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Fracking, colonization and the Peace Country

Written by Sherwin, published on November 25, 2011

diagram of shale gas extraction

Went to a public forum last night to hear about shale gas extraction in Northeastern BC. The speakers were great. There is nothing quite like having graphs and maps enriched by honest, heartfelt stories, told by real breathing humans.

I thought I already knew that fracking was dangerous for aquifers. I thought I already knew that fracking was bad for the land and for families and for First Nation’s communities. I thought I already knew that chemicals used in fracking were toxic. I thought that I already knew that the oil and gas companies that are doing shale gas extraction have no real long term commitments to the land or the people that live there.

But when a rancher, or a policy analyst that has done research in the region, or a hunter that grew up there, or a land manager from the Fort Nelson First Nations can explain the challenges and impacts of fracking, in person, it hits home a little differently.1 The other advantage of having Indigenous presenters2 is that it helps me better understand how these “environmental” issues are also colonial issues. It can be easy to get lured into the idea that colonization is a distant event. It’s not. It’s happening.

I was struck by one reflection by Lana Lowe, Director of Lands and Resources with the Fort Nelson First Nation, that the treaty was signed in the Northeast out of a sense of peace and sharing. But the treaty today is held up by government3 as a sign of surrender.

Resources

For some definitive analysis and an excellent values driven assessment of fracking, check out Ben Parfitt’s report. and this report by Pembina [update]. Also, Andrew Nikiforuk of the Tyee is an expert on oil and gas development, including fracking. This hopeful article provides a good overview of the larger political landscape and makes particular notes about the other places in the world that have had the brains and the guts to properly ban and properly regulate shale gas extraction:

All over the world, governments are taking real action to address and curtail the fracking industry. Quebec has brought in a moratorium. So has France and U.S. states like New Jersey. Even Texas legislators are talking about taking action. – Tria Donaldson

 

  1. The slides were especially moving for me, since I get up to the Peace Country now and again.
  2. It also helps to go to panels with smart people that you respect.
  3. I would add to this, that many citizens also believe this.
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