Fracking As A Fractured Relationship With Ourselves
Fracking, an abbreviation for hydraulic fracturing. A method used to extract natural gas from shale involving horizontal drilling, high pressures, lots of waters, lots of chemicals, resulting in toxic waste. Sometimes spelled (bizarrely to my eye and ear) fracing. Used, to my knowledge with the energy reference unbeknownst, by the creators of the revival of Battlestar Galactica as an swear word, so you get humorous turns of phrase like ‘motherfracker’ or ‘motherfracking’. The play on naughty language is also used by opponents of the procedure on protest signs and stickers (see above) and in really rather informative music videos (see below). Fracturing, breaking apart, splitting, division of a solid or relatively solid piece of material. Splintering, creation of disconnected pieces. The creation of space between two or more previously connected things, material or immaterial. Fractured, that which has been broken apart, split, divided, splintered, disconnected.
Why are fossil fuel companies going to such great lengths right now to get oil, get coal, get natural gas? Why are they exploring ever deeper areas of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, trying to wring drops of oil from stone in Canada, blowing the tops off mountains in Appalachia, injecting chemicals, water and sand into solid rock, previously ignored, to extract natural gas?
The narrative we’re told by the companies doing this is one of heroic exploration combined with sense-of-duty patriotism, a spirit of exploration and technological progress unlocking the energy that will usher in continued steady progress. The story told by mainstream politicians is slightly different in emphasis, though the plot is generally the same. Energy independence, there are nations out in the world that are either opposed to our way of life, want our wealth, or both. If we just keep drilling, we’re told time and again (and again), if we just tap into our plentiful domestic coal reserves, if we just build that tar sands pipeline, if we just let natural gas companies get in there and get the job done and get our natural gas trapped beneath our homes and farms. If that then all will be well in your life.
For a second it certainly brings a feeling of excitement doesn’t it? It’s a tale with a strong sense of noble conflict, struggle, and promise of catharsis. It would look good on a poster, sound good voiced-over in the trailer by a narrator with a suitably dramatic voice. It might even look good on a hat.
But ultimately, (and even before then, when those first few seconds are over) when you pull back to a wider perspective on the scene it’s a broken narrative.
The immediate reason why fossil fuel companies are going to such great lengths to extract their hydrocarbon of choice is because they’ve got to if they want to stay in business, if their business remains business-as-usual. No one is tapping these hard to access fossil energy reserves simply because they are there, like the proverbial mountain or unexplored region on a map. The easy to access oil, coal, and natural gas is gone, used up, burned and the emissions pumped into the atmosphere to the highly likely detriment of life itself. We’ve all done this, with varying degrees of willingness.
The spirit of adventure and independence touted by corporations and politicians here is the same set of emotions targeted in old war posters. Those ones urging young men to do their duty and fight for health and home against the Southerners, the Huns, the Japs, the Frogs, the Arabs, the Jews, the Christians, the Brahmins, the Buddhists, the Tutsi, the Hutu, the Turks, the Greeks, the Armenians, the Communists, the Royalists, the Czarists, the Proletariat, the Capitalists… the Other.
Except that this time this archetype of enemy is us. Although, truth be told, in the largest sense, it was always us, another facet of the whole.
In continuing this fight as presented by the corporate person and political person (both legal entities increasingly endowed by their creator, us, with certain legal rights) we are killing ourselves. In that we continue to engage in behavior that our natural philosophers (which has always had a better ring to me than scientist) increasingly tell us is destroying the very things we need to live, making it more difficult for life itself to continue with the same fecundity, we are killing ourselves.
At the Water Fight! fracking conference at The New School on Monday, Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm–sponsored by the Sisters of St Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey–urged the audience that we all need to adjust our concept of time, to put ourselves in touch with much greater lengths of time, to tap into deep time, the time of the universe. When we do that, when we embrace that cosmology, we see that every creature including humans is directly born out of the that deep time. We are born out of the initial and continued wholeness. Ultimately MacGillis says that humans are Earth thinking about itself.
I’d be remiss in not pointing out that even though the exact language used is different, this sense of deep time and of humans and all other things in existence being a reflection of that is essentially similar to the traditional Hindu concept of the world, that of other paths rooted in Dharmic thinking, that of many indigenous belief systems, as well as the pre-Christian beliefs of Europe. Meaning that, we have existing frameworks to build upon–ways of thinking that are less fractured available to us.
That’s what it seems like. Fractured. Only a world view that has been fractured from the whole for so long that even the concept of wholeness, even the concept of holy, seems like otherness, only within that intellectual, psychological and emotional framework could our continued pursuit of more and more fossil fuel energy, causing increasing amounts of environmental damage (damage to ourselves literally and metaphorically), seem rational.
Only within this fractured way of thinking are the rewards of continued overuse of these polluting energy sources worth the risks posed by unfettered fracking to the drinking water of 15+ million people in Pennsylvania and New York, the risks to farmers in the same region and our food supply from soil, air and water contamination, the risks of actually increasing carbon emissions further. Only a fractured connection with ourselves and therefore inherently with nature allows this continue.
World War One poster: National Archives at College Park, Maryland via Marion Doss.
More on Fracking:
French National Assembly Moves Against Fracking
Natural Gas Far Less Green Than Claimed – Fracking Emissions 1000s Times Higher Than Reported