On Nov. 17, an encampment of indigenous people and environmental activists went up in Olympia, Washington, blocking two sets of train tracks. Their goal was to stop the shipment of fracking material via railroads and to disrupt the fracking business overall.
Recently, the camp was broken up by police dressed in riot gear, backed up by armored vehicles and a bomb squad. To me, this seems a little excessive for what was a completely peaceful protest. The encampment, though no longer currently active, brought attention to a serious environmental issue in this country: hydraulic fracturing.
According to BBC, fracking is “the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.” The main problem with fracking is this “water mixture.”
Within this mixture are carcinogenic chemicals. Scientists analyzing fracked fluid have identified volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene to be in this mixture.
To sum it up, our country’s current way to extract natural gas is to blast dangerous chemicals into the ground. The worst part about it, though, is that once those chemicals are in the ground, they do not come back up. Instead, they seep into the aquifers that hold all of our fresh drinking water.
People who live on or near fracking sites have reported asthma attacks, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, lung disease, neurological problems, birth defects, childhood developmental interference, blood disorders and cancer.
It is a known fact that fracking is extremely dangerous to both human health and the environment, but for some reason, our country continues on with it. Even worse, it is now impeding onto indigenous land, because the shipments for fracking supplies cross these areas.
This invasion of indigenous land is a trend in the United States that dates back to colonialism. Nature and a connection to the land is the basis of much indigenous spirituality. Why would indigenous people want something to be shipped across their land that will destroy the environment?
America needs to do two things, and soon. First, we need to stop invading indigenous land to transport fracking supplies. Indigenous people have had so much taken from them at the hands of the “white man,” and fracking corporations moving through these areas today is no different.
The use of indigenous land to further the resource extraction agenda needs to come to an end. This includes the use of their land for oil pipelines, which have a similar amount of environmental dangers. Many pipelines even end up spilling oil at some point, which creates extreme environmental disaster.
Just look at the Keystone pipeline, which burst last month, spilling 210,000 gallons of oil. I was not even surprised when I read the news, just extremely disappointed in our country.
This abuse of indigenous land is completely unacceptable, and further perpetrates the idea that Native-American people are disposable. The United States needs to stop treating indigenous people in ways that remind us of the way things were hundreds of years ago, and maybe start apologizing and making up for all we have done to them.
Second, we need to end fracking once and for all. After looking at all the side effects and environmental harm caused by this terrible mode of extraction, I do not understand how one could argue in favor of it. Yet companies continue fracking, and very little is actually being done to stop it.
If we allow this to continue, we allow the destruction of our land and our Earth. It is time for our county to move on from these destructive ways of sustaining our life, and look towards a future of renewable energy.
The cost of more renewable energy may seem high, but we can no longer risk the cost of continuing on with these harmful methods of extraction. Our Earth is suffering as a result of our ignorance, and it needs to come to an end.