Evidently, my last column generated some controversy. In speaking with friends about possible responses to critical letters to the editor, the general consensus was a desire to know why I stayed in the fight even when I knew I would be attacked.
I grew up in a family that today might be classified as working poor. My father hunted and fished in order to supplement the family food budget. My mother tended a garden with fruits and vegetables for the same purpose. Nothing was ever wasted. We were taught to take care of our clothes and toys, because it wasn't likely they would be replaced if they were lost or destroyed.
My work took me into Native American communities where I learned about their relationship with the planet. Land and resources are managed so that they will be here for 10,000 generations; when something is taken from the land, something must be given back. Somehow the idea of taking care of things, and thinking about future generations has been lost on our society. Think about how often you've seen children's toys strewn all over a yard with no concern for the possibility of loss or destruction. Think about how few people establish a compost pit to recycle potato peels, orange peels, banana peels, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and fall leaves.
As a society we fail to look at the long-term. Our focus is on the here and now. Even business prioritizes the next quarter over the long term. Small businesses rarely engage in the long-term strategic planning that is needed to be successful. But if we don't take care of what we've got, we may end up losing everything.
Unfortunately, we can't trust industry to be any better stewards of our planet than those kids who leave their toys outside for the taking. We need regulations and whistleblowers. As one example of poor planning, the process of fracking permanently removes a large quantity of potable water from the water cycle. Mother Nature recycles water through evaporation, resulting ultimately in life-supporting rain. With fracking, chemicals are mixed with sand and water and pumped deep into the ground, giving back in a sense. But what is given back to the planet is not something that might sustain life, but rather something that has the potential to permanently pollute the water and soil our descendants will need 10,000 generations from now.
All forms of resource harvesting, whether it is oil and gas, or uranium, or coal, use toxic chemicals to produce their products. We pump toxins into our air when we burn those fossil fuels, multiplying the problem. We ignore the hazards of polluted water and air to the detriment of the health of both humans and the planet we inhabit.
Readers may want to take a look at Fracfocus for an incomplete list of chemicals used by the oil and gas industry, and then go to OSHA to read about the implications of short- and long-term exposure to these chemicals. The first chemical listed is "Hydrochloric acid, which helps dissolve minerals and initiate cracks in the rock."
To be fair, hydrochloric acid is used in many industrial applications, extending way beyond the oil and gas industry. The EPA has this to say about it: "Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure may cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation and pulmonary edema in humans. Acute oral exposure may cause corrosion of the mucous membranes, esophagus, and stomach and dermal contact may produce severe burns, ulceration, and scarring in humans. Chronic (long-term) occupational exposure to hydrochloric acid has been reported to cause gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis, and photosensitization in workers. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations may also cause dental discoloration and erosion. EPA has not classified hydrochloric acid for carcinogenicity."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of March 1, 2013, the world population is projected to be 7,069,255,706. The U.S. population is only a small fragment of that total, roughly 4.5%. We are a very blessed small fragment; we consume 30% of the world's resources. If we continue consuming at that pace, there will be nothing left for future generations of our own nation, let alone the world. Wars have been fought over much less.
Claudette Konola plans to be society's nag until we stop destroying our own planet. She blogs at www.konola4colorado.com, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.