Tuesday, June 11, 2013

When Environmental Issues Overlap with Culture and Heritage

Mindful Echo bemoans the cultural implications of fracking.

I think it's safe to say that, at this point, most people have heard about the environmental cost of hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking). In fact, Climate Crusader wrote a great post about some of the issues not too long ago. By now, most of us have seen the pictures of drinking water being set aflame, and have read the stories about groundwater contamination and the release of chemicals into our atmosphere.

Aside: If you're a visual learner, this site gives a fantastic explanation of the fracking process.

While it's plain to see that there are real, long-term environmental consequences to fracking, I think that it's equally distressing to hear about how these endeavours impact the the people who live on this land, the people who have sacred connections to it, and the people who lack the agency and resources to stop it from happening - such as in the case of a number of Canadian Indigenous communities.

This past weekend, I read about how peaceful protestors are being arrested in New Brunswick, Canada as seismic testing is taking place in Signigtog, part of traditional Mi'kma'ki territory, in preparation for fracking. According to APTN News, the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples of New Brunswick were not sufficiently consulted by the Province for this shale gas testing to occur. This raises the concern: if the Indigenous community wasn't involved in the decision-making at the testing phase, how will they have a voice if/when the government decides to allow the fracking to commence on their land?

Outside of Canada, there are also so many reports of communities being taken advantage of by the companies who are testing for, and carrying out, fracking procedures. One that really struck a chord with me is this story about the exploitation of Amish farmers. According to grist.org, oil companies are offering farmers amounts far below market value for the rights to drill on their land. Since Amish beliefs limit their options for recourse, it is pertinent that they negotiate reasonable contracts - something that isn't always happening. Not to mention, the destruction caused by the fracking procedure can and will hugely affect their farm-able land. As grist.org writes: "because the Amish don’t rely on modern farming technology, making a profit on their land is a constant struggle, so being cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars is especially painful." It's heartbreaking.

Photo: Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park

Fracking is affecting our ecological heritage as well. Those living around Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, know that it is a brilliant example of geological evolution in its demonstration of plate tectonics. It's our planet's geological history and it needs to be preserved. Gros Morne is a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place that I would love to visit someday. I have ancestral roots in Newfoundland and hate to think that the beautiful landscape will be forever changed for the worse before I, and generations to come, have a chance to experience it. Is gas development really worth losing this World Heritage Site?

Thankfully, a number of communities in Nova Scotia have successfully passed bylaws that prohibit or restrict fracking within their limits, as well as prevent the release of wastewater into local watersheds. It's a start and I'm so grateful for those who make the efforts to raise awareness and prevent fracking from happening in my own backyard.

At the same time, I'm afraid for those communities who have not been so lucky.


Stephanie Hayes said...

Great post! That's terrifying. I'm glad there are some in NS who are working to protect us.

Anonymous said...

I will NEVER understand how so many people are so easily led to believe this is alright and in fact good. Here in Montana we are fighting the X pipeline but so many believe the jobs creation angle and refuse to see any negative. The polititians want to look like great guys for providing all these "jobs". Makes me sick.

Eco Yogini said...

I really enjoy the "cultural" and heritage discussion you've brought here with regarding to fracking (and other "explorations"- including like Anon said the pipeline).
I feel it's an interesting and essential aspect that is often overlooked during these discussions.

Similarly, just today a community consultation meeting on erecting a wind turbine that was supposed to have occurred on Isle Madame (Cape Breton NS) has been cancelled as the county made the decision without community consultation or opportunity for discussion. Although I am a fan of windturbines, this total lack of consideration with the community is upsetting and frightening.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Fracking really frightens me. It seems like there is no end to the methods we come up with that inevitably and so terrible obviously will have unforeseen consequences for the environment.

Mindful Echo said...

It's interesting, but I've never actually met anyone who supports fracking and other invasive "exploration" etc. (Perhaps that says something about the type of people I surround myself with.) I just think it would be interesting to hear a real person - not a PR rep, not a faceless corporate drone- but an every day person sit down with a cup of coffee and explain why they think this is okay.

Does such a person even exist?

Christy said...

Here in BC we are being inundated with pro frakking ads, even in my Facebook feed.

My brother is an environmental projects manager for the provincial government (approval process for projects that have an environmental impact) and wow does he have stories to tell.


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