Is it just me or does it seem to you too that those in control — of industry, food production, energy systems, land development, planet and animal genetic patents, and us
too — are testing Mother Nature’s limits? What can they do without entirely breaking apart Earth’s crust and rendering the surface of the planet uninhabitable? In order to cash in on whatever can be claimed and bought and sold at the greatest profit? While the rest of us are content to hope that we can get a piece of the action and that those in control know what they’re doing?
It’s scary, isn’t it?
I might argue that there have been many reflections of such fear in the planet-busting images in science fiction (see Wikipedia’s “List of planet killers”). Some of that planet-busting is done in the name of progress. Folks who know The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may remember that planet Earth is demolished by extra-terrestrial Vogon civil services to make way for a hyperspace expressway for interstellar travel.
Last I looked, we have only one planet to play with.
So why are we toying with nuclear power plants; genetically modified organisms; greenhouse gases; foods of limited nutritional value that are laced with the toxic chemicals of industrial agriculture; reckless extraction technologies (from hydrofracturing Marcellus Shale to deep-sea oil drilling); toxic wastes?
Shouldn’t we stop doing what we’re doing before there are any more Chernobyls, Three Mile Islands, Fukushima Dai-ichis, “empty harvests” (producing foods that undermine our health instead of supporting it), Daniel Pennocks (boy who died after exposure to sewage sludge spread on farmland), Deepwater Horizon oil spills, Love Canal communities (built on tons of toxic waste), contamination of water supplies via disposals of coal ash.
Not just cleaning up the mess. Not just using healthcare to treat the ill health caused. Not getting caught up in expending our efforts on closing the barn doors after the cows have gotten out. Nor getting caught up in the bind of allowing harms to continue because our way of life depends on them. Just saying no to our industrial-military-agribusiness-pharmaceutical, petroleum, get-in-on-the-get-rich-schemes addictions.
Opposition to Marcellus Shale fracking suggests ways to say no.
There’s a lot to be concerned about regarding the extraction of natural gas from the deep underground Marcellus Shale formations using hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Its potential impact on the health of people and the environment is horrendous. A sign-on statement from Lehigh Valley health and environmental experts initiated in February 2011 by the Alliance and Clean Water Action states, in part:
Hydraulic fracturing uses known toxins and carcinogens in fracking fluids, and produces heavy metals and other solid and liquid wastes… Contamination of soil, air, and groundwater from the large volumes of fluids and wastes used and produced by unconventional gas development represents a clear health hazard to millions in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Last year alone, 151 million gallons of inadequately treated toxic wastewater were dumped into rivers and streams.
This sign-on statement takes the task of involving health and environmental experts in urging decision-makers to follow the Precautionary Principle, which requires proof of the safety of Marcellus Shale drilling and of its impacts before drilling is permitted or allowed to continue.
Pittsburgh City Council, with the help of an ordinance drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (the Alliance has endorsed the community rights work of CELDF), has taken another tack in defending people and the environment from frack- ing. On Nov 16, 2010, Pittsburgh City Council became the first municipality in the United States to ban natural gas extraction within its boundaries.
It does so by asserting a new bill of rights — including the right to water — for Pitts- burgh residents. Included also are rights for ecosystems and nature. It then bans those activities — including natural gas extraction — that would violate those rights. It also contains enforcement provisions as well as statements of law denying corporate privilege.
In the Lehigh Valley, Easton’s City Council heeded Pittsburgh’s call for support from other municipalities by adopting a resolution on Dec 22, 2010. As reported by Noël Jones (posted on her Neighbors of Easton blog):
The mayor and city council voted unanimously Wednesday night in favor of Vice-Mayor El Warner’s resolution in support of Pittsburgh’s recent ban… As the mayor pointed out, “this resolution is as much about self-governance as it is about natural gas… hopefully other municipalities in our region will follow suit”.
Well, where are you on this? Whaddiya think?
Martin is a member of the Alliance Steering Committee
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)