Ten years ago my blog on the destructiveness of hydraulic fracturing was only one of three on the Internet. It received tens of thousands of hits in the first couple of months of it being started. It was accessed regularly over the years by the Canadian House of Parliament and the US Congress and Senate. It held peer reviewed industry articles on the cross-contamination of gas, oil, and water sub-strata that happened during the drilling process (which has since been deleted from the Internet). But by and large nobody cared. I was accused of being a meddler and attacked in many ways. Even my own family turned against me. The Prime Minister of Canada began making threats against Internet posting of such material, including imprisonment. After years I deleted the blog, not wanting to lose the resources of the Catholic Worker farm that we had been given by others and where we provide physical forms of hospitality and love and taking up our cross.
Relatively speaking we don’t go anywhere. We stay here on this place in large part because we know that in doing so we are not contributing to what we realize has been going on throughout our lifetimes, the superloading of carbon into the Earth. Growing up I either walked or rode my bike everywhere. My father used to encourage me to take the car to go visit my friends in high school. I preferred walking. He could not understand this. To me it was just natural. I honestly felt grounded doing so; it was my place on the planet to walk as a human. Now in my sixties I still feel that sensuous pleasure of being so-grounded and so-attached. It brings me great pleasure growing grass here as well. My neighbour’s fields are green from June to August. In other words, they remediate carbon for three months out of the year. And if those fields are in wheat then that straw is burned in October, releasing that carbon back into the atmosphere. Our fields are green from late April until early October and remediate somewhere around 130 metric tons of carbon a year, locking it into place, year after year after year. I don’t say this to condemn my neighbours, it’s just a fact.
Neither do I point all of this out as an act of self-righteousness. For my part these are all simple decisions. They are a personalist approach to farming. We can still do better. We have children who live a long way away. We travel to see them once a year. We’d like to see them more often. Ideologically we have a hard time justifying our one trip, even though we still go out and see them. And we like to fish. So a few times a year we drag a boat to a local lake and burn up a couple gallons of gas. There are electric boat motors, but they are beyond what we can afford. We do use a trolling motor on a rechargeable battery, but those batteries are highly polluting in several respects. They are no panacea. We can do better. (But the general population here still roars around the lakes on jet skis and inboard ski boats with impunity. All the while we sit here and go nowhere.) We have cut back radically in our use of farm machinery over the years as well. Furthermore, we’d like to attend some Catholic Worker functions, but that definitely feels like an unwarranted luxury, and raises serious environmental concerns in terms of carbon emission and just getting there, let alone the cost of something for which we just don’t have…money.
We are flabbergasted at how much people think that they have a right to carbon emissions. And we are firmly convinced that humans are by and large without a conscience in regard to these things and that the world is headed into total environmental degradation. Without a major change of heart people are essentially selfish, self-centred. Dr. Phil is correct on this one…the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. A Christian I know travels the world to sports events. Another goes regularly to gambling events in Europe. How can this be? In the past year two engineers finally told me that human-caused climate change is now a proven science (what a relief that it’s finally ‘official’ in their circles, eh?). One of them is an environmental engineer and the other is a petroleum engineer. They had previously denied this, and ridiculed us for our ‘pseudo-science’ heretofore. And now they agree that something needs to be done to stop the run away heating of the Earth. But they personally aren’t willing to change. The later still gets up every day and goes to the office to produce oil, and the former recently told me that he drove his vehicle that gets 12 MPG to a show – a ten hour round trip – one weekend, and eight hours round trip the previous weekend to sit on a beach and get drunk with friends. Is it any wonder that the world is in a mess?
We ourselves don’t need to go anywhere to witness major changes going on around us even in this remote location. For the past couple of years migration patterns of waterfowl have shifted dramatically here. Whereas twenty years ago migration happened during early October, now migration is done by the end of September. Prairie potholes have dried up consistently of late; no waterfowl in some places this year. Some species have overpopulated the Arctic, creating environmental devastation there, due to climate change. (We speculate that Arctic birds are perhaps starting migration earlier because they might be running out of food in their nesting ground?) Other species like ducks have plummeted in their populations across our region in the past thirty to forty years. Whereas we had herds of deer here twenty years ago, we have not seen one whitetail on our property since July in spite of having left our second growth of alfalfa uncut this year. In the past twenty years there has been a removal of a huge number of acres of trees and bush locally, and the use of chemicals in growing crops has increased dramatically. And the elk are gone…just vanished from around here. A man who was a part of an arial survey in the north, where they flew a grid over a 2,500 square mile tract, told me that moose are virtually non-existent where they surveyed. Where they should have found 5,000, they found only a few hundred, and on every moose track they saw, there was a snowmobile track next to it.
And there you have it. Urbanites and farmers and natives alike in North America and around the world. They all blame one another. They are all deeply out of touch with the natural cadences and the capacities of the world. They self-righteously and simultaneously defend their lifestyles and activate against the others. And they are all right and they are all wrong. It seems to us that humans are now a part of an era of an imperialist mind where each person takes it upon themselves to explain all of humankind to everyone else. And like true imperialists, they do this in order to secure and to requisition to themselves what is not theirs.
It’s a horrific thing to watch. We’ve lost our heads. We’ve lost our humanity. We’re destroying everything. And there is no doubt that no one will stop until it’s all gone.
What does it take to simply love ourselves, our neighbours, and the world?