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What would the Dalai Lama say about fracking? September 16, 2011

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in Dalai Lama, fracking, natural gas, science, shale.
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This piece is cross-posted on Shambhala SunSpace.

In his book For the Benefit of All Beings: A Commentary on the Way of the Bodhisattva, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes, “The actions of each of us, human or nonhuman, have contributed to the world in which we live. We all have a common responsibility for our world and are connected with everything in it.”

That is of course, a statement that applies to people of all kinds; not just Buddhists. As an earth system scientist, I feel the truth of that statement in my bones, every day. So, yesterday when I heard the news that ecologist, bladder cancer survivor, parent and activist Sandra Steingraber had been recognized this year with a Heinz award, I felt a surge of hope. Dr. Steingraber has written numerous books about the perils of a contaminated planet that are simultaneously scientific and personal.

Currently, she is working to prevent the unnatural disaster that will ensue if New York State proceeds with high-volume slick water hydrofracturing of shale gas — fracking — in the state. Steingraber puts it powerfully and renders the earth system science right when she avers, “we are shattering the very bedrock of our nation to get at the petrified bubbles of methane trapped inside.”

Sandra and I have had some supportive communication with one another over the years and so I dashed off a quick e-note of congratulations when I heard about the honor that carries with it a $100,000 unrestricted cash prize. Despite a very busy life, she got back to me quickly to share her statement subtitled “The Heinz Award and What I Plan to Do With It.”

In it, Dr. Steingraber acknowledged the connectedness of earth and all life, writing that “…the bodies of my children are the rearranged molecules of the air, water, and food streaming through them.” She announced her intent to devote her Heinz Award to the fight against hydrofracking in upstate New York where she lives with her family. And she implored others to join her in the struggle to fight fossil fuel addiction. In her opinion, dependency on these nonrenewable resources causes us to act irrationally — removing mountains, felling forests, drilling deeply — and to use these fossil fuels as raw materials for pesticides, solvents, and other toxic substances that insinuate themselves into the tissues of all living beings.

It seems to me that Dr. Steingraber’s thoughts and motives are as much informed by a sense of responsibility — one like the Dalai Lama wrote about – as they are by science. And that, as I say, makes me hopeful.

What about you?

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Natural Gas and Horizontal Shale Drilling April 27, 2011

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in fracking, natural gas, Precautionary Principle, shale.
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Here’s a link to a short video from the American Petroleum Institute about hydrofracking of ‘tight’ shales in order to release and collect natural gas. I have not as much time as I would like to write about this video and I hope to do so in the future. The small point I would like to make is that though this video is designed to reassure the viewer that the technology is safe, I do not react to it that way. I watch this video and feel sad.

I think we must pay attention to lingo used by engineers when it comes to these so-called advanced technologies. Engineers and the public relations people who work with them come up with terms that attempt to make something terribly complex and uncertain seem simple and sure. Perforating rock by using explosive materials inserted deep into the earth is called “perfing”; Fracturing fine-grained rock that has lithified over millions of years is called “fracking’. The gas that is released is collected by a permanent well-head device called a “Christmas tree.” They make it sound not only simple but benign but to me this seems a good moment to practice the precautionary principle.