The Un-paving Paradise Project March 2014: Secrets of science: Hydraulic fracturing

Below is a very interesting and balanced explanation of fracking from The Amazing World of Science.

After having studied ‘Environment’ as part of my university degree, I now consider myself an environmentalist. Although when I first began my studies my main concern was eliminating extreme poverty (plus, to my shame, I thought environmentalists were all a bit airy-fairy), I soon recognised the vital role the Environment has to play in the life of every human being. However, unlike some other environmentalists, on balance I think the protests against fracking are a red herring. Those of us who are actively trying to promote more awareness of environmental issues, particularly climate change, would do better to concentrate on a more general message of reduced consumerism, less consumption of fossil fuels in all their guises, and to be challenging the West’s worship of the god of the ‘Economy’, which is so deeply ingrained in our culture (even among Christians) that we don’t even realise how much emphasis is put on the ‘Economy At All Costs’ policies of our governments. Don’t get me wrong, as the daughter of an Economics professor, I can hardly consider myself anti-capitalist. Rather, I would like to promote a balance between capitalism and responsibility –  for ourselves, for one another and for our planet. This is not sentimentalism at play, but a rational response to the existence of poverty in the 21st century, and to the threat of climate change.


If you’re interested, the following are a few examples of the kinds of questions I like to consider before making a purchase (any purchase) in an attempt to reduce my family’s greenhouse gas emissions:


  • Do I really need to buy that? e.g. I love the dress in the window of a local shop, but I really can’t justify the expense, or the unnecessary addition to my wardrobe.


  • How will it affect my life and the lives of my family if I don’t buy that? e.g. I will definitely buy a new pair of shoes for my daughter as the sole has detached from her shoe [there’s a sermon in that somewhere], but I would think twice about buying her a new dolly.


  • Can I make do using something I already have? e.g. I needed a ring-binder to put my Maths notes in, as I tend to write Maths by hand, so I reused an old work folder of Frank’s. I needed somewhere to store elastic bands, so I used a tin that a Christmas gift came in.


  • Can I make it myself instead of buying it? e.g. dishcloths – for which I bought crochet cotton made from recycled tee-shirts, I also intend to make a crocheted rag rug from old jeans and I use old clothes as rags for household cleaning which are stored in a DIY ‘rag hanger’ made from my daughter’s old tights with the feet cut off – this is a surprisingly successful way of storing cleaning rags!


  • If I definitely think I need it, can I buy it second-hand and thus not contribute to further use of fossil fuels (by buying new)? e.g. I found a second-hand coffee table for a fiver in a local charity shop and my next project will be a tablecloth made from ‘reclaimed’ fabric to hide the table’s flaws.


  • If I see no option but to buy new, can I reduce the number of miles it has travelled by choosing a local product? e.g. local honey, eggs, vegetables and meat, or even local wool.


  • If I see no option but to buy it new, can I buy in bulk and thus reduce the amount of packaging used (and hence less fossil fuel)? e.g. a 5kg bag of rice instead of the more usual 500g or 1kg – this also works out cheaper in the long run.


  • If I see no option but to buy it new, is it available made from recycled materials? e.g. stackable storage boxes made from plastic recycled in England are used to store all my craft supplies. 


  • If I see no option but to buy new, has it been ethically grown/reared? e.g. our towels, which were a wedding present, are made from undyed organic fair trade cotton. Also, we are lucky enough to have an award-winning pig farm which sells its free-range meat at the local farmers’ market.


  • If I see no option but to buy new, has my purchase come from a fairly traded source e.g. chocolate – my daughters’ primary school is holding an Easter raffle and has asked for donations of Easter eggs, so I went to the supermarket to look for fair trade chocolate Easter eggs. There were none, so I shall buy some fair trade chocolate and make chocolate roses using a mould instead.


I have gone way off topic from the original post about fracking (see below) but it is all interlinked. It is actually great fun seeing how we can change our consumer habits. It is liberating to exchange the manner of thought one once took for granted with a mind which questions. For me, this is also a spiritual questioning, and I find it both challenging and exciting. The ‘slimming down’ of the physical world is accompanied by a ‘slimming down’ of my faith – fewer distractions, more room for prayer.