Nova Scotians Petition for a Frack Ban

The oil & gas industries are seeing fights against fracking everywhere, even in Nova Scotia, Canada. "On behalf of over 1,000 signatories, a petition to ban hydraulic fracturing" was presented to the Nova Scotia Legislature by the Council of Canadians, an organization that fights corporate exploitation of water and organizes people for water access, health, and democracy around the world. They believe that water is a human right and that its transformation into a commodity - whether a for-profit venture from the tap, to bottled water, to its transformation into a toxic cocktail that can get back into public water - is a violation of our rights, not to mention the well-being of the ecosystems in which we live.

The petition itself reads as follows:
• Whereas Petroworth Resources Inc. has indicated that it intends to drill for oil along a seismic line between Lake Ainslie and Mull River in the ‘Ainslie Block’ that extends from St. Rose to Port Hood and east to Whycocomagh in Inverness County, and
• Whereas this exploration may lead to the discovery of shale gas (i.e. natural gas obtained from underground shale formations) as well as oil, and
• Whereas Petroworth Resources Inc has used the technology known as hydraulic fracturing (hereafter referred to as fracking) in the extraction of shale gas in New Brunswick and has not ruled out its utilization in the Ainslie Block, and
• Whereas fracking involves injecting, under very high pressure, millions of litres of water, sand and proprietary chemicals into a large number of underground rock formations, and
• Whereas some of these chemicals can lead to serious health problems, ranging from eye and respiratory disorders to cancer, and
• Whereas fracking in other parts of North America has already resulted in the contamination of underground sources of drinking water and other environmental concerns,
• Whereas other rural communities across North America have reacted to these threats to drinking water and human health by demanding an outright ban on the use of fracking,
• We the undersigned, in the interests of all residents of Nova Scotia, demand a province- wide ban on the use of fracking as described above.
Is this the kind of mobilization people are looking for to slow down the rush into the Marcellus Shale?


Democracy Now! Manfred Max-Neef and Derrick Jensen

Democracy Now! is something of our big sister program. For a number of years they have spearheaded the progressive radio and internet movement by bringing the world to us, the world as it is often unseen by the dominant corporate media.

On November 26th, they hosted two really compelling leaders, thinkers, and actors on sustainability. Watch it here.

The first is Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist who has worked to understand poverty as it really is instead of an idealized version that we can create by valorizing it or by thinking that it is universally horrible. If you listened to our show with Donaldson Conserve and Shanai Haywood these issues of poverty came up strongly. And, if you listened in just a couple of weeks ago, you heard my interview with Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, also a Chilean economist who is working on some of these same issues. For both, sustainability is a central issue to any kind of development. And sustainability means doing less while being in love and loving everything. "We all know exactly what should not be done but we do it. How do you change that?"

Then Derrick Jensen came on the show and in typical fashion dropped proverbial and verbal bombs about modern society. In short: the modern industrial state must be stopped by people resisting it.

Where are we going? More importantly, what do you think of Max-Neef's assertion that the university is where we need to change things?

World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day

This coming Friday, December 3rd, marks World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day.
Sustainable development is an issue all countries in the world are currently looking at. The degree of emphasis and the level investing resources invested however varies from one country to another; but regardless of whether we are talking about industrialized or developing countries, the quest for environmentally sound, socially just, economically viable and ethically acceptable development needs to be regarded as a priority by all nations of the world.

For many years now, a large number of initiatives have been carried out throughout the world to attempt to stoke up awareness about sustainable development and promote initiatives to achieve it.

The 1987 Report "Our Common Future" produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), "Agenda 21" produced by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the "Johannesburg Declaration" produced following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 are examples of the type of initiatives being worked on internationally. These have been complemented by the various "National Sustainable Development Strategies" produced prior to UNCED and after Johannesburg.
As a show committed to sustainability, this marks a great opportunity for us to talk about this thing called "sustainable development."

What is being developed and what is being sustained? So far, much of sustainable development seems to have been a global corporate-governmental collusion that has served the advantage of the already wealthy and powerful. Looking at just water issues in India, Bolivia, and Africa, the idea and practice of sustainable development might seem an oxymoron. There is no doubt we have a conundrum on our hands if we hope to bring health and material prosperity to ~6.8 billion people and counting.

Follow Paul Ehrlich's equation:
Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology
The United States has over 300 million people living here, <5% href="http://www.jameslovelock.org/">James Lovelock, father of the "Gaia theory" has called a "sustainable retraction." Maybe it's time to get in on the Transitions Initiatives. Maybe we all just need lifeboats for a coming dog-eat-dog world. Or maybe there is not really much to worry about and the Earth's carrying capacity will hold all of these developed people.

As part of the media we have a significant role to play. What do we hope to sustain? Who do we develop? What and whose purpose does all of this serve? In a world of uncertain futures, how and for whom do we conceive of our teaching?

What should sustainable development look like right here in Central Pennsylvania?


Pittsburgh says "No!" to fracking

This was a landmark occasion. The city council of Pittsburgh, Pa unanimously voted for an ordinance banning natural gas drilling in the city. Yes! Magazine reports:
The ordinance sponsor, Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, led the charge to ban drilling, and was later joined by five co-sponsors. During the months leading up to today’s vote, Shields passionately advocated for the ordinance, saying that the city is “not a colony of the state and will not sit quietly by as our city gets drilled.” He sees this fight as about far more than drilling, saying “It’s about our authority as a community to decide, not corporations deciding for us.”

Drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Pittsburgh’s ordinance elevates the rights of people, the community, and nature over corporate “rights” and challenges the authority of the state to pre-empt community decision-making.
These issues have come up elsewhere and will likely escalate. We can expect that more local governments will take up this CELDF ordinance to resist corporate encroachments on their communities and their environments. A lot of the outrage in Pittsburgh has been the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that has granted corporations more rights than its citizens. Corporations are individuals with more legal and procedural power, freedom, and rights than you and your neighbors (image courtesy of Yes!). The Pittsburgh ordinance confronts that face-on:

As Councilman Shields stated after the vote, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”

Provisions in the ordinance eliminate corporate “personhood” rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill, and remove the ability of corporations to wield the Commerce and Contracts Clauses of the U.S. Constitution to override community decision-making.

So what do you think? Should people press these onward at multiple levels? Or should there be some more moderated approach through stricter or more efficient regulation?

Pittsburgh says


Shale Gas: Jekyll and Hyde

Last week, we encouraged you to watch the 60 Minutes piece on shale gas extraction. We've included it below for you to watch again. A lot of the issues we've discussed on the show were front and center. From the need to reduce carbon emissions to the national security/military issues associated with oil to the dreadful costs to communities and ecosystems in terms of water pollution and truck traffic, this feature gets into a lot of the things we've questioned our guests about.

What do you think of Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon's statements comparing Drano and frack water? If we are willing to clean our drains in our own houses with toxic chemicals, why not do it in a massive industrial process? If we use lawn killers and other toxins in our everyday lives, do we have the right to go after natural gas companies? What's the difference?

Sierra Club director Michael Brune argues that natural gas is the future and it has to be more tightly regulated. Some of our guests think it can't be. If he's right, do we have to deal with our own Jekyll and Hyde? What do you think we should do to make sure this is done "the right way?"

Marcellus trucks overwhelmingly in violation

The Philadelphia City Paper reports that "Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Pennsylvania State Police announced yesterday that a crackdown on trucks hauling wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling operations yielded the following results: of 1,175 trucks inspected, 1,057 were found to be violating state laws."

The DEP's "Operation FracNET" which ran from October 25-27 placed "207 [trucks]...out of service because of safety concerns. Fifty-two drivers were also removed from service...The most common problems involved unsecured loads and inoperable vehicle lights and lamps."

What is trucking like in your area? What impacts have you seen? Have the police been effective in maintaining your community's safety?


Hiking? Drilling?

In April, Curt Ashenrood of the Keystone Trails Association spoke in favor of Pennsylvania legislature's House Bill 2235 that placed a "moratorium on leasing State forest lands for the purposes of natural gas exploration, drilling or production; imposing duties on the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and providing for report contents." The bill passed with Governor Rendell's signature and you can watch Ashenrood's testimony here, courtesy of Faces of Frackland.

Now it seems that we are in a less certain place. According to the Centre Daily Times, Pennsylvania's governor elect "lift Rendell's executive order preventing the issuing of any more drilling leases in state forests." According to Common Cause, as of May, Corbett was the "recipient of $361,207, with 93% of these contributions coming since January 2008." By the time the campaign ended the Centre Daily Times reports that he received nearly $1 million in campaign money. And now we have president Obama joining the cause according to NPR's Living on Earth who, following the recent "shellacking" by the Republican party, has decided to endorse natural gas development.

This is all potentially bad news for hikers, bikers, hunters, and fishermen and the plants and animals they so enjoy in Pennsylvania's expansive state forests.

Are you a hiker? What do you think about the moratorium?

60 Minutes piece on the Marcellus Shale

The Sierra Club has just sent out a media alert. This Sunday evening, November 14, the top-rated CBS program 60 Minutes, will be featuring a piece investigating the environmental damage caused by inadequate regulation in the natural gas industry. Lesley Stahl interviewed Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune extensively for the story.

Sierra Club is one of the most vocal and powerful environmental conservation groups in the country and has been committed to fighting for effective natural gas regulation in the face of the massive and barely controlled rush, including fighting to keep the oil and gas industry out of areas where drilling and production poses unacceptable risks. To learn more about their efforts, go here and get news, views, and ways to connect with other concerned citizens. If you want to involve yourself with central Pennsylvania's chapter, go the Moshannon branch of the Sierra Club's website here. Their members are hosting free screenings of Gasland in the coming couple of weeks.

Check your local listings to tune in to 60 Minutes this Sunday.


Tracking the Fracking

What kind of tracking information is available for us on the natural gas development of the Marcellus Shale play? Just a few months ago, some people in and around State College were wondering how to track the scope of the problem and lamenting that they didn't have the time or the infrastructure to do something that seemed so necessary. But as it turns out, there is a large amount of data out there.

The Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has developed FracTracker:
In response to the growing concerns regarding Marcellus Shale gas extraction's impacts...FracTracker is a combination of a web-based DataTool for tracking & visualizing data related to gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region, & perhaps in other shale regions in the future, & a blog for synthesizing data.
As you may know from following much local media in Pennsylvania and from talking to your friends, neighbors, and family members across the state, the natural gas industry is impacting Pennsylvania enormously. While some people are making a fortune, others are being exposed to the produced water from the fracking process, workers have died, cows have been quarantined, wells have blown out, water has been contaminated with gas from leaking wells, children have gotten sick, communities and ecosystems have been disrupted by noise and traffic, and roads have been crushed by truck traffic.

Maps and analysis can help us get some handle on the scope of these issues. For example, you can view this map of recorded violations from 1-1-2007 and 9-30-2010 (pictured at left - taken from FracTracker). Like we've been doing with some bloggers who live in Marcellus production areas, some on-the-ground interviewing is illuminating as well (watch this interview with exposed to contaminated water).

That's why we will be talking to Samantha Malone (Communications Specialist for FracTracker) on our show this week. We will talk about Frac Tracker, why it's needed, what it's showing about the Marcellus Shale play development, and how it compares to other places in the United States that have had long-term shale gas drilling.

Listen in on Friday November 11th from 4-5 pm on The Lion 90.7 fm.


Ignorance. Want. Needs.

Earlier this month, Peter and Mike did a show on the recent Marcellus Summit 2010 hosted at the Penn Stater Conference Center. During that show, Peter spoke about some of his experiences at the conference, his thoughts on who was represented and who wasn't, and what the goal of the conference seemed to be. In part, he found the talk of John Felmy (featured on our YouTube page) to be particularly disturbing.

As a follow-up and an expansion on that episode, Peter wrote an op-ed piece on the most recent Voices of Central Pennsylvania. Here is a brief excerpt:
It takes no leap of imagination or some profound and deep thought to see that the gas-infatuated and addicted industries equate their “wants” with our “needs.” I hope that they are wrong.
Felmy, encouraged the faithful attendants to use “facts,” and hopefully “the same facts,” in their deliberations on these matters. Having listened to his presentation several times, I think the gathered were to conclude that those who prescribe to the high faith of fossil–fuel-addiction-meets-growth-economics jargon that “projections” that “show” gas gas “needs” that increase industry profits are, in fact, “facts.”

Consider some projections regarding climate change and extinction, facts that are both reliable and valid. The Earth, on average, will warm 6.4-degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by century’s end. Over a billion climate refugees will migrate. Water scarcity – fueled in some small part by hydraulic fracturing – will plunge nations into civil and regional wars over water. The rainforests and boreal forests will nearly disappear. The oceans will further toxify and acidify. Less than 50% of species alive today will be extinct. Earth will be ecologically impoverished. Bladerunner meets The Stand perhaps?

What are your thoughts on our energy "needs" and our future?


PSU graduate working toward sustainable culture in Mexico

This is a really interesting story from today's Centre Daily Times:
Graduating from Penn State in 2009 with a master’s degree in civil engineering wasn’t enough to help one alumnus find a job.

But David Vargas’ next decision — moving back to his birthplace of Mexico with his girlfriend to backpack, travel and visit his family — would completely change his fortune.

“We wanted to volunteer with nonprofits and organic farms and do whatever we could to just get by. We started talking about my thesis on rainwater harvesting and everybody was super-interested, and we started building systems for contacts that were interested,” said Vargas.

“Once we put up three rainwater harvesting systems, we decided we better start a business and nonprofit here, and that’s when we met my business partner (Enrique Lomnitz) and we joined forces.”

Bravo to Vargas!

We might see more initiatives like this coming from Penn State graduates in the future. PSU is formulating its strategic plan around sustainability and a huge component of that is developing skilled people who teach for sustainability, students who learn for sustainability, and graduates work for sustainability across the board. Vargas is on the cutting edge.

Moving on

A few months ago, we hosted Katherine Watt of the local Transition Towns initiative on the show. We talked about energy decline and climate change as opportunities for local, regional, and cultural transformation.

As a follow up, you can check out her recent piece in the Centre Daily Times, "Transition planning moves on":

What ideas are lying around for us? There are two dominant competing visions of the Centre County future. One is thousands of drill towers, concrete pads and pipelines ripping down the woods; thousands of semis rumbling along formerly quiet country roads; potential widespread water contamination and depletion; carbon flying skyward; and a steady flow of gas and profit heading east to investors in New York, London and other world financial capitals.

The other vision is food, farms and forests, and no matter how many times the drilling proponents repeat their reassuring lies, once the water’s a mile underground or contaminated, it’s unusable. Once the trees and roots are gone, so are the living ecosystems they support.

My friends working in the local sustainability movement say people “get it.” They’re sick of the talk and want to see more action. Transition planning, as pioneered in England by Rob Hopkins, has a dozen or so interwoven components for building resilient communities for the post-carbon age.

Read more here.

Two things come to mind: First, what are you doing to work toward this transition? Second, do you know how to get involved? If you don't, you can start by connecting with Transition Centre!


Sustainable Politics

Given the recent state and national election results, today's show was timely. Perhaps not timely enough given the highly charged atmosphere and the anti-climate change mood in much of the country, but timely in talking about what sustainable politics could be.

It was our good fortune to host three pretty engaged women. For the first few minutes talked with Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor (Assoc. Professor of Women's Studies) who has arranged the TEDxNorthPacificGarbagePatch event being aired at the Berg Auditorium in the Life Sciences Building at Penn State's University Park campus. You can get a sense of the problem by watching the following TED Talk and checking out the plasticpollutioncoalition.org.

Then we talked about sustainable politics with Rosa Eberly, a self-described free-range rhetorician who teachers Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State and deals with civic engagement each and every day. We also were joined by State College mayor Elizabeth Goreham. What is a sustainable politics? Well, it involves engagement, good information, alertness, and staying engaged.

Listen to the show HERE.

The great Pacific garbage patch - TEDx Talk at Penn State

If you aren't aware of it, there is a continent of trash in the North Pacific Gyre about twice the area of the state of Texas. How did we get this thing? What is it doing? What can we do about it? How can we change to prevent more of it?

On Saturday, November 6th, at 11:30 a.m. you can join the TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch Watch Party at PSU! at the Life Sciences Building, Berg Auditorium (RM 100).

Here's the flier.Today, on Sustainability Now radio, the PSU organizer for this event, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor will join us for a few minutes to discuss the event and answer a few questions. Tune in from 4-5 pm on The Lion 90.7 fm.


Sustainable Penn State

Penn State is a mammoth institution. We hold the biggest Pepsi contract in the state of Pennsylvania as far as we know. Approximately 42,000 people attend this school at University Park each year and close to 80,000 each year across the whole system. Let's face it. What we do as an institution matters.

Well...what is happening? According to a recent video at Penn State's Center for Sustainability website, We Are! Penn State! is getting closer to the mark. Watch.

We hope to have some of the people on this video on our show to talk about the future of the world according to Penn State's vision of sustainability. Where are we going to shape our technologies? Our politics? Our economy? Maybe most importantly, how do we participate in our culture in meaningful ways to care for the seventh generation and beyond?