When I first heard the term “fracking”, I thought it was a clever way to disguise the expletive that so closely resembles it. Of course this was years ago, during a time where I was not as heavily invested in environmental issues as I am now. If only this term was a euphemism for a simple curse. Instead, it is a process that may be harming the earth more than helping the inhabitants. So what exactly is fracking?
“What Goes In and Out of Hydraulic Fracturing” is an online source that explains the entirety of the fracking process in an easy manner. Simply scroll down the site and it shows a step-by-step explanation of the process. To reiterate the website, fracking is the “process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.” Fracking is controversial; the cons outweigh the pros with this issue, and I agree that it needs to be stopped all over the world. For instance, we use millions of gallons of water on one line; the gas comes up but the water is stuck under the earth. We waste all of that water, but still advocate for helping dehydrated people around the world. Totally makes sense. But it’s not just water- we also add “40,000 gallons of chemicals” to it. So we’re poisoning water and the earth simultaneously. By the way, these chemicals include carcinogens and toxins that can kill us. Still makes total sense, right? Yet, instead of banning it across the world, humans are allowing it in more areas. Governments are buying landowners off with thousands of dollars to frack in their backyards; fracking that leads to unhealthy conditions that make those owners sick. The children too. Yet, more areas in America are allowing it. Humans are letting the prospect of money cloud our judgment, and are effectively pushing the earth down an irreversible pathway. Allowing fracking will harm more than help, a fact environmentalists are trying to push onto the people of the world. I just wonder if anyone is really listening.
Maybe at first gas companies wanted their buying-out of landowners to be a secret. If so, it didn’t last too long; partly because once fracking started, the owners and families began seeing changes they were untold of. And partly because of a popular documentary made by activist Josh Fox: Gasland. Fox himself was offered $100,000 to allow a gas company to explore his land in the Delaware River Basin. He denies, researching states where it has begun and effects instead. What he finds is horrific enough to spark a film showcasing the true colors of fracking. The style of the film is what makes it effective. Fox films his travels to areas where people allow fracking. He finds brown drinking water, high smells of gas in neighborhoods, and finds a homeowner with a unique issue: flammable tap water. Fox holds nothing back in this film, showing how the government and natural gas companies are allowing fracking to ruin lives without any guilt. Everything he saw, he shows in the documentary. The truth of it, the lack of holding back, and the gross factor are what makes this film inspire people to stop fracking.
With all the terrible effects of fracking, it’s no surprise that many move to ban it wherever they can. Thankfully, the government of New York State has recently made the decision to ban fracking for good. Being a New Yorker, this ban makes me incredibly happy. Hopefully, other states will take our ban into account and make the change as well. Environmentalists everywhere can thank Governor Cuomo, the governor of New York who actually had a whole documentary devoted to convince him to ban fracking. I’m talking about Dear Governor Cuomo, a documentary that uses a concert protest style to get its message to the governor. I suppose this film really worked (2 years later). I myself don’t believe it to be the most effective style of films- the singing portions made me lose interest in what was really being advocated for. The songs were too long- I feel as if they were shortened and more discussions were shown, the film would be more effective. Including actors who are activists (such as a personal favorite, Mark Ruffalo) helped somewhat; having someone famous can get the less interested/ less informed people into the issues and movements. Overall, I don’t think this style of documentary is the most helpful in our movement against fracking, but it did benefit New York.
Although amazing, the ban on fracking in New York has been controversial. The NY Times discusses the historical ban here. Author Thomas Kaplan discusses Cuomo’s history with anti-frackers, as well as scientific evidence that fracking is more harmful than good. His article is progressive- each paragraph flows to the next nicely so readers can understand the politics and science behind the ban. Many state governments face more protests due to this latest ban. In a recent article, “Heavyweight Response to Local Fracking Bans,” author Jack Healy discusses the reactions of fracking states and gas companies to New York’s ban. He includes an angry president of a gas company:
“You have to take a hard line on this,” said Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which is leading the charge to strike down the regulations here. “A ban does not address our underlying energy needs. It clarifies the agenda of activists, which is, ‘We don’t want any oil and gas development, although we as a community will continue to consume oil and gas.’”
Including this quote allows Healy’s article to see an opposing viewpoint of fracking. Schuller’s argument is legitimate; everyone against fracking will continue to use oil and gas. But I disagree with her point- she forgets that fracking allows deadly chemicals to infect people around the sites. People are dying because gas companies want to make money in their backyards. Yes, we will continue to use oil and gas- because it’s all we have to survive with, until we are given an alternative. That does not mean we want to screw the world up even more than it is already.
Men were the environmentalists. Or so we think, as a woman’s work would go ignored simply because of their gender. Women now take advantage of the world of listeners, like the infamous Sandra Steingraber. In some ways, she is Rachel Carson reborn: both faced a life-threatening cancer and had the courage to speak up for their passionate, environmental beliefs. Steingraber uses the late Carson’s ideas to discuss hydraulic fracturing in “The Fracking of Rachel Carson.”She uses numbered points to move her idea forward, beginning with the personal side of Carson’s life. In point 4, she connects Carson to fracking: “…the essay is notable not only for its careful analysis of bird behavior and knowledge of geology but also because Carson traced the origin of her lookout to Paleozoic marine organisms.” These past Paleozoic are now bubbles of methane, a gold mine for the gas industry. And so, fracking begins. The Environmental Protection Agency has little jurisdiction over fracking, despite its link to Silent Spring. The Safe Drinking Water Act exempts fracking; so does the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Steingraber declares that we aren’t honoring Carson’s work on environmental issues; we’re letting her work slip by. To further discredit fracking, Steingraber uses ethos. Her facts, such as the destruction of “360,000 to 900,000 acres of interior forest habitat” are from the Nature Conservancy and are rather frightening. When discussing the impact of gas drilling, she instills fear again, this time using imagery: “In cattle exposed to fracking fluid: stillborn calves, cleft palates, milk contamination, death. In cats and dogs: seizures, stillbirths, fur loss, vomiting. In humans: Headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, vomiting.” Painting a disturbing picture into the minds of the audience can convince them to fight fracking.
Fracking, no matter what argument one makes for it, is not what humans need right now. It is also not what the earth needs, but it isn’t the first time we ignored the rights of the environment. Steingraber discusses similar ideas and issues, including fracking, in detail in her recent book, Raising Elijah. She relies on imagery to make her points effective. The imagery helps the audience imagine a future filled with fracking- a desolate world, where “gas pockets explode. Blowout protectors fail. Chemicals spill. Trucks hauling toxic liquids crash. Holding ponds and waste pits leak. Sludge tank walls collapse.” Imagining a future like this can make the readers want to avoid it however they can. While imagery works, I think Steingraber has a more effective method- the connections to future children. She keeps bringing fracking back to the effects it will have on our children; children that any reader will picture as their own. “Ultimately, the environmental crisis is a parenting crisis.” Allowing fracking to occur in the present will most assuredly ruin the lives of the children. It will force them to live in a world where the air is toxic and the water is poisoned. Who really wants their child’s future to look like that?
Overall, hydraulic fracturing is just another way for the gas companies to make even more money. Sure, some poor landowners get paid large amounts of money, but they end up with illnesses that bring an early death. Fracking was banned in New York State- the third most populous state, where people are known to be rude and care for money. If we can do it, why can’t the other states? With pressure on the government and companies, maybe fracking will be universally banned. In fact, here is an online website that can help keep track of where fracking has been banned for good. There is no justifiable reason to continue to frack up the earth, especially if humans really want to live on it for the next few centuries. So let’s keep banning hydraulic fracturing and stop harming the planet.