As I sit here on Saturday morning, I am struck with a common thread having read about two minor sewage spills on top of the Duke Energy coal ash spill in the Dan River, which follows the chemical spill in West Virginia. When this stuff spills out, we are exposed to some very bad toxins. And, please keep in mind, these toxins are even worse for smaller body sizes in our children, whose brains are not fully developed.
I also read earlier this week how the frackers in North Dakota are so successful at getting natural gas out of the ground, they are venting unneeded natural gas with all of its methane directly into the air. One of the scientists in the documentary movie “Gasland II” noted that this venting is not uncommon and should be factored in to the equation when measuring if burning natural gas is safer than burning coal. When burned, it is safer, but if you are going to vent methane into the air, then that needs to be factored in.
This, of course, is on top of a growing set of non-industry funded, scientific data which shows how unsafe fracking is, with Duke University, e.g., showing evidence that the poisonous fracking fluid is getting into the water system, among many other bad things that happen. In the same documentary, a former fracking engineer noted that 5% of the cement casings on the fracking tubes break immediately and that is before they are stressed over time.
My daughter is doing a research paper on what happens when this stuff gets in the environment. She is using two books, among others, that I have encouraged her to read by Dr. Sandra Steingraber: “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah.” If you are a parent, these are must read books, as she refocuses the science away from the impact on the average 50-year-old man, who is usually the test case, to the impact on growing kids and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Steingraber highlights certain biological impacts on children like autism, ADHD, asthma, mental health and cancers from these chemical toxins. Being the survivor of bladder cancer (an environmental induced cancer) at the age of 21, this ecologist and biologist is an advocate for kids and adults.
As a curious citizen and parent, I try to read or watch information that is not provided by someone with a vested interest in the outcome. The fossil fuel and chemical industries make some serious profits and are threatened when people say we need to move down cleaner paths. Yet, as safe as the industry tries to make things, what they do cannot be made safe. Nothing in life is safe, so to say otherwise is a misrepresentation. And, even if it were, you are only as safe as your worst operator.
Let me close with an expanded line from Bill Maher. “Do you know what happens when a wind mill crashes into the sea? A splash.” Taking this one step further, do you know what happens if a solar panel falls down? A thud. We must move more aggressively down paths that will not negatively impact climate change and when they fail, don’t harm the lives of people, especially their kids. When this stuff spills out, we are exposed.