Hydro-Fracking in Upstate New York and Local Food

Okay, so this is not a post with a recipe in it, and it’s not even a meditation on the glories and downfalls of seasonal eating.  What we have here is a plea, a call to action, a rant against a society so committed to fossil fuels it is willing to consider poisoning the water table with radioactive and toxic chemicals for a little more natural gas.  But mostly this is just some information, and the hope that whoever reads with will respond by sharing the information and contacting their representatives to urge them to ban hydro-fracking, here in New York and everywhere else.

Central New York lies on top of something called the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation with veins of natural gas trapped between layers of rock.  And so gas companies want to mine it using a process called hydraulic fracturing or hydro-fracking, or just fracking.  The process of fracking involves shooting water and chemicals into the ground horizontally to force out the natural gas which can then be captured and sold.  Right now I’m going to focus on the problem of loss of agricultural land and threats to agriculture.

Agricultural land loss:  New York has many, many farms, and central New York is particularly rich in farms, especially including small generally family run farms (both organic and conventional).  Farmers are an ever-shrinking population in the United States and the amount of arable farmland we have decreases each year.  We need out farms, here and everywhere.  In the most basic, most simple sense, we need our farms because we need food and as we lose farms we lose our connection to where our food comes from and we will be forced to buy imported food which is not fresh, not as healthy as local food, and which does not support the local economy.  But fracking has serious implications for agriculture.  The chemicals used in fracking are related to illness and infertility in livestock as well as lowered yields in crops.

In addition, at the end of the day, farmers, small family farmers, are left with the both the liability and the damaged and often toxic land.  The way that gas companies go about hydro-fracking is like this: gas companies sign leases with landowners, mostly farmers, that allow them to put more or less (depending on the lease, but often unknown to the farmer) whatever they would like on the land.  They can drill wherever they want, they can put up trailers, work all night and all day, and bring in lots of traffic.  And at the end of the day, the farmer is left with the toxic land because it’s a lease, not a sale.  The damage to land that has been fracked means that if New York goes forward with fracking, we stand to lose a lot of farms directly.  In addition, we stand to lose farms that go out of business due to decreased demand for food grown in areas where hydro-fracking is going on.  The Park Slope Food Coop has already made this clear.  Hydrofracking is a rural issue with urban and suburban impacts.

As we move into a future  where the combined result of climate change, population growth, and increases in the cost of fossil fuels mean that food shortages around the world will be growing, we need our farms more than ever.  We need farms here, and as we move into this future, the worst thing we can do and throw away tomorrow’s food source for some last hopeful gasp of fossil fuels.


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