Does Pope Francis have a position on the Dakota Access Pipeline?
That’s one question he hasn’t been asked, and he might demur if pressed on such a specific issue. But in his landmark encyclical on the environment published last year, and in other statements, Francis has strongly supported arguments of the Native American-led resistance movement on three core issues: indigenous rights, water rights and protection of creation.
“WE ABUSE LAND because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” So wrote Aldo Leopold in his ecological classic A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949. That same year, Erle Halliburton experimented with pumping a slurry of oil and sand into a wellhole in Oklahoma, patenting a new process he dubbed “Hydrafrac.” Within the next five years, Halliburton was treating more than 3,000 wells a month that way.
Short for “hydraulic fracturing,” fracking—a word now included in Merriam-Webster—is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to release oil or natural gas inside. Today, thanks to recent technological developments, more than a million fracking sites dot the U.S. landscape.
The environmental vision of Leopold and the actions of Halliburton that fateful March both haunt the recent literary collection Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. With literary genres that range from verse to essay and fable to investigative journalism, Fracture chronicles the ecological and cultural ruptures resulting from this highly controversial phenomenon. Co-editors Taylor Brorby and Stefanie Brook Trout have put together a devastating, disturbing collection that should be read in small bits, lest you be overwhelmed.
WEST VIRGINIA’S coal-addicted economy is busted. Dozens of bankrupt coal companies are busted. A coal company CEO is busted for flagrant safety violations that contributed to an explosion killing 29 miners.
Boom-and-bust cycles have a jagged history in the central Appalachian coal basin of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southwest Virginia. America’s industrial revolution prospered on Appalachia’s steam and coking coal. Hard-gained union struggles brought miners and their communities an improved living standard. Yet as time marched on, machinery replaced miners, the coal industry busted unions, Appalachian coal seams played out, and cheaper Western coal and fracked shale gas outcompeted.
Coal-dependent economies are now tanking. Miner layoffs have skyrocketed. Policymakers have long ignored forecasts of coal’s impending decline. The West Virginia legislature, facing a major state revenue shortfall, is considering drastic budgetary cuts—such as closing state parks, college branch campuses, and state police detachments—while, incredibly, introducing bills to attempt to bring back the coal industry by reducing its severance and worker-compensation taxes.
Coal will not bounce back. From coal’s perspective, the national debate on coal and climate change has largely been lost.
The Clean Power Plan announced by the EPA in June 2014 seeks to reduce climate-warming CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030. Projected air quality improvement will also deliver significant financial and life-protecting health benefits. However, since West Virginia politicians dance to the strings of their coal-industry puppet masters, State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading a coalition of 25 states asking a federal court to strike down the Clean Power Plan, calling it a “war on coal.”
1. Hero mom calls into C-SPAN to berate her arguing pundit sons
Whether or not your family expects heated political debate over the holidays, you''ll appreciate the way this mom quiets her sons.
2. 14 Women of Color Who Rocked 2014
From the creators of #BlackLivesMatter to the founder of an organization focused on women with incarcerated loved ones, meet the women of color at the forefront of the fight for justice.
3. The Myth of Crying Rape
From Jim Wallis and Sandi Villarreal: "The reality is, these survivors are often re-victimized by a system that interrogates rather than advocates and then fails to deliver justice in a vast majority of cases ... Failure to recognize the sins of power and domination that influence the acts of violence against half of God’s creatures is simply bad theology."
4. Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State
A win for environmentalists that could set an important precedent.
Pipeline projects are moving forward across the country, but a group of tuneful nuns is working to make sure they don’t succeed.
The Sisters of Loretto in Marion County, Kentucky have lived on their rural acreage since the 1800s, serving the poor and enjoying the wide open spaces and forest trails of their home.
With a fracking company proposing a pipeline for pressurized natural gas chemicals through their land, the sisters have sprung into action to protect what they see as their “holy land.” They have refused to allow the fracking company to survey their land for pipeline construction, citing past pipeline explosions and the risk of contamination.
The sisters appeared at a public hearing over the proposed pipelines, singing “Amazing Grace” until they were asked to be quiet. Their unexpected activism has gained them attention locally and across the internet (you can meet the sisters by watching this video.)
The expansion of hydrofracking could strain water resources from Forth Worth to western Colorado. The New York Times reports:
“Given projected sharp increases” in the production of oil and gas by the technique commonly known as fracking, the report from the group Ceres said, “and the intense nature of local water demands, competition and conflicts over water should be a growing concern for companies, policy makers and investors.”
One option is to recycle the water used in hyrdofracking. However the water may contain chemicals, natural pollutants, or ever radioactivity and it is expensive to clean the water. Some companies are expanding their use of brackish, undrinkable water unstead of fresh water to lessen their environmental impact.
Read more here.
Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and others protest fracking in new song --- kites identify pollutants in Chinese sky --- artists gather in radio studio to play and honor Woody Guthrie on his 100th birthday --- animals with misleading names --- indie star creates African mixtape. See these and more in today's Links of Awesomeness...
Salon reports on a new study which suggests that "fracking" can pollute water sources:
"A new study, published in the formidable Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, upends that common-sense argument. It shows that fluids may have traveled from deep within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the formations at the center of the gas boom, into shallow aquifers hundreds of feet above. These fluids aren’t products of fracking, but if they can travel up through layers of rocks, close to the surface, it means that fracking fluids could, too."
Read more about the study here
Politico is reporting that President Obama is planning to reject the Keystone XL pipeline this afternoon.
Here’s a quick roundup of some reasons why we think that’s awesome: