A SYTYCB entry
You’ve probably heard about hydraulic fracturing (commonly called “fracking”), the process of extracting of natural gas from underground shale by blasting the bedrock with a highly pressurized mixture of chemicals and water known as fracking fluid. This blast of fracking fluid, the components of which are a highly guarded trade secret, causes fractures in the rock that release the gas. That same fluid and the gas it releases can also leak into the ground water and out through our faucets.
Fracking supporters argue that hydraulic fracturing is a way to reduce our dependency on foreign oil while creating jobs in rural communities. Fracking can also offer a sizable payoff to landowners who lease their land for drilling. But the payoff may not be reliable, and definitely isn’t worth the impact on the community: fracking has been linked to breast cancer, spontaneous abortion, birth defects, toxic and flammable (yes, flammable) drinking water, air pollution, earthquakes, and even increased rates of domestic violence and sexual assault.
One of the major concerns about fracking is that the chemicals will leak beyond the borders of their wells and containment units. This potential evasion of borders is not simply the end product of fracking – it’s the basis of how it works. Fracking companies drill deep, vertical wells into the ground – but once they hit the layer they need, fracturing is horizontal. Although individual landowners may choose not to lease their property, it may not matter – fracturing can extend for a mile, meaning that if your neighbor decides to lease their land, you may get fracked as well. Although pollution from fracking has the potential to impact entire (and even multiple) communities, the decision is left up to individual landowners, many of whom have been given misleading information by fracking companies.
How the magic happens.
While the decision on where to frack has largely been left up to individuals, the fight to protect our water and our health cannot be. Women have led much of the current resistance to fracking. In Montana, Native American women in and outside of the tribal government are working to stop fracking on the Blackfeet reservation near Glacier National Park. In Pennsylvania, women were the primary voices speaking out when 37 families were evicted from their homes after a fracking company bought the land they lived on. Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and author from Ithaca College, is one of the most outspoken opponents of fracking, arguing that because fracking pollution has been linked to spontaneous abortion (aka miscarriage), fracking is a violation of women’s reproductive rights. Dr. Steingraber believes that the right to carry a wanted pregnancy to term seems like an issue that both pro-choice and anti-choice activists could rally around (though, for many reasons, they probably won’t).
Fracking is not only an issue for rural counties and flyover feminists – it’s an issue for all of us. While fracking has been banned near four NYC reservoirs, it has not been banned from farms in Pennsylvania that supply grocery stores all over the country. The same will be true if New York lifts the fracking ban – and that might make you think twice the next time you pick up your favorite Greek yogurt (Chobani Yogurt – official food of women and U.S. Olympic athletes, is produced in potential fracking site, Chenango County, NY).
So what can be done to protect our water, air and yogurt?
- Investigate. It is crucial to have the fullest possible knowledge about the risks of fracking. The gas in the ground isn’t going anywhere, so we have time to have multiple agencies do thorough studies to determine what really is safe.
- Call your state and local representatives or go to a town hall meeting. Let them know that you want fracking to be studied more thoroughly – or out-right banned.
- Visit the excellent online Fracking Action Center through Food & Water Watch to find out about and share local and national actions.
- Let out your inner Leslie Knope and host a public forum on fracking to help bring the decision making out of the hands of companies and individuals and into the hands of communities.
- Watch the film Gasland online for free with friends.
- If you’re in a big metropolitan area, start (or keep!) talking to your friends, families and co-workers about fracking. Whether from the faucet or from the grocery store, we’re all taking in the same water and we want it to be clean.
- Add your own ideas in the comments – community collaboration can begin right here!
Fracking is a feminist issue because it impacts women’s health, women’s homes, and women’s safety, and because women are already leading the charge to stop drills. But ultimately, fracking is a feminist issue because if feminists want a world that is safe and equitable for all, feminists have to fight to move decisions about the environment away from the individual (and the fracking companies) and to the community as a whole. Only then do we stand a fighting chance of protecting our health, our water, and our future.