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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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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.

 
My number one site for all green news is www.grist.org. I will reference them a lot during this blogging experiment. Today Barry Estabrook had an article on the impacts of natural gas drilling on agriculture. Movies like Gasland and Split Estate brought attention to the devastating effects of natural gas extraction...flammable tap water and toxic air both resulting in high rates of cancer and respiratory ailments. If it's not in your backyard, it's easy to not think about it but Barry reminds us, that food is our common link..."Fracking" is a process by which a cocktail of water and chemicals are injected into the ground at extreme pressure to release the gas from the bed rock. Not only is it highly water intensive and uses a mixture of proprietary carcinogens that companies don't have to disclose, but the process basically rips the earth below us to get at the gas. Yes, it destroys the ground water for people living nearby but it also infects neighboring crops which rely on those same water sources. Crops whose produce end up on your dinner table! If you want a little more...here is a post I wrote about natural gas for the Center of Native Ecosystems in November 2009. At the time, I had not made the connection to my food but I do now.
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