The hydraulic fracturing of bedrock to liberate natural gas has left hundreds of thousands of acres, perhaps millions of acres forever damaged, (40,000-400,000 ha) of scars across the landscape. The energy giants would rather tout the high paying jobs that are available to those who ignore the fact that massive amounts of energy get squandered at multiple points along the road to “recovery” efforts of this kind. The truth of the matter is that each and every BTU that we “harvest” using these techniques adds to the destruction of our biosphere and wastes energy. Many people forget that the part of our globe that is capable of supporting life, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the stratosphere are, when thought of to scale, roughly as thick as the skin on an apple. Our living planet only seems vast because we are as ants upon the surface, unable to fathom this frail whole because of our limited perspective. The biosphere is getting less hospitable and the extraction of energy from the living battery that is fossil fuel is increasing the levels of atmospheric carbon as well as threatening the ability of our species to adapt. Ecological change that occurs over millions of years is not such a big deal, but that which occurs over the course of decades is far more threatening to our long-term survival.
The remote sensing equipment that has given us a tiny glimpse beyond our limited perspective is getting to the end of what scientists affectionately refer to as the design life. This means that in the very near future, most of the equipment that has allowed climate science, atmospheric physics and big picture views of our planet to be “seen” and documented will be falling back to Earth. The satellites that give us stunning imagery of the krill blooms (that are lessening) the Trans-Atlantic weather that brings soil particles from Africa across thousands of miles of open ocean to breed storms in the Caribbean. At this point, we are at the cusp of understanding, or proving if you will, what ecologists have been telling us for generations. The Earth is a living breathing whole, a vast organism of which human beings are but a part. When we rent one part asunder, it opens us up to a range of difficulties in other areas that we are just not able to predict or fathom when they occur. Pumping billions of BTUs of energy thousands of feet below the surface to bust up bedrock sounds simple enough, but we have seen that this sort of behavior has led to earthquakes in areas that have not had them for tens of thousands of years. In some areas, the natural gas liberated by “fracking” has bubbled up into the water table, tainting wells and in some cases it has made the water flammable because of the high concentrations of natural gas in it. The corporate welfare whores, who are being subsidized by government subsidy, are trying to use lawyers to cover their tracks.
All the ways that we humans have found to conserve energy, use it efficiently and ameliorate the drastically differing conditions that exist within the biosphere can teach us that the true value of our species is our adaptability. The longer we cling to an outdated and ecologically expensive way of meeting our needs, the worse things will get. The more of the planet’s surface that has to be written off because the costs of living there outweigh the benefits, the worse off we will all be. Trying to make things stay the same when change is inevitable is only going to have greater and greater costs for all of us. either we shall all hang together, or we will surely all hang separately was a watchword during the American Revolution and today is would be just as serviceable. I have owned half a dozen homes, paid the giant banking institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on energy, but even though I could hardly afford it, I have also spent tens of thousands of my hard-earned dollars on efficiency improvements and renewable energy sources. Reducing the energy use characteristics of each and every home that I owned by over thirty percent. Sometimes it is as simple as changing from an old furnace and inefficient refrigerator to newer appliances, adding low-flow devices on my water taps and riding my bicycle or walking more than I drive. Sometimes it requires a bit of air sealing and insulation. Even though all homes are different, the principles are the same. Spending a little money, time and effort now can save both energy and money day after day over the course of years and these savings can in turn lead to a better future for us all.
The biggest difference between permaculture and the way we do things now is that rather than imposing our will upon the planet, increasing the ugly footprint that we leave in our wake, we take the time to ask more important questions, reflect on the difference between wants and needs and slow down enough to ask what is needed in this place, at this time, and in that place as well. We snugly fit what we want into a different framework, one that attempts to make decisions based on what is best, for us, for the landscape, for the ecosystem and ultimately for the future. Of course, we must also choose something that will benefit our pocketbooks as well as those of our customers. That is where the maxim about allocation of abundance comes in. The Mother-frackers who are damaging the planet are only concerned about enrichment of their pocketbooks and damned the sacredness of the wild spaces, the aquifers, or the rest of the planet.