After several years of watching the shale gas debate evolve in the UK, we've identified four main types of person opposed to fracking. Here's how to spot them.
1. The NIMBY
These people generally don't like the idea of any kind of new development taking place near where they live - which is quite understandable. And when the development that's proposed is something they're not used to and don't know anything about, they're even more likely to reject it.
2. The Eco-Worrier
These people genuinely believe that they're doing the right thing and just want to feel like they're playing their part in protecting the environment. But a lot of their fears are without proper scientific foundation - they worry based on gut feel and instinct.
3. The NGOer
These are people that have paid and unpaid roles working with non-governmental organisations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. They have a lot in common with the Eco-Worriers except they know where the science starts and ends - they just choose, for ideological reasons and because it helps with fundraising, to ignore it.
4. The Radical
This class of anti-frackers often aren't really anti-fracking - they're just opposed to anything that "big business" can profit from, that the government of the day supports, and that involves the police. They attach themselves to multiple causes that afford them the opportunity they need to rage against "the System." In essence, they just want to fight something - anything.
The problem is that the NGOers and the Radicals influence the NIMBY's and Eco-Worriers with their more extreme views. And so some of the people that start out being moderate and mild-mannered are soon hurling abuse at the police and anyone that doesn't agree with their view.
Why are these classifications important to supporters of fracking?
Because it's helpful to tailor your language and responses depending on who you're talking to when debating the relative merits of fracking with people on social media.
For example, it's counterproductive to treat everyone as if they're a Radical. The genuine NIMBY and the Eco-Worrier might be persuaded that fracking can and will be done safely - but not by belittling their concerns. Likewise, it's pretty pointless arguing with NGOers because they won't change course. And the Radicals don't really care anyway - they're just happy to be arguing with someone about something.
As supporters, it's not our job to convince anyone that fracking is necessary, or good, or safe enough - that's the job of the fracking companies and their PR consultants. Our job is simply to express the reasons why we support it and to share the facts as we seem them.
If we want people to acknowledge our views as legitimate, even if they still refuse to agree with them, we have to engage with them more intuitively based on their characteristics.