North Texas Daily

Kicking our planet’s energy addiction

Kicking our planet’s energy addiction

January 29
23:22 2013

Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment,” at one point blurts: “Man can get used to anything, the beast!” He hits upon a paradox: adaptation is both human and dehumanizing.

Humans can acclimate themselves to a wide diversity of customs, beliefs, and practices, but although we can feel at home with almost anything doesn’t mean we should. Conforming to certain things would betray our humanity, our ideals, and our conscience.

Today, we are accustomed to one of these betrayals: our extreme fossil fuel addiction.To get at remaining reserves, humans are scalping boreal forests, decapitating mountains, drilling oceans and injecting chemicals into the Earth.

The scale of these undertakings should be mind-boggling. There is one oil project in Russia that costs the same as 145 Hoover Dams, but we’ve grown used to this sort of thing.

We are despoiling the environment and destabilizing the climate, and meanwhile Americans are no happier today than they were in the 1950s before our addiction hit such extremes.

America’s lust for consumption and development long ago outstripped any justification in terms of genuine human wellbeing. Our society commands the most rational scientific and technological means, but it puts them in the service of insane ends.

Over the last decade, this insanity has landed in Denton. Advances in hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, and horizontal drilling have increased area natural gas production. Denton is home to 267 wells, with another 188 on its outskirts.

With several other citizens, I spent the last year and a half helping Denton rewrite its rules for fracking.

We were able to get some improvements. The setback distance from wells was increased slightly and new practices for reducing emissions and spills will be implemented. But fracking will continue in this city, complete with burning flares, massive water consumption and chemical use.

Our group worked within the system and did not bother with things outside of our control, ignoring the laws and loopholes already in place that favor fracking.

Instead, we sought the changes we could, given the circumstances. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was the right choice.

Certainly it was the “reasonable” path. We couldn’t expect the city’s government to do anything about the larger problems. To get anything done, we had to accept those limitations and squeeze whatever juice we could out of the frail lemon of municipal authority.

I didn’t even approach the deeper problems in the way our laws are written and the way we lead our lives. Unless we eventually address those, at best we can only make cosmetic changes.

Someone has got to question the system itself – the very laws, customs, and beliefs that condone such energy extremism.

That’s why I applaud the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental organizations in the country, for endorsing acts of civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Civil disobedience is the most powerful democratic way to shake off these vile habits we have somehow gotten used to.

Denton is now slightly safer from the dangers of fracking. But the gas under our feet will all be extracted and combusted.

The same holds for all the oil under the forests and seas and all the coal under the mountains.

“Unless,” said the Lorax, “unless…”

Adam Briggle is a philosophy and religion professor and chair of the Denton Stakeholder Drilling Advisory Group. He can be reached at 

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1 Comment

  1. Mike
    Mike February 14, 16:16

    >>>…Americans are no happier today than they were in the 1950s before our addiction hit such extremes.

    I don’t think that’s a fair claim to make.

    Reply to this comment

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