Sunday, August 31, 2008

Our Generation’s Responsibility

Tragically, our media has not brought to the forefront the importance of the new rage in gas drilling in New York State. And, the public doesn’t seem to care where they get their fossil fuels, just as long as fuel prices remain low. That’s too bad because this issue—natural gas drilling in the wide-spread Marcellus Shale—could have a big impact on our air, land, and water quality.

This issue has been mentioned, but not highlighted like we do with political conventions or sport events or other passing interests. The New York Times published some stories recently on this issue -- Drilling Boom Revives Hopes for Natural Gas - (Aug. 25, 08) and “There’s Gas in Those Hills - New York Times” (April 8, 08) –and there is a press release from our governor-- - GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS BILL UPDATING OIL AND GAS DRILLING LAW; PLEDGES ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH SAFEGUARDS – and the Democrat and Chronicle did a story recently: New York state bill could boost fuel output Democrat and Chronicle (July 14, 08).

But largely, this issue doesn’t reach genuine public attention because it doesn’t get much play—that is, the public doesn’t seem to much care about the potential environmental affects of gas drilling around us and the media is not disposed to hammer the public on matters the public should know about, just the issues the public wants to know about. Never-the-less, gas drilling in New York State is coming, just like wind turbines, just like nuclear power, and just like more coal-fired power plants. All these energy forms have issues that can greatly affect our environment and it seems as though only the people next to gas drilling sites or near wind farms seem to really care about the negative effects of these energy forms.

But, in the twenty-first century shouldn’t we be seeing the bigger picture? Haven’t we been given enough warning that it is obvious that our way of life—man-made pollution, global warming, etc.—is changing the planet? Yes, we are worried about jobs and getting affordable energy and keeping our properties from being contaminated and keeping its value while the public gets power to fuel our way of living. But, shouldn’t sustainability be the model of our reality, instead of “What-we-Wantism”?

That is, shouldn’t we be examining the repercussions of drilling for gas, or the potential environmental consequences of ramping up nuclear instead of focusing on our short-term perceived needs? I say “perceived” because the recent gas crisis (that we seem to be coming out of as gas prices drop) reveals that we can get around without a steady increase in fossil fuel use. In the last few months, people have driven less, walked more, biked more, car-pooled more and used public transportation far more in recent days—something they would not have done before the steep increase in gas prices.

Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of our generation (to our children) to adequately examine how our way of life affects the long-term health of our environment? Shouldn’t we be monitoring how we get energy, like drilling for gas in our area that could possibly release particulates into the air, or break into our water aquifers, or some of the other potentially pernicious affects of this form of energy? Or, should we merely ignore the fuzzy environmental issues (as the corporations would like) and make sure we make it through our own lives, hoping our children will find some other energy source that we’ve exhausted or harmed our environment with?

Other generations had their cause célèbre: securing our independence from Great Britain, freeing slaves in the Civil War, saving Europe in World War I, and preserving Democracy in World War II. Shouldn’t our generation, now that we know that our actions affect the planet, be preserving our environment for future generations? What is it that we do in our daily lives that reaches to such preeminence? If we fail to find a sustainable solution to our way of life by failing to inform ourselves about Global Warming, the negative effects of our energy use, water contamination, and the myriad of other environmental problems we face—we won’t simply lose some metaphysical value (like Freedom or Democracy) we cherish—our way of life may collapse.

Well, if you’ve made it this far into this essay, you may wish to go further and check out these two information sources on drilling in the Marcellus Gas shale. The first is a new site by the New York State Department of Conservation: DEC Launches New Web Page for Marcellus Shale Info - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the second is the Sierra Club Susquehanna Group’s -- MARCELLUS SHALE GAS DRILLING.

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