Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fracking, poverty, and sharing the wealth

Been busy the last few weeks.  I generally try to post on my day off from work, but last week Nora and I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show on that day.  We had a great time!  Took the train in, walked the show, stopped at the PLCB exhibit to sample some new wines and liquors, took the train home.  For those of you who have flower shows in your area, I highly recommend spending some time at one, especially now, coming out of winter as we are. 

I was also busy with birthdays.  JW turned 21 last Tuesday, Rachel turned 18 two days previous.  While JW is away at college, we did have a family birthday celebration at our house for Rachel.  My how the time has passed.  Soon, Rachel will also be away at school and it will be Nora and I again, with Bubba, of course. 

Despite my lack of posting, the blog continues to be accessed at an increasing rate.  Over 2100 hits in February, already over 1000 this month.  Thanks to all those who are just discovering my blog, and to those who were there "in the beginning". 

March's National Geographic had an interesting article about fracking.  Since it was called The Promise and Risk of Fracking, I was hoping for a pro and con opinion piece concerning this important subject.  Here is a link to the article.


A number of details struck me as I read the article.  Clearly, this new found energy source is an important discovery for America.  Think about the savings we might find if we reduced or eliminated our need for oil.  Would we even have troops in the Middle East?  Would we have spent money on the Gulf War or the Iraq War?  Would we worry about ignoring the human rights violations of our Saudi friends if we didn't need their oil?

And, what about the jobs, temporary as they might be?  Jobs mean reduced unemployment rolls, increased tax revenue.  Two important ingredients towards reigning in our growing national debt.  Of course, like all situations in life, there is never only a good side to consider.  So many small towns will be affected by the influx of big rigs and mostly male labor camps.  Will the benefits outweigh the costs for these towns?  For those whose homes stand on the land under which this new found energy is buried?  What of those who choose not to rent or sell their rights?  Do they even have a choice if they are surrounded by the noise and development of their neighbors' YES to these lease rights?

And, once the gas is extracted, what responsibility do the oil and gas companies bear for the eventual abandonment of those small towns for a rush to the next boom town, or boom mineral, or boom discovery.  If the example of the coal industry's use and destruction of the land and towns and those people promised jobs but not told about black lung, short life spans, and the economic devastation when the coal runs out, then perhaps we need to weigh those costs to our bottom line calculations.  Short term vs long term thinking.  If it is true that corporations are more concerned about short term results, then who is going to present the viewpoint of the longer term?

It is a complicated issue.  Both sides have data and positive reasons to support their perspective.  As we continue researching the pros and cons of fracking let's keep in mind that all decisions have consequences.  Allowing important decisions to be made and environments to be altered in ways not fully understood must be made by the people who will be affected the most.  That means giving them all the data, including what, exactly, is being pumped into the ground beneath them.  And, perhaps, providing them with a bit more compensation so that when the boom ends, they will have a rainy day fund with which to rebuild.

Which brings me to poverty.  March's Smithsonian had an interesting pictorial viewpoint of the Earth with regards to how developed or undeveloped it is.  But in this case, development was measured in terms of income, life expectancy, literacy.  The map iteslf was titled "Illuminating Inequality".  Of course, the United States and much of North America was a bright yellow, the highest level of development.  Europe, Australia, the same.  South America featured much yellow but also much darker shades.  Africa, as you can imagine, was mostly darkly shaded.  Why is it that while Americans routinely throw out hundreds of pounds of food per year, millions of children die of starvation and malnutrition?  After all, we are all riding together on this spaceship we call Earth.  Yet we create artificial boundaries to justify keeping to ourselves, or keeping from others, the abundant natural resources that Earth has to offer. 

If we can't create a plan to share the wealth which is resulting from the fracking revolution, share the wealth with fellow Americans whose land is being mined to produce this energy, then how can we even approach the thought of a plan to distribute the wealth of this planet to all its inhabitants?

Where does our short term and long term thinking take us within the scope of such a plan?

Or, at the end of the day, is it better to eschew the trappings of the modern world and stay apart from them, as detailed in Smithsonian's article about the lost tribes of the Amazon.  People who have purposefully chosen to stay isolated.  People who saw other tribes swallowed up by the modern world, and made extinct by the process.  When all is said and done, when we are finally visited upon by our alien neighbors in space, will they find grand skyscrapers, high speed railways, and other magificent man-made creations, or isolated populations of small bands of people who survived our selfish rush to more, more, more.      

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