Wendy Lee: A Matter of Survival

Wendy Lee

A professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, Wendy Lee teaches environmental philosophy, feminist theory, bioethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind/brain.

Wendy has created a photo-documentation of slickwater hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), which major oil companies are lauding as a viable energy source. Wendy has focused on Pennsylvania, where she speaks out about the minimal regulations and eminent domain issues.

Fracking is the extraction of deep underground shale deposits. Requiring a miniature earthquake to release natural gas from these deposits, the process involves cross-country transportation of huge quantities of sand, the use of chemically toxic materials, and the permanent removal and contamination of billions of gallons of water. Increased emission of methane and greenhouse gases, situated compressor stations, and extensive leaky transmission lines produce serious environmental consequences.

Corporations promote fracking as cheap and abundant. It’s billed as an American thing to support. Frackivists are protesting and warning that fracking is threatening our water, air, and soil. They cite safety issues, pollutant impact, damage to community infrastructure, long-term health problems, and destruction of waterways used for hunting and fishing. They ask where the wastewater will go, how it will be disposed. What about fissures caused by seismic activities? What about the noise caused by the compressor stations? How could extensive transmission lines be safe? Heavy traffic will erode roads and bridges; diesel will emit carcinogens; idling trucks will pollute. Eminent domain regulations will lead to the confiscation of private property.

Wendy regards fracking as concrete, a visual example of the larger crisis in American life: the erosion of democracy as a consequence of the corporatization of governments. With fracking billed as the American Way, people who disagree or resist are cast as deviants, unAmerican, leftist.

Breakthrough Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently reversed his position on hydraulic fracturing in several New York counties. Reconsidering an earlier decision, Cuomo is instituting a regulatory process that will look at fracking’s potential public health impact. This will involve a public hearing that at least will delay decisions for another year (New York Times, Oct. 1, 2012).

Protest is a right guaranteed by our constitution, and activists like Wendy are bravely continuing to reinforce for us our right to disagree. Environmental issues should transcend political rhetoric. Rather, they should be understood as a matter of survival: both of our quality of life and the planet Earth itself.

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