Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mother Frackers

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing is a big issue in California. Outside of California, people across the country rely in vegetables that compete directly for water resources with the extraction industry. Many in the political spectrum see it as the path away from middle eastern oil and the issues associated. But politicians are being offered a false choice. We do not need to continue exploiting this resource. We need to transition our economy away from fossil fuels entirely.

Once an aquifer is tainted it may never be a viable source for drinking or agricultural water ever again. The historical attitude of extractive industry towards environmental stewardship does nothing to inspire confidence that this vital resource will be properly protected. Considering the failure rate of well casings it is a very real possibility that "America's salad bowl" will end up as another Superfund site.

Generational shift plays an important part of the equation. I can understand the perspective of someone over fifty not being able to wrap their head around a post carbon economy. History is bursting at the seams with similar stories of resistance to change; denial of the heliocentric solar system, or the resistance to accepting evolution, but there is a difference between not accepting science for social reasons and the situation we are in now.

It is a dangerous combination of willful ignorance with industry propaganda that is currently preventing the changes necessary to transition our nation away from fossil fuels and a sustainable economic model. Fossil fuel consumption has created a sharply stratified society with many of the symbols of wealth inextricably tied to it. From private jets to fresh vegetables in the desert, the carbon economy has permeated all walks of life like a disease. Industry propagandists would have you believe the cure will kill the patient.

The resistance to accepting theory in science has acted to slow the march of progress. Here in America, the insistence of the religious right has regressed our public education standards back to the 1800's. While problematic, those who sought higher education could still work to rise above. Sadly, climate change does not parallel this pattern. There is no safe haven to strive for to attenuate the inevitable consequences.

As much as we would like to believe we are the masters of nature, anyone who has lived through severe weather or survived a natural disaster can tell you otherwise. Fossil fuels have profoundly influenced the zeitgeist. We can travel for our entire lives without ever stepping off a paved path or being more than five minutes away from a climate controlled bubble. In reality, we are much more dependent on the ecosystems we are destroying by consuming resources wantonly.

We cannot afford to wait for generational shift to allow us to make the changes. The economic arguments against transition steeply discount the reclamation efforts we face. There is no aspect of life that will not be changed dramatically, we can either get in front of it and make smart decisions now, or let entrenched interests and antiquated paradigm force much harder choices later. Waiting for previous generations who lack the impetus without "skin in the game" to bring about meaningful change is insufficient.

Maintaining the momentum of the status quo will only drive us father past the tipping point towards environmental collapse after they are gone.

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