A primer on unconventional fossil fuel extraction, with convincing evidence as to its deleterious nature, from veterinarian Bamberger and Oswald (Molecular Medicine/Cornell Univ.).
Two significant questions loom over this study: “[W]hat degree of risk and environmental degradation are acceptable to obtain [fossil fuel] energy? Who should be asked to sacrifice, and who should profit?” At issue here is the contested practice of fracking, the hydraulic shattering of shale to extract trapped energy through the administration of chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic and have mutation and endocrine disruptor issues. The authors are not only lucid writers on scientific topics—the appendix on gas drilling should be required reading on the subject—but also warm storytellers, despite the contentious subject matter. They believe the burden of proof should not rest on the victim but on the company wishing to deploy fracking. Since that is not the case, they took to the field to document instances of what appear to be serious air, water and soil pollution caused by the fracking process. The stories of people who have experienced what they believe will be fracking’s poisonous legacy are poignant, as they often involve animals and children, often the proverbial canaries in the coal mine: “Because of their higher metabolic rates and immature neurological and detoxifying systems, children are at higher risk of developing adverse health effects from environmental hazards, including those from nearby industrial operations.” However, the trail between fracking’s spoils and health issues is often thwarted by the absence of testing evidence, which most owners do not conduct prior to drilling, typically due to its high cost. Still, the authors “believe that the sudden deaths of farm animals following exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid provides a clear link between gas drilling operations and health impacts.”
In this cool, disarming and persuasive indictment of fracking’s widespread negative consequences, the authors provide an important addition to an ongoing debate.