February 4, 2012
Our house has a big picture window on the upper level, facing south. I often sit behind it before the sun arrives, with coffee, looking. I like to observe the sun’s first searching rays wake up the mountain peaks above us, each one receiving it’s due as the sun climbs skyward. I study my view, on the lookout for the flick of a mule deer’s ear in the pasture to our west, the prance of a coyote as he heads for the safety of protective cover, or the twitch of a magpie’s tail in the apricot tree in our garden.
For more than a couple of years, in fact an eternity, I have watched in horror as the natural gas drilling rigs arrived and deployed their forces on the brushy slopes and hills across the Colorado River. Ever closer, they dot the landscape of my picture window in increasing numbers, and fill my mind with increasing dread and impending doom. I wish they would go away. I wish I could wave my hand and wish them away. Just go away, I pray.
When we purchased our property, we were told that our area had been explored in the past and it was found that it was not economically feasible to recover what gas deposits existed below our feet. No one then talked of the many impacts of heavy truck traffic, the legalities of natural gas leases, and the harsh realities of the split estate. Then came hydraulic fracturing and our world changed. We did not see it coming. We were not consulted.
Soon, our neighborhood was bustling with gas workers and pick up trucks, and the acrid smell of diesel fuel and angst left hanging on the wind. Our roads and highways became suddenly congested, property values exploded, and great plans were made. The mad fool’s rush was on. We began hearing the cries from the people and landowners in the direct line of fire. This is not right, they said. How can this be, they shouted? How can you hurt us so badly?
I remember sitting behind my window as the first uncontrolled well fire belched huge clouds of rolling black smoke blowing east across my view. I rose and stood transfixed, mortified, slapped out of my chair with a wave of revulsion and outrage with fist in the air. How can this happen, I asked? Who else is watching this? Will anybody be held accountable? To what account?
The economy has crashed along with our housing prices and the nation’s hopes. Another boom, then bust. It has slowed the industry down to some degree, as has some new environmental regulation. Yet, the damage continues. We need the jobs they say. I’m sorry, but we do not have ears for this line of argument.
We hear about well water that smells of noxious chemicals and can be ignited at the tap. We hear of strange skin rashes and people getting sick. Some move to get out-of-the-way. Some abandon their homes and run. And still the rigs come. We were told of an industry insider who claimed that they would frack every square mile in the state of Colorado, and the west. They are sure of it. They are proud of it. Drill baby drill, full speed ahead and damn the torpedos. It’s mom’s apple pie, the colors red, white, and blue, and the american way. Stay out of our way, they say. We have the law on our side.
I want to know why no one asked me how I felt about it, or inquired of my friend the magpie. I want to know why the gas executives feel it is “O.K.” for me to breathe the bad air from their vent stacks, or to suffer the sight of ravaged hillsides and the land scars that they leave behind. I want someone to look me in the eye and explain to me why I must bear the blinding lights of their rig towers and tall cranes at night, beaming directly into my being and destroying my peace of mind. I want to know why they think it is acceptable for me to worry about my health and the health of my friends and family. Give me a reason why you are prepared to jeopardize the lives of my kids and their kids and the environment that sustains them.
I have a simple answer for them, had they bothered to ask if I would allow them in our neighborhood. The answer is no, hell no! Can I make it any clearer? How dare you to presume otherwise.
I also beg a question of them. How about this one? Just who on god’s green earth do you think you are?
I have a suggestion too. Take your proprietary cocktails of poisons and death and leave. Get out of my backyard, which is vast and indomitable. It does not belong to you. Get out of my community and keep on going until you run right out of the west and drown in the sea.
There is a special place in hell just for you, and your seat at that table is your’s forever.
Take your fracking fluids with you!
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Update August 25, 2013
The opposition to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, continues to grow exponentially with each passing day. On August 22, 2013, a coalition of 276 environmental and consumer organizations delivered a petition to the White House signed by almost 3/4 of a million people calling for an end to fracking on all public lands.
This is a most encouraging turn of events, and far removed from the anxious, lonely days when so many of us heard our small, insignificant voices crying from the wilderness of the public grounds.
Well, not any more.
There is world changing power in numbers, and I have no doubt that the movement will continue to grow as all of the adverse environmental and social effects become more evident.
I remain a steadfast opponent, for any number of reasons. In fact I can go much farther than that.
I have heard of fracking being compared to “a dirty bomb”, for the numerous radioactive isotopes and other contaminated products that result from this insidious and dangerous process.
The human mind has an amazing capacity for denial, and “out of sight – out of mind” seems to be a mantra built deeply into the collective mind.
Never is this more apparent in this liquid, sleeping monster beneath our feet. Why, for example are so many people so easily convinced that the deadly chemicals used in the fracking process are of no concern, because they are injected thousands of feet or more below the surface of the earth? Is it somehow O.K. to poison the ground water there, because we are told to believe that it will never contaminate our drinking water? Is it somehow right to destroy something, simply because it is far, far away?
I will not take the time here to argue about odds and statistics or the general opportunities for contamination. I won’t delve into the secret chemical compositions of the fracking fluids, or the politics of leases or good old boy deals or the public’s right to know. Like many of us, I already know far more about these kind of things than I ever cared to know. I no longer trust, because the public trust was sold away long before we raised our heads.
I prefer to get right to the heart of the matter, which in my humble opinion is quite obvious.
If something does not change, fracking will become the most devastating environmental holocaust ever perpetrated upon the human race. There – I said it.
Now that’s a head spinning mouthful of “no, tell me what you really think”!
It will affect more people than the atmospheric A-bomb tests, Chernobyl, and even yes, Fukushima, which by the way has not even begun yet to lay us low in a pulsating and inescapable cloud of darkness. It’s a horrifying pretense.
I hope I am very, very wrong, About fracking, and all of it. Perhaps I will not live long enough to see its deadly fingers touch the world like I know it could. I am but one individual, but I cry for the children and the poisoned world left for other’s to bear when I am gone.
The hour has grown very, very late, but maybe, just maybe, it is not too late to pull back from the precipice. It’s time to get involved in the anti-fracking campaign, and I don’t mean tomorrow, but today. Tell whoever you can to help stop the madness now.
The public lands belong to us – to everyone, and they must be managed for the generations to come. They are our birthright, won in blood, and the legacy of a free and independent people.
They are not held in trust for others to despoil and poison.
No More Fracking! No, Hell No!