Heavy metals pollute millions of acres of China’s farmland. Less than half the country’s water is safe to drink. Its air kills more than 500,000 people every year. This is the price of progress. Eight thousand miles away, Governor Tom Corbett wants Pennsylvania to be “the Texas of the natural gas boom.” He’s getting his wish. “The amount of clean-burning natural gas being safely produced is nothing short of staggering,” the Marcellus Shale Coalition recently announced. Natural gas, “non-profit” industry shills like the Coalition keep telling us, is wonderful: cleaner than coal and safer than nuclear, it is the energy equivalent of a wonder drug that cures our ailments without demanding changes in our lifestyles.
Except it isn’t. A growing body of research shows natural gas extraction to be anything but benign – most recently, Stroud Water Research Center scientists found that even low levels of fracking’s wastewater were highly toxic to stream organisms.
The industrial age is over. It brought great benefits, but the earth and its inhabitants can no longer sustain its human and environmental costs. It arose in response to new ways of understanding the world – and the entrenched powers, both church and state, resisted it with all their might. But what seemed to them the end of the world was but the start of an exciting new age. Today, the entrenched powers, both government and corporate, resist any alternative to the old order of “more is better”. The Inquisition didn’t stop the last paradigm shift. It must not stop this one.