The Shell Professor of Earth Sciences at Oxford is incorrect in saying (Oxford Today, Michaelmas, p. 17) that only local communities can judge whether the disruption of fracking is justified by the privileges of living in a highly developed society. Anyone can be a judge of that. But to have any relevance to the fracking debate in which the professor was engaged, such judges must be equipped with sentencing powers — as to whether local fracking may proceed or not. Local communities are denied that.

The relevant question is whether or not fracking is a necessary condition of a highly developed society. And of course it is not. Moreover, such a democratic deficit throws doubt on whether our society is highly developed or not. So what point was the professor trying to make?