Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pulling off the fracking tape.

So, here's the thing with fracking and all the other potentially environmentally hazardous methods of fueling our fuel-obsessed lives; I hate it. 
I just finished reading a book called "Half Broke Horses" (by J. Walls) which was an amazing based-on-true-life account of a woman growing up in Texas and then Arizona back in the early 1900s.  She was a feisty character who got into all sorts of adventures but had this hard working attitude that did her well through the rougher times. I was reading it at the blood donors clinic the other night and the chatty nurse who was 'hooking me up' commented that it was a good book but 'terribly sad'.  I had only just started it, so was disappointed to hear that and as I was reading, turned the pages nearly reluctantly waiting for the grand downfall. 
It never came.  There was no sad part, I thought.  It was all part of this great life of hard work and new beginnings and successes and failures.  One of the themes in the book though was that the main character embraced the future rather than shunning it like many other characters in the story.  She saw those who sneered at the first cars as backward and she relished the idea of flying a plane or getting electricity when most others saw all those things as wasteful and foolish passing fads.  Even as she grew older, she continued to see the future as a welcoming thing, rather than an intimidating wasteland of unknowns.
I wish I could say the same.
I don't love cell phones and excessive e-interaction (says the blogger), and I don't love thinking about where we are headed if we continue in this global economized world.  I don't love that we continue to dive headfirst into what seem like great ideas without really taking the time to look at it from all angles (ie. GMOs).  I don't love that our first world depends so heavily on the third world to do our dirty work and still remain the third world.  I really don't love that our governments haven't figured out that the economy DOESN'T matter if the environment is shot.

But the thing about fracking is that this may be the best time to do it.  It seems pretty much inevitable to me that oil exploration, natural gas, uranium and all other alternative fuel sources are going to be exhausted before we're forced to figure out whether we really need asparagus in January or if we need to go to Dubai for a meeting or if we can actually survive on our own, using a local economy.  Once gas runs out (and I understand we've hit peak it's all downhill from here), we all know that between the corporations and the governments, all options will be explored, extracted, exploited and exhausted.  And what a frenzy that will be eh?  Gas is gone, so what's next. Well, at that point it will just be a wild cowboy race to dig up the next best thing, no matter the cost, environmental or otherwise.
SO, while I may really really despise the idea of fracking and all it entails, I have to admit that right now, while we have some sharp minds in the environment keeping an eye on it and a few 'laws' and some science trying to keep up, it might be the only time to do it. 
Once a race has started, there's no time to look back, restart with new rules and stop if necessary.  It just doesn't happen.

That said, I'm not convinced the sharp minds and the science is really quite ready yet and for damn sure, the laws need a little bolstering.  Due to a loophole in some policy somewhere, the drilling companies are not required to provide a list of all the 150 chemicals it takes to create those cracks deep down in the earth.  (You can't use a hand soap in a bakery without a WHIMS sheet but you can contaminate multiple water tables with 150 unaccounted for chemicals!?) 150. Mixed with water, that they admit, can never TRULY be all removed, cleaned out, etc.  And those chemicals that are able to be removed from the water go to...? A tailing pond somewhere for the next generation to deal with?  150 chemicals mixed into billions, BILLIONS of liters of what will soon become our most precious resource, all to extract what may provide us a few more years of bright lights, cool homes in the summer, fast cars, big planes, tropical produce and vacations. 

 I don't have solutions, and I'm no environmental martyr,  I'll be the first to admit, but I think I can see where this is headed, and if things were a little more transparent, and the accountability was written in stone, with real consequences, I might be better able to 'grin and bear it'.  Ok, probably not grin, but at least bear it.
If we're going to do this thing (and I'm sure we are), let's do it now while we're not desperate and we're actually paying attention to what is going on.


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