discovery that man is basically good and is seeking to survive as a spiritual being led to the development of Scientology, it became clear to many of his students that his researches and writings were in fact in the field of religion. Hence the first Churches of Scientology were formed.

Insofar as this new religion validated man’s spiritual nature it also confirmed earlier beliefs, and I soon found myself with a circle of friends from a wide range of other religions who, like me, recognised that Scientology complemented the beliefs of people of goodwill and provided a common set of values, as well as being the religion of choice for many who earlier had professed no belief.

These values included beliefs held by all Scientologists as part of their Creed. The principles in that Creed have become personal certainties for me and I now hold them as an important part of my life.

Miracle-like experiences brought by Scientology to my brother and my wife I shall describe in a later post, but for myself the main results of my study of Hubbard’s works have been twofold

Firstly, I now have an unassailable good natured and cheerful certainty in myself. A quiet confidence that nothing can really trouble me for more than a short time because I know that I will quickly find a solution. I find that that certainty and self-confidence play themselves out in my life.

Secondly, because I personally feel at peace with myself, I am able to observe and give attention to the plight of our communities and the individuals within those communities, and this has resulted in a daily desire to help others in a wide variety of ways.

Sometimes the help is financial, but mainly it is hands on: making full use of the various skills I have learnt in Scientology. Helping addicts recover from drugs or alcohol. Helping the recently bereaved recover from their loss. Helping those in physical pain understand and overcome it. Helping those in fear or other painful emotion deal with it and recover. And what do you know? As I help others - with no real additional effort - my own life and quality of survival blossoms more and more as my friends increase in number and rise towards their own certainties.

In later posts I shall discuss Scientology and my family, the groups to which I belong, mankind, other life forms, the physical and spiritual universes, belief in a Supreme Being and why Scientology has been attacked.

Kenneth Eckersley is active in the Church of Scientology, and is a former Magistrate and Justice of the Peace.
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North Yorkshire has approved the UK’s first fracking tests in five years. What does this mean?

Is fracking the answer to the UK's energy future? Or a serious risk to the environment?

Shale gas operation has been approved in North Yorkshire, the first since a ban introduced after two minor earthquakes in 2011 were shown to be caused by fracking in the area. On Tuesday night, after two days of heated debate, North Yorkshire councillors finally granted an application to frack in the North York Moors National Park.

The vote by the Tory-dominated council was passed by seven votes to four, and sets an important precedent for the scores of other applications still awaiting decision across the country. It also gives a much-needed boost to David Cameron’s 2014 promise to “go all out for shale”. But with regional authorities pitted against local communities, and national government in dispute with global NGOs, what is the wider verdict on the industry?

What is fracking?

Fracking, or “hydraulic fracturing”, is the extraction of shale gas from deep underground. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped into the earth at such high pressure that it literally fractures the rocks and releases the gas trapped inside.

Opponents claim that the side effects include earthquakes, polluted ground water, and noise and traffic pollution. The image the industry would least like you to associate with the process is this clip of a man setting fire to a running tap, from the 2010 US documentary Gasland

Advocates dispute the above criticisms, and instead argue that shale gas extraction will create jobs, help the UK transition to a carbon-neutral world, reduce reliance on imports and boost tax revenues.

So do these claims stands up? Let’s take each in turn...

Will it create jobs? Yes, but mostly in the short-term.

Industry experts imply that job creation in the UK could reflect that seen in the US, while the medium-sized production company Cuadrilla claims that shale gas production would create 1,700 jobs in Lancashire alone.

But claims about employment may be exaggerated. A US study overseen by Penn State University showed that only one in seven of the jobs projected in an industry forecast actually materialised. In the UK, a Friends of the Earth report contends that the majority of jobs to be created by fracking in Lancashire would only be short-term – with under 200 surviving the initial construction burst.

Environmentalists, in contrast, point to evidence that green energy creates more jobs than similar-sized fossil fuel investments.  And it’s not just climate campaigners who don’t buy the employment promise. Trade union members also have their doubts. Ian Gallagher, Secretary of Blackburn and District Trade Unions Council, told Friends of the Earth that: “Investment in the areas identified by the Million Climate Jobs Campaign [...] is a far more certain way of addressing both climate change and economic growth than drilling for shale gas.”

Will it deliver cleaner energy? Not as completely as renewables would.

America’s “shale revolution” has been credited with reversing the country’s reliance on dirty coal and helping them lead the world in carbon-emissions reduction. Thanks to the relatively low carbon dioxide content of natural gas (emitting half the amount of coal to generate the same amount of electricity), fracking helped the US reduce its annual emissions of carbon dioxide by 556 million metric tons between 2007 and 2014. Banning it, advocates argue, would “immediately increase the use of coal”.

Yet a new report from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (previously known for its opposition to wind farm applications), has laid out a number of ways that the UK government can meet its target of 80 per cent emissions reduction by 2050 without necessarily introducing fracking and without harming the natural world. Renewable, home-produced, energy, they argue, could in theory cover the UK’s energy needs three times over. They’ve even included some handy maps:


Map of UK land available for renewable technologies. Source: RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision.

Will it deliver secure energy? Yes, up to a point.

For energy to be “sustainable” it also has to be secure; it has to be available on demand and not threatened by international upheaval. Gas-fired “peaking” plants can be used to even-out input into the electricity grid when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind is not so blowy. The government thus claims that natural gas is an essential part of the UK’s future “energy mix”, which, if produced domestically through fracking, will also free us from reliance on imports tarnished by volatile Russian politics.

But, time is running out. Recent analysis by Carbon Brief suggests that we only have five years left of current CO2 emission levels before we blow the carbon budget and risk breaching the climate’s crucial 1.5°C tipping point. Whichever energy choices we make now need to starting brining down the carbon over-spend immediately.

Will it help stablise the wider economy? Yes, but not forever.

With so many “Yes, buts...” in the above list, you might wonder why the government is still pressing so hard for fracking’s expansion? Part of the answer may lie in their vested interest in supporting the wider industry.

Tax revenues from UK oil and gas generate a large portion of the government’s income. In 2013-14, the revenue from license fees, petroleum revenue tax, corporation tax and the supplementary charge accounted for nearly £5bn of UK exchequer receipts. The Treasury cannot afford to lose these, as evidenced in the last budget when George Osborne further subsidied North Sea oil operations through increased tax breaks.

The more that the Conservatives support the industry, the more they can tax it. In 2012 DECC said it wanted to “guarantee... every last economic drop of oil and gas is produced for the benefit of the UK”. This sentiment was repeated yesterday by energy minister Andrea Leadsom, when she welcomed the North Yorkshire decision and described fracking as a “fantastic opportunity”.

Dependence on finite domestic fuel reserves, however, is not a long-term economic solution. Not least because they will either run out or force us to exceed international emissions treaties: “Pensions already have enough stranded assets as they are,” says Danielle Pafford from 350.org.

Is it worth it? Most European countries have decided it’s not.

There is currently no commercial shale-gas drilling in Europe. Sustained protests against the industry in Romania, combined with poor exploration results, have already caused energy giant Chevron to pull out of the country. Total has also abandonned explorations in Denmark, Poland is being referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to adequately assess fracking’s impact, and, in Germany, brewers have launched special bottle-caps with the slogan “Nein! Zu Fracking” to warn against the threat to their water supply.

Back in the UK, the government's latest survey of public attitudes to fracking found that 44 per cent neither supported nor opposed the practice, but also that opinion is gradually shifting out of favour. If the government doesn't come up with arguments that hold water soon, it seems likely that the UK's fracking future could still be blasted apart.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.