"A nation's greatness lies in its possibility of achievement in the present, and nothing helps it more than the consciousness of achievement in the past."
This quote is not part of the 'Make America Great' campaign. It isn't even a quote from a presidential hopeful. It is a quote from a former President. It is a quote from the Bull Moose himself. It is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
We live in an age where we constantly pit scientists against industry. There are legal battles. Prove that there will be harm. Show us the numbers. Quantify the ‘predicted’ harm. Let me first start by saying that I am not a scientist and that I don’t have, or claim to have, any of these answers. Instead, I believe two things:
- Irrefutable evidence will never prevent someone who wants money, fortune, and fame from pillaging our Earth for profit.
- If we have people and those people find joy in being outside, proof is irrelevant.
I could make the argument that the near 300-million yearly visitors to the National Park Service are proof that we derive pleasure out of visiting beautiful places, but I won’t.
Instead lets look at a couple of simple historical figures.
- Price of an ounce gold in 1815: $22.16
- Price of an ounce gold in 1915: $20.67
- Price of an ounce gold in 2015: $1,179.20
- Price to see your son catch his first fish in 1815: Not sufficient evidence
- Price to see your son catch his first fish in 1915: Not sufficient evidence
- Price to see your son catch his first fish in 2015: Not sufficient evidence
- Price of a barrel of oil in 1955: $2.93
- Price of a barrel of oil in 1975: $12.21
- Price of a barrel of oil in 1995: $16.75
- Price of a barrel of oil in 2015: $47.26
- Price to go stargazing with your granddaughter in 1955: Not sufficient evidence
- Price to go stargazing with your granddaughter in 1975: Not sufficient evidence
- Price to go stargazing with your granddaughter in 1995: Not sufficient evidence
- Price to go stargazing with your granddaughter in 2015: Not sufficient evidence
We ask people for evidence of what nature is worth and it isn’t there. You can put a price on teaching your son to fish, or stargazing with your granddaughter. There isn’t a metric to measure how much a sunset is worth.
One thing that I can measure, though, is my sleep. The night we spent in the Teddy Roosevelt National Park backcountry was punctuated by what sounded like war drums. I was awoken in the middle of the night to a consistent BA-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba beat. It was actually rather terrifying. I woke up, held my breath, held my head still as I looked from side to side with my eyes. Exhale. Is there someone outside? What is THAT noise? Where is it coming from? After ascertaining nothing. I reassured myself that all was okay and drifted off to slip with the BA-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba providing the backdrop for the frequency with which sheep were jumping over my head.
In the morning, I asked Trevor if he had heard the noise and he confirmed waking up as well. We tried to track it down. Was it below us? An underground river? We searched around the campsite, nothing. Then at 8am, silence. It wasn’t until we drove out that we surmised the culprit. An oil rig with a drill on a clock. At least that is our guess, and that maybe it is programmed to drill from midnight-8am. North Dakota has recently become a hot spot for fracking activity, so it seemed to check out.
North Dakota is becoming a center for fracking activity. We came to the only double-lane McDonalds drive-thru that I have ever seen in my life. There were hundreds of shiny new trucks with shiny new North Dakota plates. The hastily constructed housing along the road spoke of an area that was going through a boom. The line for the men’s restroom (and lack of women at the gas station) spoke of an increase in the number of men in town. Oil. Black gold. Minot had all of the trappings of an age-old tradition of men moving out west for the chance at a more prosperous life.
I support jobs. I want people to work and make a living to provide for their families. I guess I just wonder—Does fracking liquid get into our ground water? Are we going to be experiencing sinkholes as we remove the liquids and solids beneath us? Is it just to tap into a reserve and take oil that may be under another person’s property? What does it do to the surrounding grasslands? How does that affect ranchers’ ability to raise cattle? Does it affect crop outputs of local farmers? Is it still going to be providing North Dakota with jobs in 25 years?
It’s unfortunate that we put the burden of proof on scientists, after the fact, to prove that harm is being caused. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the burden of proof on the business to prove that they aren’t destroying the land that we live on? Shouldn’t they do that research before they start drilling?
Several months ago, the EPA made a huge mistake in southern Colorado and released some mining sludge liquid that leaked into the Animas River and turned it orange. It was very bad and it was unsafe for the people living nearby. Congress held a session to grill EPA directors and people are rightfully pissed at them for this major blunder. But there seems to be a bigger problem at play here. The EPA didn’t put that shit there to begin with. A mining company did, a mining company that didn’t do their research on the negative externalities of their business. We saw it Cuyahoga with the barrels of industrial waste in the Krejic Dump. How many years until we get mad at the EPA for mishandling a site in North Dakota related to leftover fracking fluid? Maybe, just maybe we should be asking some questions before that happens. Maybe we should be conscious of our achievements in the past and some of the problems that they caused for us in the future. But don’t mind me, I’m just upset because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.