Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stop Fracking Up the Earth

By Cathy Doodnauth

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.


Methane Laced Water, Hair Loss, and Death – It’s Okay, Hydraulic Fracturing is Worth the Pay Out

By Isabelle Naimo

Hydraulic fracturing. Sounds pretty intimidating, right? It did for me, at least. Despite being an Evironmental Hmanities major at Stony Brook University since the fall of 2014 and a self-proclaimed enthusiast about all things green for a couple of years prior, I never really knew what hydraulic fracturing was. I mean, I knew it was something bad. But I didn’t know exactly what made it bad or what it actually meant in the first place. I could probably chalk up my cluelessness on the matter to the fact that hydraulic fracturing is usually surrounded by a lot of political debate. And politics are a sure-fire way to make my brain go into cruise control. So this week was a struggle to grasp all the facts, truly a learning experience.
           
More commonly known as fracking, hydraulic fracturing refers to the process of creating fractures in rock formations by drilling and inserting fluid into the cracks, therefore forcing the cracks to open further, allowing gas and oil to escape so it can be extracted. Fracking has become a hot topic circulating around the United States due to the threat it poses on clean water and health. Lucky for New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo announced his ban on fracking in December of 2014.
           
You might even say that Governor Cuomo was able to make his decision, the right decision, with a little help from the 2012 documentary, Dear Governor Cuomo. The film used a unique method to get their message across; it was a protest within a concert within a documentary. Filmmaker Jon Bowermaster, instead of taking the route of a traditional documentary, wanted to sway viewers and Governor Cuomo with straight facts and an army of musicians, scientists, and activists to back him up. If I’m being honest, Mark Ruffalo was enough for me to spark a newfound interest in the issues of fracking.

The film transitioned from protest footage to interviews with special guests such as Ruffalo, Natalie Merchant, and biologist Sandra Steingraber to concert scenes. This is where Bowermaster lost me. Yes, the traditional documentary can come off bland. It can lose the interest of its viewers by lacking in originality and mistaking us all for programed robots while an endless list of scientific facts are presented. But though I’m sure the concert footage may have intended to inspire the film’s viewers, it used far too much screen time and was seriously… painful. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cuomo banned fracking just so he wouldn’t have to hear these people sing again.

The 2010 documentary, Gasland, was far superior compared to Dear Governor Cuomo at drawing in an audience. Directed and narrated by Josh Fox, his deep and raspy dark knight voice kept me intrigued for the entire duration. Gasland opens with a committee of politicians discussing hydraulic fracturing. The chairman thanks everyone and is then told he doesn’t know what he’s even giving thanks for, followed by a room full of laughter. The scene gives the viewers a good laugh at the stupidity of the politicians and sets the tone. In case the viewer doesn’t know what side of fracking Fox is on, they know now.

The power of Gasland is in its ability to give the viewer a story to connect with. Fox’s style is riveting and although he’s tackling an overwhelming topic, his sense of humor is enough to allow us to swallow it painlessly. The style of editing is also something admirable. There’s a contrast from showing images of the beauty of the natural world to the horrors done by the fracking industry. I’ll never forget the imagery of the tap water being set on fire. Gasland successfully gets the message across – fracking is a harsh reality that needs to be stopped.
           
On par with the overwhelming information is an article written by Sandra Steingraber, “The Fracking of Rachel Carson.” Steingraber is no rookie to environmental issues. She’s an acclaimed ecologist, author, human rights and environmental activist, cancer survivor and has even been arrested in her attempts at fighting for justice. Steingraber brings a personal touch to Carson’s legacy, discussing her battle with cancer as well as revealing why Carson fought for the things she did. For example, Steingraber notes how at a young age, Carson found a fossilized seashell, igniting her interest in the ocean. As an adult, she went on to write a best selling trilogy about the sea. The insight to Carson’s personal life is effectively placed into the bigger picture of human rights and environmental movements, delivering a powerfully moving piece and overall a wake-up call.
           
Back to Gasland for a moment, residents residing in areas near fracking wells were able to hold a lighter under their running faucets and watch it ignite into flames. In other words, there was so much methane in their water that they could set it on fire. Residents that weren’t busy setting their water on fire were suffering from chronic health issues. Sandra Steingraber mentions in her article that a case study conducted on the impacts of fracking showed vomiting, seizures, stillbirths, fur loss, and even death in animals. Headaches, nosebleeds, rashes, and vomiting were found in humans. In Steingraber’s book, Raising Elijah, she also notes that air pollution caused by fracking has been linked to heart disease and cancer in adults, as well as lower IQ, inadequate lung development, and asthma in children. That’s pretty startling. Even though there hasn’t been a comprehensive study conducted, as of yet, I’m certainly not about to move near a fracking well.
           

Despite all the possible risks, there are still people who aren’t against hydraulic fracturing. Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York was highly covered by the media and either got him applauds or dirty looks. According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Governor Cuomo’s decision was deemed as hiding behind “bad science.” The author boasts against the lack of studies against fracking and uses his sarcastic humor to persuade readers to shun Governor Cuomo. It’s made very clear that someone who puts money before health wrote the article. Sarcastically noting, “economic growth sure can be a nuisance.” Perhaps, fracking in other states have experienced great economical boosts but Governor Cuomo’s precautionary decision to put health before money was the best choice for his re-election, as well as for New Yorkers. Upstate residents may be giving the stink eye to the “liberal elites” of the city and Long Island for now, but they’ll be thanking them later. I mean, water can be set on fire. Scientific certainty or not, that cannot be safe.

Living In a Corporate World

By Brian Khaneyan 

One sad fact of life is that people will do incredibly atrocious things for money. For many people, money is the end-all and be-all, and nothing else matters. This idea is heightened even more when you can do these things behind the veil of a corporation. If you’re the CEO of a big corporation, your main goal isn’t to better the environment or to enhance the lives of others. The main goal is to appease the investors. This is done by making as much money possible, the cheapest way possible. This includes hiring PR firms to cover up the atrocious things the company has done, and strengthen the image of the company overall. If your company’s image is bad, and people dislike the practices of the company, then people will speak out and fight against it, and even boycott some of your goods. The altruistic or regretful image that the PR firm will lay out for the company is simply there to make sure that this doesn’t happen, so that the company can continue to make as much money possible. This week’s sources all talk about fracking, which is deep earth drilling through natural gas shales in order to release and contain these natural gasses for profit. The environmental implications of this drilling are horrendous as there are an incredible amount of toxic chemicals uses. Each of this week’s sources pose the same question and the answer to this question. Is it worth it to ignore the health of humans, our environment, and our communities in return for money and profit? The answer is obviously no, and we should stand up against this fracking by all means possible.
Gasland is a film by Josh Fox which seeks to answer this question, and show the effects of fracking on communities. While the movie has been met with some criticism and skepticism, the stories and images shown have a profound effect. The movie is shot in a documentary style, the camera follows Josh Fox around as he goes to different houses in rural areas. These homes and towns rely mostly on water  they get from wells, and consist of very small communities. However interwoven between these scenes are monologues with Josh as he talks about his home and the implications of fracking for him. One of the more effective uses of the camera were the scenes shot in his backyard. They use an open aperture to achieve a shallow depth of field. This means that the images will be incredibly crisp, and only part of the image will be in focus at one time, making the viewer focus on the green trees and leaves being shown and their beautiful detail. The open aperture allows great amounts of light to enter the camera, which gives the scenes a very dreamy and calm, beautiful feeling to them. This is how Fox gets you to feel for nature, and to feel for the hardships that it is going through due to fracking. On the other end, there are countless interviews with people who are incredibly lost and have no idea what to do. They seem as though they are hopeless, and are defeated in the fight against the fracking companies. Almost every person he interviews gives him their personal stories, and they talk about their day-to-day difficulties due to drinking contaminated water. This includes a woman who gets daily headaches, and multiple people who have to drive to the city or another location in order to get their water for the week or day. Fox shows the immense pain of both nature, and humans. He shows this suffering and then immediately presents us with the facts and information about the companies benefitting off of this suffering. If you asked the companies if they thought what they were doing was just and positive overall- they would definitely say it was. They would, and do, say that it is a win-win situation, the company can get gas, and the residents can get money for the land they have above the shale. Fox depicts this in a completely different way. He shows the suffering and then shows us the companies, telling us that these companies directly benefit from hurting human beings. This movie poses the question about whether we should allow this to happen, and gives us all the evidence as to why we shouldn’t. 
The answer to the question that Gasland proposes can be seen in Dear Governor Cuomo. This film focuses on a concert urging governor Cuomo to not introduce fracking in New York State. The movie answers the question “What should we do?” The answer is to make noise. This is the only way that people will listen. It is a musical protest documentary focused on the rally to insist that Governor Cuomo not lift the moratorium that New York State had on fracking. During the concert songs about the environment and preserving the environment were mainly performed in order to show how much both the celebrities and people care .As stated earlier, companies and individuals hate when people are making complaints about them. This is because it lessens their brand image and can affect their overall bottom line, money. Even more so than companies, public representatives have a much higher responsibility to do as the public wants. While we can boycott companies and expose the things they do all we want, they can still remain in business as some people will have to buy from them. This isn’t the case in politics. The people who vote are going to be the people who are in tune with politics, and know about the issues that are going on. If you make enough noise about something, then the politician has to listen. In this case, a very influential group of people including celebrities used their own status and platforms to make this noise. What choice did Governor Cuomo have really? Does he truly believe and understand that money he could earn from accepting fracking into NY State is not worth endangering human lives? Possibly. However one thing he knows for sure is that the bad publicity that he would receive if he were to lift the moratorium NY State had on fracking, then there would be an outburst of hate through the media and that is not a good thing for his political career. In any case, Dear Governor Cuomo shows us that there is something we can do, there is a lot we can do. 
An article, Gov. Andrew Cuomo To Ban Fracking In New York State, written by James Gerken in The Huffington Post speaks about how Governor Cuomo initiated a ban on fracking in December of 2014. This was in part due to the noise generated by the concert and movie. Cuomo made this decision mostly based on the science and research performed. He stated “I think it’s our responsibility to develop an alternative…or safe, clean economic development.” Interestingly enough, the DEC commissioner also stated that, “the prospects for fracking are uncertain and that the economic benefits are far lower than originally forecasted.” The DEC stands for the Department of Environmental Conservation. This means that the DEC does take into account whether the economic benefit outweighs the human suffering. For a government agency that is supposed to protect our environment, this is interesting, and gives us some insight into how they see things.
Raising Elijah is a book by Sandra Steingraber. Steingraber fell ill to breast cancer when she was only 20 years old. The reason for the cancer at a young age is most likely due to fracking that took place near her home. Her book details the journey of her raising her son, Elijah and instilling good moral values and answering difficult questions that a child can pose. The Chapter Bicycles on Main Street (and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing) explains the effects that fracking can have on communities and people. Towards of the end of the chapter, an energy company representative said, “The shale army has arrived, resistance is futile.” The term she uses, “shale army,” portrays the corporations as people who are coming to her town to invade and cause a war. She puts this quote at the end of the entire chapter that outlines the dangers and harms of fracking. However, she points out that resistance isn’t futile. We shouldn’t just stay behind while the companies are taking advantage of us, and harming our environment. She brings up the examples of Tiananmen Square, which illustrates that resistance is not futile. We must work to counteract these companies because we know that what they are doing is incredibly dangerous. This is done by going to meetings with representatives of the town like Steingraber did and telling them that this is not what we want. At the end of the chapter, Elijah asks referring to a park, “We shouldn’t wreck this place down, right Mom?” The values that Steingraber is instilling into her child create a strong moral character, but it’s more than that. This sentence serves to tell the reader that even a child can see that we shouldn’t allow the energy companies to profit off of our suffering, and that we should do something about it. 

Steingraber also wrote The Fracking of Rachel Carson, which outlines what Rachel Carson said about harmful substances and applies it to fracking. Steingraber uses Carson’s life and history to get closer to the reader and give the reader a sense of who she was. “Carson’s final speech… was delivered six months before her death. By then, her pelvis was pocked with tumors and she walked with great difficulty.” This is one way that we can humanize Carson, and that makes the overall message stronger. Carson said, “we act as though the evidence for harm in other animals does not apply to us.” This is just one way in which we try to rationalize the benefits we get from fracking, by completely ignoring the dangers. 

Robert Hong -- Blog 3: Fracking and Environmental Justice

By Robert Hong

There is a process out there that provides us with necessary resources. It aids our way of life - our hot showers, our ability to cook, our tumble-dried clothes, and more. But this process claims a deadly double-edged dagger. Accidents can happen (and they are not rare). Mishaps would cause poisonous chemicals to contaminate our drinking water, poisonous chemicals to leach into the air, and the production of radioactive wastes that have nowhere to be disposed. Enter hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), exploiting our land, with far and widespread consequences. 

If an intruder entered your home and released toxins into your house, causing you to become ill (or even die), surely they would be tried for murderous intent. But what if instead, they blanketed an entire neighborhood with poison (including the water supply) from a distance and claimed ignorance of such an act? Surely, if it was done hundreds of thousands of times, someone would stop them in a court of law? This is where the procedure of fracking becomes a complete muddled area (it’s not even grey), as they actually receive exemptions from agencies that are supposed to protect the environment and our health. 

If you need some visuals of what’s happening here, just watch fracking documentaries such as Gasland. This indie film spurred by Josh Fox’s concern for his environment shows us the terrible truth of the burden that neighborhoods have to endure when an oil company spawns these hellish fracking drills across the land. Have you ever seen a water faucet (that’s still running water) burst into flames? That’s what happens when the water supply becomes contaminated with methane. In the low-quality recordings, there are multiple demonstrations of water sources (streams, rivers, marshes, tap, wells) being lit on fire. Sure, its cool, but don’t forget that the methane being released into the air is 20x more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Oh, you wanted to slow down global climate change? Then why are we running on the fracking express lane? 

In a notable documentary, Dear Governor Cuomo, the group “New Yorkers Against Fracking” host an emotional concert to raise awareness about fracking. The end result: To garner the attention of New York Governor Cuomo, urging him to become a hero for the new generations to come - by banning fracking in the state. With intense lyrics and mesmerizing music, the concert teaches people about the dangers. Readings of personal accounts and experiences serve to bring the reality of individual pain and suffering onto the stage. This documentary surely does an excellent job in combining a beautiful way of bringing a threatening message.

Rachel Carson, an environmental conservation biologist, fought for us. She wrote books,  attended interviews, and pondered about environmental law. She knew that it was important to tell people that our basic rights needed to include the right to clean air and water - something these drilling companies are intruding upon. In an emotional yet straight-to-the-point article, The Fracking of Rachel Carson, Sandra Steingraber opens Carson’s magnificent thought process and applies them to fracking. At this point, you should get an idea of how horrible the repercussions of fracking are. Yet, what happens when “Somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 wells are planned for Pennsylvania, to be built over the next few decades”? Drilling companies may see that as cheap economic advantages over overseas oil, I see that as mass murder. Not only does it cause illness in humans, but the chemicals that seem into the streams and soil can sicken and kill off multitudes of animals in the area. This is a known fact according to journals such as New Solutions. “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.” Is it not alarming that there are companies willing to live with these adverse effects for profit? 

At the same time, Steingraber doesn’t just write poetic justice for other biologists that have left their legacy. In her book Raising Elijah, she combines her personal humor for her ideas (such as an exercise regimen involving pedal grass cutters) with expert scientific research. She speaks to us as a mother, raising her son in this environmental crisis. In here, she makes choices about her life, explains to us why she does so, and lets us know what our own choices could mean for our environment. Sure, we could “switch to an electric mower, and reduce our carbon footprint to zero,” but she is sure to let us know about the toxic batteries we are harboring and gently reminds us that the electricity we run it with has to come from somewhere (an awful pollution bellowing power plant close by). And when she finally delves into the topic of water quality and how the oil wells and drilling operations affect it, she equates it to “plundering”, thereby personifying the oil/drilling companies. If you looked at what’s going on - where people are pressured into payouts and lending their lands to be drilled - there is quite a lot of truth in that phrase. After all, we are left with nothing but an empty cavern below us - surging with poisonous chemicals, ready to migrate up into our ecosystem one day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fracking

By Heather Mattsongrosso

Fracking. What exactly is fracking? By definition hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas.  Now to me, fracking by its definition seems like an awesome concept, releasing "natural" gas since everything "natural" has to be good for the environment, obvioulsy. Unfortunately this is not the case however, since these fluids being pumped into the Earth are jam packed with chemicals, toxins, and carcinigens that have negative effects on everything in their sight.  The dangers of fracking is a huge controversial concept, which is why there are so many activists who strongly vote against the process due to the harm that is presents.
The Fracking of Rachel Carson by Sandra Steingraber, was a piece that I believe was written in a very interesting way.  The style of this piece was a chronological listing of events from numbers one to fifty, relating to Rachel Carson's life and efforts to put an end to franking.  At the beginning of the piece, it seemed as if it was going to be a biographical timeline of Rachel Carson's life, focusing on her health during her years of battling cancer, while trying to juggle being in the constant public eye.  "Carson's private writings reveal how much physical anguish she endured.  Bone metastases. Radiation burns. Angina. Knowing this you can imagine her patience running out during the interminable photo shoots." Following reading this comment on Rachel's physical and mental state regarding her cancer, the reader may have thought that this piece was going to continue as a complete tribute to the Silent Spring author.  Further down Steingraber's list however, a smooth transition was made changing the focus from Carson's life to the drilling for profitable gasses, known as fracking.  This transition was made after Steingraber described one of Carson's most beloved places, Hawk Mountain, which stretched along the Appalachian flyway.  Along the Appalachia laid solidified silt, also known as Marcellus Shale which Steingraber simply called "the earth."  Steingraber describes the Marcellus Shale, according to the mining industry however as an "overburden" or "the material that lies between the surface and an area of economic interest."  I thought that this was a great way to shine light on the fact that these mining industries pay no mind to the beautiful simplicity of this sedimentary rock, but only see it as a profitable well of natural gas that they love getting their hands on and drilling into.

Steingraber is also the author of Raising Elija: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis.  In her environmental parenting book, Steingraber dedicates an entire chapter to the definition and dangers of fracking.  In beginning the topic of fracking, Steingraber focuses the attention to her shale sidewalk.  Focusing on the sidewalk that almost everyone takes for granted, she reflects that the slab of slate under her feet has millenniums of history behind it, marking it as ancient sea floor that her children now use for hopscotch.  She elaborates on how this simple slate in which we use for our daily activities is taken for granted, although historically it has seen more than we could ever imagine.  "Connecting my front door to Main Street, three blocks away, this crooked sidewalk deserves the credit, I suddenly realized, for so much more than service as an art easel and a hopscotch court.  It has played a key role in many of my parenting success heretofore."  Saying something as simple as the sidewalk has played a "keel role" in her parenting as well as her life may seem ridiculous to some, but  it helps the reader come down to a less complicated mind set.  This writing style of connecting such a simple thing like a sidewalk to a bigger picture of life creates a sort of sentiment towards it, letting the reader become truly connected to it. 

After a full set of examples and reasons why the simple slate sidewalk plays such a big role in our every day lives, Steingraber continues to explain what lies beneath our beloved sidewalks, Marcellus Shale, which she describes as being the basement foundation of New York State.  Like I said before, this rock is not just a rock but basically a tap full of profitable gases.  "The Marcellus Shale holds the largest natural gas deposit in the United States…this subterranean landscape has become ground zero for a form of energy extraction called high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing."  This is why oil companies live to frack, and here comes the drilling…but with drilling for this money making natural gas comes negative side effects which Steingraber lists off as well.  I believe that Steingraber's book could captivate many people and make them listen, simply because she comes down to the level of compassion for her family.  In her book, she ultimately is trying to keep her children safe during this time of environmental hardships, pointing out harmful systems practiced on our earth.  

To expand on the harm that is brought by fracking, brings us to Josh Fox's documentary, Gasland.  The film starts off with the documentary-filmmaker going door to door and interviewing families in the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania.  Here is where the company Cabot Oil and Gas had been drilling wells to get to those precious gases underneath the Earth's surface.  Fox used what seemed to be his own camera and the recordings seemed to look like he just wanted footage and did not care about the quality. I felt that starting his film off this way set the mood for the entire film.  Using his own camera, his own voice, and creating a seemingly low-budget film let it be known that rather than creating a major motion picture expecting a huge profit, Fox just wanted to get the raw footage and information out and exposed.  I personally like this approach to documentary filmmaking because it just goes to show that you don't need flashing lights and makeup artists to create a moving film.

The protest film Dear Governor Cuomo took a different approach towards revealing the risks of hydraulic fracking.  The film featured several famous actors, actresses,musicians, and scientists, as well as countless anti-fracking activists.  It was based around an event taking place in Albany where activists gathered around music, readings, and performances in efforts to prevent Governor Cuomo from allowing fracking in New York State.  The event not only created a sense of comrodery and uniformity among protesters but it was a peaceful plea for Governor Cuomo's help in banning fracking.  I felt that this film was made very well and it was simply enjoyable to watch because it wasn't just a lesson on the dangers of franking, it was also an entertaining film with music and poetry that was informative to the viewer.

In a recent article, Cuomo's fracking ban has some New York towns contemplating secession, Caitlin Dickinson explains how although many New Yorkers as well as the Governor support the ban of fracking in the Empire State, there are people who disagree with this decision.  This group, known as the "Southern-tier"  believes that if the natural gas is there, and can make money, why not utilize it? "…the ban was seen not as a cause for celebration but rather as the final straw, dashing hopes that the rural region's resource-rich land might be the golden ticket to a revitalized economy."  In efforts to revolt against this decision those opposed to the ban wish to secede to Pennsylvania where fracking is legal, because they feel that it will bring in more profits.  According to the article, Republican supervisor of a small upstate New York town advocates the secession.  He supports this notion simply because of the unemployment and lack of income in his town of Conklin.  Finch states, "The Southern-tier is desolate.  We have no jobs and no income.  The richest resource we have is in the ground."  I could see how this could be a controversial issue because it is a decision between protecting the Earth and protecting the livelihood of the people who inhabit it.

Get the FRACK outta here!

By Anthony D'Angelo III

So far, our class has investigated the environmental issues of global warming and climate change, as well as the environmental ideology of land use and the connection with the natural world. These two topics have large, global implications, and are applicable to situations not only in America but to all other areas of the world. Although large scale Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) has global ramifications and impacts, it appears as though America specifically will be the “wild wild west” of fracking operations and environmental debate. We focused on the topic of fracking in America this week, and paid special attention to fracking in New York State. To me, it was important to look at a local environmental issue, because when something is happening real close to home, or in our case, when something is potentially happening in your drinking water, it puts a tangible feel to something that can feel at times far away and abstract

My personal favorite of all the works we studied this week was Dear Governor Cuomo. I found that of all the readings and viewings we have had so far, the topic of this movie was most significant and relevant to me. I thought the movie was original in the way it was filmed and constructed, not just because the movie was based off of a concert, but because the movie made its point in a very friendly, elegant way. I loved the way the various artist, actors, activists and scientists would tell their story and make their point to the audience, and then the film cuts to a song being played, and lets the viewer reflect upon the message being delivered, over the tunes of some very enjoyable music.  I thought this film was a breath of fresh air compared to the tones of the other films we watched. Rather than trying to vilify big government, energy companies or a particular politician, the protagonists of the film opt to make the governor a “hero” and actively try to persuade him with a combination of science, music and personalized stories. 

One song in particular that I really connected with was Hurricane Waters by Citizin Cope. I had never heard this song before I watched Dear Governor Cuomo.  But the imagery this song created for me was intense. I instantly thought about super storm sandy and seeing this place I call home, Long Island, devastated. I could take this entire blog to break down this particular song. But maybe it’s best to just listen and hear what the song does for you. 

We were introduced to Sandra Steingraber this week through a variety of writings and viewings, much in the same way we were introduced to Bill Mckibben last week. I like this strategy. It gives the viewer, in this case our class, a chance to see these environmentalist’s works and ideas from different perspectives. Reading someone’s black and white words is one things; seeing their face and hearing their voice is completely different. For instance, in “Raising Elijah”, Sandra comes across as a concerned mother over the future of the planet. Not only is she and environmentalist, but she’s a parent who is concerned about the issues her children will have to face in the future, due to problems we are causing today. Her words came across to me as gentle and caring. But the theme of concerned parent was always present.  In contrast, after watching Dear Governor Cuomo and the short interview of Sandra in class, I came away thinking the she was fiery, passionate, persuasive and red blooded. Civil disobedience isn’t for the faint of heart, particularly when you know you will be arrested, and you have a family that needs you.  Her strong convictions are much more clearly displayed through video media than her writings.  

“The Fracking of Rachel Carson” by Sandra Steingraber was a different kind of read then I’m used to in this class. I’m not quite sure how to interpret it. The first thing that confused me was the way that the points being made were numbered, but nowhere is it ever clarified as to why she is numbering her ideas, nor is there a clear pattern as to why one point stops and another one starts. I was also confused as to the overall message she was trying to send. The article felt part biography, part political satire and part literary non-fiction.  Given all these questions, I still liked it. The article is easy to read and its facts are clearly stated. I like that her writing style in this particular article seems to combine poetic description , science, law, fact and casual conversation in a way that satisfies the needs of all her readers.  She’s not too informal, but she will take a sentence or two to remind you that’s she’s a human. 

 “In the iconic Hawk Mountain photo, Rachel Carson is truly beautiful. Her smile looks natural rather than forced. Posed on a rocky summit, she is wearing a badass leather jacket and wields a pair of leather-strapped binoculars. So armed, she scans the horizon. At her feet, the whole of Berks County, Pennsylvania, unfurls, forest and valley, field and mountain, like a verse from a Pete Seeger song.”

She’s not too scientific, but she flexes her intellect when needed. 

High-volume, slickwater, horizontal hydrofracking would be considered a crime if the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates underground chemical injections, pertained. But they don’t. In 2005, fracking was granted specific exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fracking is also exempt from key provisions within the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Chemicals used in drilling and fracking operations can be claimed as trade secrets; public release of their identity is not mandated by federal right-to-know provisions. The Environmental Protection Agency has limited jurisdiction over fracking.”

I felt that Sandra Steingraber was very influenced by Rachel Carson, much in the same way that Bill Mckibben was influenced by Henry Thoreau.  Not only because Rachel Carson had an effect on ALL environmental writers, but because they seem to have very similar writing styles. They are both gifted scientist and writers, and they find ways to make their scientific ideas literarily aesthetic.  I also can’t help but think that being a female environmentalist with cancer made Steingraber connect with Rachel Carson that much more. Sandra connected with her philosophically and personally, and it’s evident in the way that Steingraber writes about Rachel.   This quotes sounds like more than just an observation; it sounds like empathy.  
 “In the later portraits, Carson was dying of breast cancer. It was a diagnosis she hid out of fear that her enemies in industry would use her medical situation to attack her scientific objectivity and, most especially, her carefully constructed argument about the role that petrochemicals (especially pesticides) played in the story of human cancer. But behind her unflappable public composure, Carson’s private writings reveal how much physical anguish she endured. Bone metastases. Radiation burns. Angina. Knowing this, you can imagine her patience running out during the interminable photo shoots. The wretched wig hot and itchy under the lights. The stabbing pains (cervical vertebrae splintered with tumors) that would not, would not relent.”
Gasland was a very interesting film that gives a sense of urgency to the issue of fracking. Its filming style is witty and clever, and has a sarcastic yet urgent undertone. Like many other movies we watched, this film took aim at big energy companies and personified them as enemies. The documentary style filming adds a personal feeling to the various scenes, and I thought the commentary over the scenes was well timed and appropriate. Unlike Dear governor Cuomo, Gasland deals with the issues of fracking throughout America. The scenes that stuck with me were the ones showing people lighting their faucet water on fire, and I think that was the director’s plan. The shock value of those scenes is very important politically. If I knew nothing else about fracking, and someone showed me the water on fire video, that’s more than enough to create a negative connotation for fracking. 

My article contribution from Newsweek.com on fracking is a recent article that tells the other side of the story as it pertains to the environmentalist movement against fracking in NY.  Around fifteen towns are researching the legality and debating the economic effects of actually seceding from New York and joining Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania towns that have allowed thousands of wells to be drilled are reaping the short term economic benefits associated with the sale of their land, and thousands of New Yorkers want to cash in too. Their reason may be a little sketchy :   
“‘Everybody over the border has new cars, new four-wheelers, new snowmobiles, James Finch, a Republican supervisor for the small town of Conklin told Capital New York. “They have new roofs, new siding.”
Nonetheless, these people’s right to profit off their land, regardless of environmental issues, needs to at least be heard. In the perfect world, deep pocketed advocates and non-profit organizations would be able to give these people some money in order to persuade them to keep their land, this way the environment and those people’s bottom dollars are both satisfied.