As an environmental attorney, I have seen first-hand the hard-fought battles involving the one thing (other than smartphones themselves-and they even need it) modern humans in developed countries absolutely cannot live without. Of course, I am talking about electricity, that necessity of contemporary life which provides us heat in the winter and cool air in the summer, keeps our perishable foods fresh, provides lights for our homes, offices and city streets, and most importantly keeps us connected to the INTERNET. How would today’s society function without the ability to text a friend while eating family dinner, talk loudly on one’s cell phone while in line at the grocery store, or post on Facebook, Instagram or Tumbler a selfie or post on Vine, Vemio or youtube a video of a cat performing a marginally amusing trick? The answer to my hypothetical question is simply WE CAN’T.
Mountaintop-mining (a form of surface coal mining where the tops of Appalachian mountains are removed to expose valuable coal reserves) and “fracking” (a form of accessing oil and gas reserves that many claim to be destroying water quality and causing subsidence and small earthquakes), are both forms of extracting natural resources for energy production. Both processes involve highly charged support or opposition by the coal/gas & oil industry (and their service industries), on one side, and environmental groups (and their supporters) on the other.
As an environmental attorney working in Appalachia, I have had the misfortune of working on both mountaintop mining issues and oil & gas fracking issues. Unlike other highly charged issues on which I have worked during my career, there is virtually no opportunity for any compromise on either side of these issues, turning political policy decisions on the subjects into metaphorical IEDs, ready to explode and alienate a large segment of voters, regardless of which side benefits from a given policy.
Although I have worked with Native American tribal liaisons regarding ancestral artifacts and human remains, I have never worked with them on issues related to natural resource extraction/exploitation–though I did discuss the issue hypothetically in a graduate level Environmental Ethics course I taught as an adjunct professor. As expected, the students in the course were divided in their strongly held beliefs on both sides of the issue of whether natural resources should be allowed to be removed by private industry from Native American lands, with obvious environmental effects, if the action would result in cheaper electric bills.
The Nation of Change article linked below shows one Native American tribe’s views toward the practice of “fracking” and the effects this process will have on their traditional lands.
I would be interested in receiving feedback on readers’ particular views on these two natural resource extraction methods.