Monday, January 23, 2012

There’s no environmental freight to throw overboard; it’s a Fracking delusion


Environmental issues are riddled with examples of why our environmental infrastructure must remain intact for us humans to have a sustainable future. I mean intact in the way that 4 billion years of biology and evolution on this planet has fit every little piece of our environmental puzzle together resulting in our specie’s appearance and survival. Deep ecology recognizes that our environment is not just about us. Take biodiversity for example. If we carve up our environment for our particular immediate needs, we threaten our environment’s ability to rebound after a disaster—say extreme weather. A disease could rip through our monocultures, like the potato blight, and leave our agriculture crippled. Allowing other plants and animals to survive gives our environment a cushion against a complete collapsed when things go awry.

If we continue to shape our environment to exactly the way we want it, that is, create a state where we want fresh water to drink, water to use as a drain for all our waste, and then even more water for Fracking, what will we do for water during an extended drought? These water deprivation periods, even in NYS, will strain our ability to provide water for hydroelectric generation, wells, some municipal water reservoirs, and irrigation for our crops—even without the demands the Fracking industry will require if we lift the moratorium on horizontal drilling for natural gas. Droughts will come more often as Climate Change shifts our hydrology cycle to more precipitation in the spring in the form of rain and more incidents of drought towards late summer and early fall. This isn’t just an idle threat, as most climate change reports that include the American Northeast state this general precipitation pattern for our state.

This is pertinent as we consider Fracking in our state. Apparently, some folks think Fracking is something we can back out of if things go wrong. There must be a feeling out there, by a sizeable portion of our population, that we puny humans can’t really do anything to affect the overall health of our environment. Much has been said about Nature’s resiliency, that Nature when abused somehow comebacks and heals itself, like when you get a scratch on your arm and in a few weeks you’re as good as new.

Nothing of the kind happens in our actual environment. When you change the environment, you change the environment and everything in it has to adapt or die. Sometimes these environmental changes are slight and we don’t notice them, like a big rain storm, when things seemingly come back to something like it was—except some soil has washed away never to be seen again, and some branches and trees are killed. We don’t usually notice the effect of a big rain if plants and trees that died get replaced. When the rains settle, and enough remains intact, we don’t notice the changes. But it isn’t the same. Things have changed. Really, you cannot step in the same river twice.

It’s a dangerous illusion to believe that Nature is somehow adjusted to suit us humans, and no matter what we do things will just spring back when we stop doing bad things—like cramming Fracking fluids into thousands of miles of natural and unnatural fissures. How we deceive ourselves must go something like this: Many of us tend to think of our environment like the sick, elderly lady who just needs to stop all her bad habits to get well:

“Mark Twain tells of a doctor at the bedside of a very sick, elderly lady. The doctor told her that she must stop drinking, cussing, and smoking. The lady said that she’d never done any of those things in her entire life. The doctor responded, “Well, that’s your problem, then. You’ve neglected your habits.” Twain added: “She was like a sinking ship with no freight to throw overboard.”She Was a Sinking Vessel with No Freight to Throw Overboard « Quote Investigator

That’s a delusion. There is no environmental freight to throw overboard. Everything living is part of the stuff keeping us alive and keeping the machinery of life going. Every single organism at every single minute has to adapt to existing conditions or it perishes. Creatures, like the dinosaurs, ruled the planet for 200 million years but it only took a fraction of that time to wipe them out by the conditions probably caused by a ten-mile sized meteor that fell to earth. (If it wasn’t for this strange interstellar anomaly, dinosaurs, not us New Yorkers, would be Fracking with our water.)

If we screw up our NYS environment with Fracking, we may or may not be able to adapt to the changes, along with everything else coming down the pipe with Climate Change. Nature is not predisposed to ‘right’ itself when we make bad decisions so we can live uninterrupted cushy lives again. Nature, for all the poetry that abounds telling of its glory and motherly concern for us, is simply a mindless algorithm of the laws of physics. Plug fracking mistakes into the program and out comes disasters for us. And nature provides no “undo” button.

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