Saturday, 12 October 2019

Part 3: Hydraulic Fracking - Uncertainties

We have seen how much damage fracking can cause to human health and the environment. But what makes it so difficult to manage? Today let's talk about the uncertainties that make such a process even more dangerous to implement.

1. Due to climate change, drought is becoming an ever increasing phenomena and a constant threat to human wellbeing. At this situation how long can we pump trillions of litres of water out of hydrological cycle?
2. The fracking process and usage of its final product, natural gas, also emits greenhouse gas which will accelerate global warming.
3. Natural gas mined through the process is a fossil fuel, non renewable energy. Even if in current situation, it has a potential of billions of dollars profits, it is not sustainable.
4. The conflict (protests, moratorium, ban) related to fracking has led to a decline in natural gas price in North America. The other market option that is being explored is in Asia. But shipping the gas in compressed liquid format would require billions of dollars pipeline investment again. If the conflict in North America reaches Asian markets also, this billions of dollar investment will be in vain.
5. 750 chemicals are mixed with the water, some of them are toxic carcinogens. Scientific knowledge is still inadequate to confirm how far away the wells need to be from human habitation in order to be not harmful. After the operation, the water is even mixed with radioactive materials from deep underground.
6. Even if the operations are safely away from human habitation, it is still part of some ecosystem. We don’t know how this pollution of one ecosystem will affect wildlife and vegetation in those areas (as well as other ecosystems) in the long run.
7. The process itself involves blasting and shattering of solid rock underground. How much does that compromise the ground integrity? In case of a major earthquake in any of these regions, what would be the impact of brittle rock underground?
8. Even with all the protests, uncertainty exists about the level of government responsible for taking the actions?
9. Oil companies are looking for some solution to this pollution issue to reassure public. Some have even implemented some green solution by not flaring natural gas during fracking process or limiting the amount flared. But these measures only limit pollution upto certain level and uncertainty exists in determining how much is not-too-much. Also the solutions are expensive. So, small companies will have hard time implementing them in the face of declining market value of their product.

To be continued......

P.S - Environmental concerns have reached more places than we have. The picture doesn't show fracking. Picture shows fresh water sources that are critical to our existence.

Source: Shattered Ground by Leif Kaldor

Friday, 11 October 2019

Part 2: Hydraulic Fracking - Why controversy?

Part 2: Hydraulic Fracking - Why controversy?

Yesterday we talked about fracking and that it is so controversial that some countries have placed ban on the usage of the technology to extract natural gas from deep underground. Let's see why it is so controversial.

1. The water that is pumped into the drilled well is treated with 750 chemical compounds, many of them are highly toxic.
2. The water after the fracking operation becomes highly toxic. Initially the waste water was dumped in streams or on fields, contaminating them. Then the industry started sending the water to municipality water treatment plants, but the water was too polluted for its capacity. The water was even dumped into ditches where the water evaporated, leaving behind toxic sludge. When all traditional disposal mechanisms failed, the industry started to bury the polluted water deep underground, permanently removing them from hydrological cycle.
3. The buried water has led to earthquakes in several areas
4. The air around the gas well pads contain high levels of toxic chemicals, carcinogens and highly potent greenhouse gases. One example being carbon disulphide which is a near toxin that can cause irreversible brain damage.
5. The fracking operation can pollute ground water and air with toxic chemicals dangerously within a few kilometre radius of a gas well. In several places, the drinking water became combustible due to high levels of methane. The risk is even greater when wells vent natural gas during fracking process.
6. The combustible gases like methane can lead to explosion.
7. The pollutants (air and water) causes severe illness in children and can affect adults as well.

The damage fracking process causes seems too much when we balance it against the natural gas received by the process.

To be continued......

P.S - Environmental concerns have reached more places than we have. The picture doesn't show fracking. Picture shows fresh water sources that are critical to our existence.

Source: Shattered Ground by Leif Kaldor

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Hydraulic Fracking - Introduction

Part 1: Hydraulic Fracking - Introduction:

On this page, we keep talking about human intervention, and how it is destroying our environment. Our knowledge of the ecological functions is severely limited. When due to ever increasing demand, we come up with some ground breaking invention, we sometimes unknowingly create more damage than we ever imagined. Over the next 4 days, we will give you an example of such a disaster.

Hydraulic fracking is a relatively newer technology to tap into the planet's vast reserve of natural gas (a form of fossil fuel) trapped inside solid rocks. Unlike traditional ways of extracting natural gas, fracking involves use of directional drilling to the source, sometimes a few kilometers underground. Then explosive is used to crack fracturing into solid rock and fresh water mixed with chemicals, sand etc is injected into the hole using high pressure. Tiny granules of sand gets trapped into fractured rock, creating openings through which natural gas can come out.

Conceptually the process sounds revolutionary, having a potential to earn billions of dollars for oil and gas industry. But massive protests against the technology has led to a lot of conflicts. Few countries like Germany, France, Ireland, Bulgaria have already banned hydraulic fracking due to the long term human health and  irreversible environmental damage. While some places have put a moratorium on fracking due to public pressure.

In tomorrow's post, we will talk about the negative impact of fracking and what kind of uncertainties lead to such massive protests.

To be continued......

P.S - Environmental concerns have reached more places than we have. The picture doesn't show fracking. Picture shows fresh water sources that are critical to our existence.

Source: Shattered Ground by Leif Kaldor

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Legacy of Our Generation

There are events that define a human being. Some events can be personal like graduation, marriage, retirement, meeting your idol while some events can be of larger scale like national events.

For earlier generations, some larger events were during the world wars, independence days, Armstrong walking on the moon etc. While our generation and next will have to live through loss of glaciers, animals and plants. We already have Aug 2019 when the first glacier was lost. In 2018, the Spix's Macaw (famous for its appearance in movie "Rio") went extinct in the wild.

Steadily (and sadly, not slowly) we are moving to a time when we will see the last human generation itself.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Gift that never ends

There are various seasons for various flowers, the most famous are cherry blossoms, tulips, gulmohar.

Where did all this inspiration come from, the color, the shapes and sizes, no two are alike? When as kids we drew flowers, it was the same sized petals around a small round. But in nature, we find there is no common shape. Wherever we look, there is a variety in form, shape, colour.

As human beings, we don't even have names for all these colors and shapes. Nature has blessed us with something even beyond our imagination.

Nature's gift doesn't even stop there. All these flowers blossoming at different times, as if nature wanted to keep handing out gifts,  unlike the Santa Clause who gets us gifts just once a year. Somehow that doesn't surprise me, at the end Santa was thought by a human while nature is much more generous.

It's true that Nature's work starts where even our imagination ends.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Dystopian Future

Wall E is one of my favorite movies, not just for its depiction of a cute robot love story but also for how realistic its portrayal of humans. It's a movie which the kids can enjoy but even the adults can learn from.

The two things that stick with me in this movie are the dumpster kind of state of the earth and the value of a plant. When you first see the earth with all its garbage and realize already there are places that have reached a similar fate, the movie turns from being a fantasy to a dystopian story. How humans are stuck to their screens and have forgotten to look at anything else even, other humans, is already becoming a reality.

Then there is an entire obsession over a plant. Now, this makes me smile. As the entire humanity is running towards material gain and instant gratification, we get a movie whose sole purpose is to save a plant. A plant which is found in that dumpster earth and which represents a life, a life worth living for.

It's a movie where robots are trying to save a plant from evil so humans can once again live on earth. You really think it's just a fantasy and not a satire? How far you think we are from realizing this? The only thing we are lacking is the sustainable ship which can help the humanity survive.

Sunday, 6 October 2019


In agriculture and in forestry industries, it's very common to use chemical pesticides to get rid of unwanted insects/bugs/weeds. Most of the times, they are only partly effective at best. After every application, even if a number of those insects die, a few still remain. And the next generation that emerge from these tough ones are usually immuned to the earlier pesticide application. So again the whole process of applying pesticide starts, only this time even stronger.

Pesticides are poisons. Not just for the unwanted 'pests', for the beneficial ones as well, such as bees and flies that help pollination. It's even poisonous to humans, many times even lethal. And they have this terrifying ability to 'bioaccumulate' and 'biomagnify', making them even more dangerous to humans in the long run.

Nature is incredibly complex, more than even our wildest imagination. But it still has a way of balancing itself. What seems like the end of an ecosystem, can as well be the beginning of a new ecosystem.

Nature can bounce back on its own. It can take frost and fire, drought and flood. But what it cannot take is uncontrolled meddling by ignorant humans for generations, using and abusing it without the slightest knowledge or consideration of the long term impact. It cannot take those man made chemicals, those poisons that are totally alien to nature. The pests that we are getting rid of using pesticides, are perhaps way less harmful than these chemicals in the long run.

But tell that to the induatrialists!!