Maybe I’m not as smart as thought I was. Try as I might, I’m having a tough time getting an understanding of the recent debate over the oil and natural gas industry’s process of “hydraulic fracturing.” You see, if you or I spill so much as a quart of motor oil or a similar amount of any of the “hundreds of millions of pounds of carcinogenic compounds” that have been injected into the ground at hundreds of thousands of locations over the past few decades through hydraulic fracturing, we go to jail for contaminating the environment. Just to make sure I know what I’m talking about, I looked up the word “groundwater” in the dictionary. Sure enough, just as I suspected, it means: water that is in the ground. This is the same water that we use for drinking and growing our food. And it’s the same ground that the hundreds of millions of pounds of carcinogenic fluids are being pumped into to release the oil and natural gas. Again, maybe I’m missing something here.
The argument is put forth that this process is necessary to acquire the natural resources we need to maintain the “life of convenience” we currently enjoy. I guess that includes the endless line of 10,000 lb. SUV’s idling in front of my house each morning for half an hour with one parent transporting one child ten or twelve blocks to school. A child that has a 65 percent chance of being obese or overweight because his or her parents allow him or her to eat garbage tainted with chemicals and drive him or her to school instead of insisting they walk. As professor Paul Fussel once asked: “convenient for whom?”
I remember being a teenager back in the 1960’s and discovering the truth about Vietnam, Nixon, the Military Industrial Complex and all the rest. There were those of us that figured as soon as the general public became aware of these things, it would only be a matter of weeks, or months at the most, before people became enraged to the point where they demanded that those responsible for the corruption of our government and the pollution of our environment be held accountable. There were many who also saw that unless we stopped the runaway train of consumption and growth at any cost, we would risk winding up exactly where we are today in 2011. Back then, it was only called “pollution.” Today, only forty years later, the term is: “impending irreversible planetary catastrophe.” Maybe it’s just a semantic thing. One of last Sunday’s news stories said that “by 2050 the Colorado River basin could expect 9 percent less available water due to climate change brought about primarily by excess CO2 in the atmosphere.” This will take place simultaneously with an ever and exponentially increasing population and demand. In the same time frame, CO2 leached by rainwater into the oceans will raise the acidity of seawater to a level that will eliminate 30 percent of marine species, particularly microorganisms at the base of the food chain, along with most of the rest of the coral reef systems essential to ocean health that haven’t already been destroyed. If there is an optimistic prognosis there, I guess I’m missing it.
The folks that are insisting that hydraulic fracturing poses no danger at all to people or the environment are the same people that reassured us nuclear power and offshore drilling were perfectly safe: nothing to worry about, technology has all the safeguards in place. Is anyone curious why we don’t see any news stories, (except the National Geographic Magazine), describing the environmental effect of dumping 50 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico? It’s like it never happened and everything’s just fine. The astonishing thing to me is that people seem to show no outrage or even awareness of the implications of fracturing and pouring poison into the ground where we get water to drink and grow our food. People seem to be perfectly able to focus passionately on what’s going on with “Survivor,” and “Dancing with the Stars,” but when it comes to real events that have an effect on their lives, they are unable to get a grasp on it. Perhaps it’s the advance symptoms of exposure to the chemicals. Amazingly, a recent poll showed that 65 percent of Americans are “unsure” whether global climate change is man-made or even real. Since 99.9 percent of the world’s scientists - and that means people who are educated in the fields of science and have some rational basis for their conclusions – are in agreement that climate change is real, man-made and potentially devastating for life on earth, we have to credit someone with a heck of a P.R. job. I mean, if your doctor told you that you, or your spouse, or your child was sick, would you tell him he was wrong and go get a second opinion from Steve Forbes or Dick Cheney?
The history of the rise and fall of cultures, societies and nations is well documented and tends to follow similar patterns: Exploration and Discovery, Exuberant Growth, Prosperity, Wealth and Power, Hubris and Gluttony, Decadence and Decline, Return to Obscurity. I will leave it to the reader to decide for himself where America lies on this progression. But I will say this: If a nation that is struggling over whether it makes sense to inject carcinogenic poisons into the ground they live upon thinks it is in shape to compete on the global stage with a nation and culture that has for six thousand years made the central tenets of its philosophy patience, cooperation and rational thinking, all I can say is: Buena Suerte.
– Randall Schridlup, Montrose