Thoughts on well-being, sustainability and those things that constitute a good life beyond consumption.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The power of the buy-out

Earlier today, I sent an email to Sandra Steingraber after learning of her recent Heinz Award for her investigative, scientific, yet creative writing. It came with a $100,000 prize, which she is dedicating to the fight against fracking (drilling beneath our feet, homes, and schools for natural gas).   You can read about her decision to do this:
Below is an excerpt from my message and some other thoughts inspired by information I looked up:

The fight against fracking is going to be a tough one since our country seems to have turned its back towards the environment and even science.   Perhaps all those environmental pollutants are affecting brain cells too. [Sandra has written about the impact of chemical pollutants on our bodies in her books and regular columns in Orion Magazine.]  We truly are addicted to fossil fuels and the false hope that "finding more" will fix our problems.

Have you ever read the poem "The Last One" by W.S. Merwin (available at  The expressions of loss in this piece could easily apply to fracking as well as trees.

I showed the Lorax in one of my classes this week and was struck by the eerie relevance of the messages from the early 1970’s to today. Economy/jobs vs. a healthy environment and good habitat. I saw an ad of local citizens from the northern tier of PA praising Chesapeake Energy for bringing them good fortune, development (cough, cough), and jobs. It could have been the Once-ler.

For an example of what we are up against in this fight, all you have to do is read the information from the webpage of a single company:

"..Chesapeake has 2.4 million acres under lease in the Marcellus and has already paid almost $2 billion in lease bonus and royalties to farmers, families and townships across Pennsylvania ... Chesapeake has 1 million mineral owners in 16 states. To put that in perspective, about one in every 300 Americans has an oil and natural gas lease with Chesapeake.  [I don't even know how many of these companies exist, but there are several.] And they have been very well rewarded. We’ve paid out $9 billion in lease bonuses over the past 5 years, about $5 billion in royalties over the past 4 years, and another $2 billion in taxes over the past 5 years.   And every one of those numbers is going up daily. The lives of millions rest on us getting this issue right and utilizing this American Treasure."

Sigh.  Why do these statements scare me so?

Today, there were thousands of activities through the project Moving Planet all around the world -- all aimed at reducing our dependence on and moving past fossil fuels (see   And in our region?  Nada.  Sigh. But I guess when you are part of the buy-out described above, who is going to protest?  A state that is in the midst of a gold-rush-like frenzy with the fracking craze and that is populated by people who believe the claims about all the jobs and money that will come is certainly not complaining.  Hey, this Commonwealth only contributes 1% of the global carbon dioxide to the global atmosphere.  (Excuse me while I cough some more.)


This week, an article appeared in International Business Times entitled "Alarming Poverty Rate: Is U.S. Becoming a Third World Country?" (see  Now anyone who has traveled to the Global South knows that this is a bit absurd.  BUT, such alarmist titles should make us think long and hard about "business as usual".  Simply put, it is not working.  Perhaps we need to consider something new, something like a green economy, perhaps?

Calls for redefining prosperity in the past have been futile.  How much of an economic and social crash will it take?