Father Neil Pezzulo of Glenmary Home Missioners wrote this to explain why he will be a part of the action in June – to join him and thousands of others, click here to sign up.
Last July I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio after serving for twelve years as a Pastor in rural Arkansas. It was in Arkansas that I first heard and read about Hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Initially, this was portrayed as the latest and greatest thing to happen in gas drilling since gas drilling began. The media portrayed this as safe, inexpensive and even the more optimistic reports would portray fracking as a sure path to energy independence. This was one of those rare a special situations where everybody “wins” and there is absolutely no downside.
After taking a longer look at how this works I quickly found out that the entire enterprise is a lie. A lie perpetuated by the gas companies who are only interested in making a profit for their shareholders, regardless of any consequences to people or the environment..
Hydraulic fracturing is a lie and no matter how many time a lie is told it is still a lie. The truth about fracking is this: There is undeniable evidence that it poisons drinking water wells. The chemicals used in fracking; hydrochloric acid, diesel fuel components, and formaldehyde, to name a few, are highly toxic and have serious short and long term health effects on both humans and livestock.
As a person of faith I cannot sit back and not speak up about this horrible injustice happening in the rural and often poorer parts of our county. Often an area rich in natural resources suffers because the resources are controlled by outside interests. These outsiders (often corporations) have no vested interest in the local area, the people or the common good. The economy in the rural United States is dependent on the environment and if the environment is destroyed in such an immoral manner the economy will ultimately cease to exist.
However, as a person of faith I always remember that we are created in the image and likeness of God. If God created the world and our environment and then declared it not only good, but very good, we as people of faith, have an obligation to care for and be good stewards of this creation.
Fracking is not without consequences. The people I know; my friends, my neighbors and parishioners who have allowed fracking on their farms have not received the economic gains they were promised. They often suffer health problems, they have no drinkable water and their farms and ranches are not productive. The land, along with the contaminated water cannot support livestock.
Never once were these people told about the chemicals that would be used. Never once were they told that these chemicals could and do cause many health issues in both humans and livestock.
The evidence is undeniable that fracking poisons drinking water wells. Unknown chemicals in unknown amounts are used, along with large amounts of water (4-7 million gallons) are indiscriminately discarded and left to leak into and destroy drinking water, rivers and streams.
I cannot in good conscience sit back and not speak up about the destruction that is happening to our environment. God created the world gave man/woman dominion over it which includes and demands that we are stewards of this creation. After the world was created God not only declared it GOOD, it was declared: VERY GOOD.
It is also essential to understand the environment is not simply for us today, it is part of the inheritance we are leaving for our children. A correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited. At the same time, we must not absolutize nature and place it above the dignity of the human person. There must be some common ground.
We are created in the image and likeness of God and that calls us and invites us into a relationship. As with every relationship we cannot be passive observers, we are called by God, invited by Jesus Christ into a reality that makes us one.
I speak in terms of relationships not because I am some sort of expert, but because I am involved in many different relationships. I am involved in relationships because I am part of the human family, which is a qualification I cannot take credit for, I was born and baptized into it.
However, each human person has certain rights and privileges, which include clean air and water. Faithful people must concern themselves with the common good. This is where we discern what is best for everyone, our homes and our families. Each of us is called to be an active participant in the decisions that directly affect our lives. (As a Roman Catholic I would call this the Principle of Subsidiarity).
If I was able to tell the Governor anything it would be:
Fundamentally, we have a right to a safe and healthy natural environment and anything that so openly and blatantly destroys our world is inherently bad. To allow fracking to continue is both unconscionable and immoral. It violates our sensibilities and our common good. It openly destroys the environment and hurts people, mostly the poor. Simply put: It is bad public policy. As the state laws are written it also prohibits any meaningful participation by the local community as to whether this is what they want for their community. This is not about Ohio 2012; I am concerned with the Ohio we are leaving for the next generation. This is about Ohio 2022, 2032, 2042 and beyond.