I could scream

I just read a NYTimes article titled: “U.S Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence.” That title couldn’t be more falsely termed.  There is simply no way expanded oil and natural gas drilling production, which is having a Twilight boom via hydraulic fracturing, can lead to any type of energy independence.  It’s simply laughable.  If anything, it will only continue to delay the desperately needed renewable energy infrastructure the planet needs, an infrastructure that’s truly based on independence.

Nothing is renewable or independent about oil and natural gas.  They’re finite resources hooked to archaic energy systems that keep chugging along thanks to the self-minded Koch brothers.  Detroit is the city it is today because the US car manufacturing system died.  The suburbs are slowly, but surely, eroding into economic and social wastelands because more and more Americans are choosing to live in car-free, metropolitan areas where a family can instead walk to dinner or to the park versus driving 30 minutes.  It saves money, keeps our air clean and increases community vitality and lifespan (yes, it’s true).  What could be wrong with that?  Well, the oil and natural gas industry would like you to think otherwise.  You “need” your car.  You “need” all your senseless products and gadgets to keep you satiated.  You can’t “live” without your this, or your that.  And living in a city?  Scary!

Regardless, the economy is shifting in a deep, organic way the likes of even the Koch family can’t compete.  Occupy Wall Street is just one example of growing American discontent and disassociation.  Energy independence?  Sure.  Why don’t we stop demanding so much in the first place – that’s a wise start.  From there, consider car-sharing or, if you’re truly daring, ridding of your car altogether and taking public transpiration.  Don’t live in a city?  Make the leap and consider moving.  Too big a jump for you?  Then do what you can where you are, but keep these thoughts in mind.  Write to your Representatives.  Get involved and educated.  It’s not hard and since most Americans could care less about politics these days (Congress’s approval ratings are at an all time historic low), the more people who stand up for what’s right, the better.

The Earth is not going to be a very friendly or hospitable place very soon.  In fact, our Earth is already showing signs of great discontent (80+ degree days in March in New England, rainless regions of the South and West, etc).  Climate change is real and is happening now and anybody who tells you otherwise is in denial.  Until we realize how connected we are as a species to our planet – our only home – then we’re the losers.  And there’s no independence in that.

What the Frack?

I’m sick right now.  I’m sick looking at the inserted photo and I’m sick to learn that this deer, who was found with cancerous tumors all over its body, was living, eating and drinking in Dimock, Pennsylvania, a town that now receives its potable drinking water via the Environmental Protection Agency.  Why would a deer have so many cancerous growths on its body? Why would a town receive emergency water from the Federal government?  Well, the ground water supply in Dimock was recently deemed undrinkable and thanks to activist push back, the government finally stepped in.  To help you better understand what’s going on, here’s a bit of background on one of my (least) favorite topics: fracking.

Dimock, PA is not the pristine, bucolic town it once was.  The town has sold out to the natural gas industry, specifically the booming industry known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  You may have seen Gasland or read about this practice in the press, but it’s awful.  There are currently no regulations on how much water is used per fracked well, which is typically millions of gallons of fresh water, or the disposal and treatment of wastewater material used in the fracking process, which is loaded with known carcinogens.  In fact, an astonishing 80,000 pounds of chemicals are used in fracking. Some of you may be wondering why so many chemicals and why such a shady practice? I’m honestly not sure why so many chemicals must be used, but Marcellus shale, the ground material that contains the gas deposits companies are so hungry for, must be broken up in order to release the gas that lies beneath.  To do this, a noxious blend of fresh water (which should be our drinking water) and chemicals are injected into the Earth at an extremely high pressure in order to break up the shale and release the gas for market sale.  When a well is completely fracked, the company vacates the premises and leaves behind a total wasteland for local residents to deal with.  I’m truly amazed our government allows such a corrupt and greedy practice to exist all over our country, but Pennsylvania, as well as upstate New York, have seen some of the worst effects of this industrial boom given the entire state lies over this fruitful shale deposit.

Clearly I’m upset about this.  I write this post because I’m angry.  I’ve been angry about fracking for a number of years.  I’ve been to talks at MIT about it, I’ve written letters to politicians about it, and I’ve helped spread the word, but I’m still just as angry and I honestly don’t see much positive change taking place; the greed remains too high.  When I see images, evidence, of a business that could care less for the natural surroundings and inhabitants who call that area home, I’m furious.  We’re addicted to money and we’re addicted to dirty energy, no matter what the cost.  Homeowners in Dimock sold their land rights off to companies, such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, to make some quick cash and now, they’re homeless.  Their property has been fracked and they’re left with nothing. Their state government has abandoned them and they now rely on hand outs from the EPA.  It’s time to close the 2005 Energy Act Halliburton loophole and ensure the process of fracking is held accountable under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, CERCLA (Superfund Act), Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (hazardous waste act), and the Environmental Policy Act.  As of now, it’s not.  It’s simply not okay for politicians to exempt their own companies from federal policy and get away with murder.  Dramatic?  Perhaps. Honest?  Absolutely.

So, what can we do?  Get involved!  Here’s an awesome website with snazzy visuals and additional action links.  If you want more resources, feel free to contact me. The Gasland link at the beginning of this post is loaded with ways to get involved as well. This is a domestic disaster that’s happening every day with little oversight or awareness by the general public.  The companies like to keep it that way, but the more people who know and take action, the better.

Urban Composting

Today I spent three hours with some wonderful people – now friends – divying out free compost to local SF residents courtesy of Recology, SF Environment and Garden for the Environment.  Wow I love this city.  Residents showed up with buckets, pails, and even a laundry bin to collect the compost to bring home.  We had a total of 7 people show up, which isn’t bad for a Wednesday afternoon.  Some people collected compost while others inquired as to when we were there and what the program was all about.  I’m personally excited because I get to learn more about the ins and outs of composting myself, but it’s not hard to come across composting in SF: it’s mandated by law.  Yes, you will be fined if you’re caught throwing away a banana peel in a trash can.  And honestly, why shouldn’t you?  We should be reusing food scraps for energy and compost, it just makes logical sense.  In a city like SF, there’s especially no excuse not to compost as those green bins are easily accessible and everywhere.  The city even provides residential compost bins, free of charge, which get dropped off at your door.  In fact, SF recovers a remarkable 77% of the materials it discards, bringing the city closer to its goal of zero waste by 2020.   Not too shabby.  Come on other major American cities, let’s get on the ball and follow suit!