While Rome Burns

We all know that Nero fiddled while Rome was burning, though we aren’t told with whom he was fiddling . . .(sorry). In any event, we now find ourselves pretty much in his shoes, fiddling while our water dries up. I’m not speaking about the horrible event in Flint, Michigan where thousands of citizens were allowed to drink water contaminated with lead. Nor am I referring to our mindless waste of water as we flush the toilet with a cup of pee in it, take long showers, run the dishwasher for six plates and a dirty frying pan, leave the water running while we brush our teeth, or water our lawns (or golf courses). What I am referring to is the unconscionable act of “fracking.”

A recent story tells us about the steps that the European Union are taking to stop fracking, a procedure to get gas and oil out of the earth while contaminating between 1.2 and 3.5 million gallons of water per well each day in the process:

Studies by the European Commission, released last Friday, find the risks associated with large-scale shale gas development and fracking to be high and in some cases very high. The studies draw special attention to the cumulative environmental impacts of multiple shale gas wells. Eight key pieces of the European Union (EU) environmental acquis (acquis communautaire = agreed upon laws and regulations in the EU) are identified as being ill-equipped to deal with the water, waste, liability, air quality and other issues of large-scale use of hydraulic fracturing.

As a result, four countries in Europe have outlawed fracking. A growing list of others have placed a moratorium on the act. However, with the exception of a few states in this country, we continue to engage in an activity that is known to cause earthquakes in addition to drawing millions of gallons of water from the aquifers daily and rendering the water unusable. We ignore the fact that our water is becoming increasingly precious. Many think it will be the new gold. But actually it is more precious than gold, because we cannot live without it.

Some would chalk up our frenzy to draw oil and gas out of the earth to free enterprise. I would chalk it up to raw, unmitigated greed. As noted, growing numbers of countries around the globe see this as a very dangerous practice indeed, as are so many of the practices in this country we engage in daily — while we fiddle. We can continue to ignore the assault we have initiated against the earth, but we cannot do so much longer. And while I realize that this claim will be dismissed as mere nay-saying, chicken-little pessimism, glass half-empty exaggeration of our present situation, we need to consider that those who reject the dire prediction of scientists have a hidden agenda. The scientists do not. They simply tell it like it is. We need to start to listen to them. The money isn’t going to do even the wealthiest among us any good if they have no water to mix with their bourbon.

In my bleak moments I sometimes imagine that the very wealthy who pursue this deadly path have a jet plane ready to whisk them away from our dried up country to some place safe, one of those countries that has outlawed fracking and now relies on renewable energy — you know, the ones that will manage to hang on a bit longer. It’s not unlike the villain in a James Bond movie with his boat ready to whisk him away to safety before the British Secret Service can put him away. But this is real life, not a fiction: there are no jet planes that can take anyone far enough away.

At other times, in my more dreamlike moments, I imagine that the story in the Old Testament about the Garden of Eden is not a tale about what happened in the past. Rather, it is a prediction about the earth we all share, which is indeed a Garden of Eden. The serpent of avarice has offered us the apple of greed and we have eaten of it and we are now, slowly, being evicted from the Garden as a result of our own stupidity.


One thought on “While Rome Burns

  1. Well said Hugh. Europe holds more to the Precautionary Principle, whereas they do not do something that could be damaging until it is shown that it is not before proceeding. Here we develop and do damage to people and the environment and then realize much later that we have done damage. Fracking is revealing its ugly self far more now than when our former VP (and fracking industry executive) inserted language in the 2005 Energy Policy Act that the fracking industry need not be governed by the Safe Drinking Water Act or Clean Air Act or disclose their chemicals.

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