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For every action there is a reaction. But I think we forget this sometimes. Or, is it because something doesn't get talked about or reported, that we don't think critically about all the repercussions. As is the case with fracking for natural gas...Fracking: the water-intensive, carcinogen-laden practice of unlocking deep reservoirs of fossil fuels in the earth's crust. Films, books and articles have exposed what fracking can do to the water, air, land and people living near these drilling sites. One thing is missing from this line-up, our food!

On December 17th, Elizabeth Royte, published an article in The Nation entitled, "What the Frack is in Our Food?" It pointed out the obvious, or perhaps not so obvious...the action of injecting high-powered chemicals into the earth creates a negative reaction that ripples well past the water and people it directly impacts but one that extends throughout the food chain. If you didn't think fracking affects you because it isn't in your backyard (yet), look no further than the food on your plate (queue the Pyscho movie tune, ehehehehe).

The national conversation on natural gas is dominated by the energy independence it can provide the United States. It's like an ostrich with its head in the sand. If it can't see the water it is contaminating, the environmental degradation it is causing and the people and livestock it is making sick and killing, then it is happening. Well, its happening. We say we are addicted to oil & gas, but we have to remember that addiction kills.

There are conflicting reports whether the Volatile Organic Compounds found in fracking fluids such as benzene can  accumulate in animals and plants. The reason so little is known is because not enough research has been completed to evaluate the long term effects of these chemicals and how they move through the food chain. But there is definitely enough evidence by the number of illnesses diagnosed in the people who drink the water and inhale the air around fracking wells as well as the number of dead cows and farm animals living in close proximity.

In the article, Elizabet reported, "The World Wildlife Fund identified 632 chemicals used in 
natural-gas production. More than 75 percent of them, could affect sensory organs and the respiratory and 
gastrointestinal systems; 40 to 50 percent have potential impacts on the kidneys and on the nervous, immune and 
cardiovascular systems; 37 percent act on the hormone system; and 25 percent are linked with cancer or mutations."

If we want to believe that these chemicals aren't working their way up the food chain, then we might as well stick our head back in the sand.

 
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I handed the postmaster my yellow slip and he returned with a package from Amazon. I hadn't ordered anything so while he processed my other mail, I opened the box to find the book, Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter. I started flipping through it and was immediately enthralled turning the book so the postman could see the color glossy images of the cutest small homes, I'd ever seen. Some were made from earth, mud and other natural materials sourced on site. While others were made out of recycled scraps, repurposed materials, backyard sheds as well as old trailers, buses and gypsy wagons.

On the drive home, I was wondering how this book came to be in my possession. Perhaps it was from a publisher for whom I was doing a book review and they had sent me the book by mistake. It would have been such a coincidence to send this book, of all books, to me...I've had a fascination with cottages for as long as I can remember starting when I was eleven years old with Julie Andrews' book, Mandy. The reply from the publisher read, "no, they had not sent me the book," I rustled through the box that was now in the recycling bin to find a wee slip of paper that said, "From your brother-in-law, Mike." A smile grew across my face. So cool! I had forgotten our conversation from a few months earlier where I had told him how I wanted to build a simple, 500 sq. ft. cabin on a lovely piece of land and call it home. He, however, had remembered our chat and when he saw this book, sent it along for inspiration. Those are the best presents of all!

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Later that week, I was attending the first day of a permaculture course with Northern Nevada Permaculture and Urban Roots Garden Classrooms in Reno. The whole premise of permaculture is to create land-use systems which utilize resources in a sustainable way. Nature is permanent agriculture so in permaculture you are basically mimicking nature's design to grow food,  harness energy and live in connection to place. It is more than sustainable it is regenerative because a large part of permaculture is stacking functions which create cycles to reuse energy like the sun and water. 

People are a part of nature so in permaculture, they live in more ecological structures. When our instructor started flipping through examples of "tiny homes, simple shelters," I was even more amazed by the timing of this book in my life.

For a long time now, I've realized my life choices may never make me millions and I will more than likely have to work well past retirement age. But my life choices could be my social security! And a small, energy efficient, sustainably sourced, off-the-grid home could not only provide me a simpler life in later years but be kind to the environment as well. These homes are as beautiful as they are unique and their ingenuity is intoxicating. We talk about reducing our carbon footprint. Perhaps it starts with literally reducing the footprint upon which we live. The costs associated with eco-homes can be expensive but when scaled for smaller structures and when supplemented with natural cycles to capture energy, it can be affordable. Granted, not everyone is going to move to the country and go Daniel Boone but it does give pause for reflection. But for me, my financial future just got a whole lot brighter with this as a possibility.

 
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A sincerely, important protest is happening right now in Washington D.C. against the proposed Keystone-XL pipeline which will bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the United States. Climate Action Network has organized a 2-week sit-in outside the White House starting last Saturday, August 20th. This act of civil disobedience will hopefully persuade President Obama and Congress to deny this permit. I felt compelled to bring awareness to this concern so foodlust will just have to wait.

I first learned of this issue in the film, SPOIL, by Epicocity Project. At the time, the concern was "just" a pipeline across Canada to the coast of British Columbia cutting right through the Great Bear Rainforest. In the film, a team of conservation photographers and videographers documented this pristine ecosystem with iconic images to build a case for the area's protection. It is the home of the rare Spirit Bear, an albino black bear (pictured here is a Spirit Bear with her two, black cubs). If you saw the September issue of National Geographic, you would have seen the stunning cover and centerfold-like images of this breathtaking creature. Seriously, get your hands on a copy of this issue. They are jaw-dropping. 

But now, the issue is much, much graver...the United States wants a piece of the action by bringing a pipeline to the East Coast with plans for more throughout the central US. No one will deny that energy independence is a good thing but the extraction process of this fossil fuel makes it energy-irresponsible. The argument to "drill local" doesn't stand a chance to the argument in the video, click here. The Alberta project alone is the size of Florida and in the case of tar sands leaves the land dead and unrecoverable. Not only that... it's the most expensive drilling effort to date; requires insane amounts of water to release the oil from the tar sands which is then dumped into toxic waste lakes - not ponds, because they are much bigger than ponds - and it requires practically as much energy to process the oil from the tar as it will provide, meaning the greenhouse gas emissions are double. And that's just the extraction process... The section of pipeline that travels through the Great Bear Rainforest ends at an inland port where large barges have to navigate narrow, river channels with lots of tight corners before reaching the sea. Imagine if one of these tankers got a leak or ran aground splitting open. It would create another Gulf Oil Spill but in a much more concentrated area. A tanker bursting in a river like this would be the equivalent to a brain aneurism. No Bueno! Now imagine a pipeline running through your backyard. Gives a whole new meaning to NIMBY. You can make your voice heard at Tar Sands Action.