Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day

October 15 was Blog Action Day and the subject is Water. A very important topic and that link will take you to a page to read what bloggers all over have to say.

I didn't get it together to write anything. And as usual what I really want to do is to let my thoughts wander here; I suppose looking to make some sense. I know that I've got several disjointed threads in mind. Curious what will come out.

I've shamelessly ripped off the map image from the BBC. It's a good report on a study published in Nature that is behind a pay wall. It's much better to read the BBC piece than my rehashing it here. But I wanted the image because look where all the yellow, orange and red on the map is. The article says the study shows that the places where 80% of the people in the world live will experience water stress; a lack of water in the near future. In industrialized areas the infrastructure may be secure enough to provide for people, but not so the broader ecological communities where they live and depend.

I live is an area where the geography is marked by rivers and streams. It's too easy for people to take water for granted here in Western Pennsylvania. Right now there is a gold-rush to exploit deep deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale underneath us. In order to exploit these deposits of gas, which aren't in a sort of underground storage tanks but rather between layers of rock, great quantities of water are needed. The water is pumped into the well along with lots of very toxic chemicals in order to fracture the layers horizontal to the bore hole; beleive it or not the process is called fracking. Of course the companies doing the exploiting paint a very rosy picture about the water issues involved. And because there seems water all around many folks don't seem very concerned.

At Facebook I've been posting links to a great Web site called FracTracker which is the best resource for information about what's going on with this energy play. But it's not an advocacy site. I've also been putting up links concerning legislation to impose a severance tax on gas produced. Pennsylvania is the only mineral-rich state without one. It's those links that have gotten a bit of a reaction, and the reactions are interesting. Some of my friends think the important issue is stopping the drilling, apparently not noticing the gold-rush fever has already struck. So they see political issues of taxes being not so important. It makes me sad, because much of the grassroot political effort is being spent closing the gate after the horse has left the yard.

Well water contamination is a legitimate concern, but not the only water issue involved. More pressing now are more direct impacts of removing surface water, holding ponds of highly contaminated water and the discharge of total dissolved solids into streams and rivers. Water issues are very difficult politically because they involve balancing interests. In the USA the interests of corporations are well heard, but not so much the voices of individual citizens. The state of Pennsylvania is no where near up to speed to regulate the immediate problems of fracking, and progress in the legislature is slow.

We're headed into elections in early November and polarization of politics has been ginned up to almost absurd proportions. I think that debate is very valuable, but it's frightening how dialog is disparaged. It's as if the possibility that interests, especially in re vital interests like water, can be balanced in an equitable way isn't on anyone's mind or in their imaginations. We're crazy to think competing self-interests will produce healthy outcomes around this issue. My prayer is that we as citizens somehow rediscover the notion of common interests.

I didn't get around to some of the other stuff I'm thinking about; I suppose I'll wait for another day for that.

Clean water for everyone.

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