This spring, as California withered in its fourth year of drought and mandatory water restrictions were enacted for the first time in the state’s history, a news story broke revealing that NestlÃ© Waters North America was tapping springs in the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California using a permit that expired 27 years ago.
Deborah Lawrence had been watching a once-empty parking lot near Midland-Odessa, Texas, fill up with idled drilling rigs usually at work plumbing for oil in the nearby Permian Basin. In January she noticed 10 rigs, then 17 a few weeks later. As winter turned to spring, the number climbed to 35.
Many of Sandeep Giri’s coworkers still feel the ground beneath them shaking. They are scared to step inside their homes. And those are the lucky ones who still have homes.
It sounds almost too obvious. But we may be able to stave off some of the major effects of catastrophic climate change simply by sucking out of the air the vast amounts of carbon dioxide we’ve been spewing for decades. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one that has never been economical. Until now, perhaps.
Editor's note: This article was first published in November 2011.
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
A block from Rebecca Claassen’s home is a sliver of paradise. Mountains stoop nearly to the water’s edge. Lanky palm trees pitch gently in the breeze. Herons stand statue-still in the dunes. Rebecca has stolen a few moments with her daughter here at Carpinteria State Beach, 12 miles south of Santa Barbara.
A black 1957 convertible Jaguar cruises up the California coast on Highway 1, hugging the sea. Ocean lathers the rocks. The car heads north between Big Sur and Carmel with the top down and the radio on. The handsome driver, wind in his hair, is Clint Eastwood.
By now, many people have heard about the booming Bakken Shale in North Dakota where there is a mad rush for oil, enabled by the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a practice that pumps millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand underground to break rock and release hydrocarbons.
Lighting your tap water on fire might be the most highly publicized effect of living near fracking operations, but methane migration that causes such explosive problems is sadly just one small issue. Last summer I visited fracking-impacted communities across the country, including California, Colorado, Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. One of the most pervasive problems people shared was the dangers posed by increased truck traffic—just getting to the grocery store, for some, was becoming a terrifying experience.