No Fracking Way

Have you seen Gasland? Have you heard the fuss around this funny thing called “fracking?” Well, if you answered no to these questions, then I would suggest picking up a copy of Gasland, and getting yourself down to Washington Square Park from 12:30 to 2:30 to join fellow activists in telling the state that YOU don’t want corporations making a profit from destroying your drinking water as well as the livelihoods of landowners.

So wtf is fracking? Companies tap into natural shales using toxic chemicals in order to extract “clean,” “natural gas.” These chemicals not only seep into the groundwater, sometimes even making the drinking water flammable, but they also dump the by-products of the drilling (read: toxic sludge water) into unregulated pits. These companies are poised to begin drilling along the Marcellus Shale in upstate New York, which would not only affect the drinking water of New York City residents, it would destroy the land, health, and economies of residents living along the shale. This is a very rough outline for the sake of brevity; for a more detailed description of fracking (and for more “Wtf moments”), check out the Students Against Hydro-Fracking blog and Facebook event.

Of course, fracking is a very complex issue. First, consider this: an economically depressed area, like say Binghamton, NY. Now, picture an individual who’s been on their land for years, living pay-check to pay-check for the majority of their life, and a corporation shows up and offers them $200,000 up-front to lease their 100-acre land for a few years so they can drill for natural gas. Maybe that individual can finally send their child to college, or purchase a car to get them to work more consistently. And tapping into natural gas could potentially ease America off our dependence on foreign oil and begin fostering internal resources, propping-up the economy, and creating jobs.

It feels a little…brash for a bunch of city-dwellers to say “No, you can’t lease your land because it will eventually affect our drinking water.” Of course, there a few other things going on here: the corporations are not entirely truthful about the nature of the drilling, they don’t tell land-owners about the dangers of hydro-fracking, that it will destroy the groundwater and change the nature of the local atmosphere. They also have ways to eliminate the traceability of any damage. And how far do private property rights extend when the consequences include poisoning the drinking water of residents over 150 miles away?

However, we still can’t deny those individuals the potential of their land, the same way we cannot penalize industrial farmers for intensively farming privately owned land (really, this all stems from private property rights and the idea that you can ‘own’ land at all, but I’ll spare you my communist-esque rant). And really, we shouldn’t be focusing on finding a new resource to feed our insatiable desire to consume. Instead, we need to focus on changing our understanding of consumption so as to wean ourselves off not only foreign oil, but the excessive use of any resource, including natural gas. Hydro-fracking has already destroyed the lives of countless individuals across the West, and it absolutely cannot continue in its current context, with corporations exploiting resources and humans with no repercussions. But I think it’s important not only to consider the subtitles I mentioned above, but to also start thinking of viable alternatives and solutions rather than simply yelling “Not in my back yard.” Because if it’s not in our back yard, then who’s?


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