Fracking Comes Home

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My apartment complex has been rigging an elaborate looking connection to the town gas line over the last several months. It’s an optional fuel source for heat and hot water.

What’s interesting, besides the economic reprieve from higher heating costs, is the Rube Goldberg contraption. I remarked to the utility inspector that the thing looks like a wellhead and he chimed, “That’s right where it’s coming from”.

When I pass them I can hear the reassuring hiss of fuel delivering us the warmth inside, or conversely I hear a relentless mocking telling me “Of courssse you want thisss.

Ordinarily these essays are about what we do when taking a weekly day off the grid but thought it worth mentioning. Besides, I’ve been working from home for a while and walk a ’lot. (That really does save a lot of running around).

Energy workers have a point when they tell us; if we like to cook they need to drill. The director of Gasland, Josh Fox, said those of us opposed to unconventional energy, including fracking, cannot just be against something – we have to be for something. What we ought to be fighting for is an all-out speedy transition to safe renewable energy and all the prosperity that will generate – forever!

Why aren’t oil and gas companies transitioning to sustainable energy companies? The oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, placed an enormous bet on wind energy and lost a fortune. He argues that American oil and gas companies are the best at what they do and I guess in a way that’s supposed to be reassuring. But that’s the problem if it’s unbridled capitalism – bottom line it’s simply best at one thing only – profiting.

Originally, Congress assigned rights of incorporation requiring they not exceed their authority or cause public harm. It was at our nation’s discretion they were allowed to serve!

The lauded former industry titan/climate change skeptic, Jack Welsh, presided at General Electric during the deregulation era of the 1980’s. I got a sense of his zeal for Darwinian Capitalism working on computer services advertising for the company – the same year our ad agency helped launch the Apple Macintosh computer.

In the intervening years the stocks of both companies would have made you comfortable (if you could have owned them). Point is, not long after, Steve Jobs needed to leave his own company until the world caught up to his vision, and he and Apple earned largest valuation of every company on the planet, blah, blah, blah.

It’s as good a lesson to take away with regard to the fossil fuel industry. If Jack Welsh supports the conviction that giving consumers the environmentally friendly goods they seek, his reasons seem unapologetically cynical or a damming truth that business responds to consumer demand.

“There’s an enormous opportunity…whether you believe in global warming or not…If you’re in a company, you’d better be pushing those (green) products because the world wants these products.

– Jack Welsh, Fresh Dialogues Interview Series with Alison van Diggelen, May 12, 2009

A delightful GE commercial several years back had creatures in the jungle dancing to Singing in the Rain and stated “Water that’s more pure.”­ – this after spending years and several-hundred-million dollars fighting the EPA requirement to remove their factory’s toxic waste in New York’s Hudson River. Translation; We can make money even when we help cause the problem.

Businesses must protect stockholders and profits until the time comes their actions become unprofitable.

Corporate missions need people to guide their immediate and long range decisions. And the campaign to divest investments in the fossil fuel industry will lead them into the future.

Especially if we, each carbon-based human, reduce our carbon-based energy consumption and help them get their heads out of the ground!

Incredible things happen when we used our boycotts and purchases to dissent. They help mitigate racism, human suffering and destruction of our environment.

The goal of practicing 24-6 is to slow this corrupting process. Everyone take a day off the grid. Earn your own “carbon credits”.

Surely there will be unintended consequences if we all start doing this. Lower energy costs seem to increase usage for one. That makes alternatives costly. But it is something each of us can actually do for ourselves and our childrens’ children.

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Walden Pond

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“In fact, I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her I can, as is usual in such cases”.

Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience

 

 

“I remembered how, as a college student, I had been moved when I first read this work. I became convinced that what we were preparing to do in Montgomery was related to what Thoreau had expressed. We were simply saying to the white community, “We can no longer lend our cooperation to an evil system.”

– Martin Luther King

 

On Wednesday I took the train from Boston to Concord, Massachusetts to make a pilgrimage to Walden Pond where Henry David Thoreau made his experiment to see what he could learn from nature about living simply and deliberately.

I thought I’d find a taxi to take me from the depot but there wasn’t any. From reading Walden Pond I remembered his woods were only a few miles from Concord and he’d walk to town to visit friends often – so I walked.

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The frozen pond, beautiful and snow white greeted me with the subterranean groans of ice beginning to heave that Thoreau described in his story. It was a perfect private time courtesy of the arctic cold of this winter.

Heading back, I passed Brister Hill Road named for Brister Freeman who, after thirty-five years of enslavement claimed his freedom, having served two tours during the American Revolution. Prior to emancipation, Walden Woods held poor agricultural land inhabited by former slaves. Stories of these inhabitants certainly inspired Henry’s rare abolitionist beliefs.

It was too late to catch the train back so I spent a couple hours walking around Concord. I got to see the grand homes he described his neighbors investing their lives in cultivating. Many had been enlarged and divvied up into apartments – their former occupants only ghosts in the town cemetery.

The local library, proudly and lovingly, care for archival volumes of Thoreau and Emerson collections and thriving bookstores devote shelves to them.

I was reminded only then of Thoreau’s book, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. And how we can reject a wrong simply by refusing to participate.

Steven Mitsch