Fracking: can we embrace a contemplative stance?

Written on: August 16, 2013

“Embracing a Contemplative Stance” is one of the ways the Grey Nuns are addressing the signs of the times as a result of their recent Chapter.  In many ways, that is a relatively easy thing for religious women to do.  But, sometimes as we read in Sr. Diane’s letter below, what we face can challenge our ability to be contemplative, no matter how much we may pray about a situation.  It is in those moments a chapter directive can move us in prophetic ways.

Will fracking ever go away? Are you tired of reading about it? What’s your reaction when you hear that word? How can we embrace a contemplative stance when considering this issue?

Recently I was “researching” my files and found many emails with attached articles on hydro-fracturing from Sister Rosalie. They go back to May, 2010 when most of us were hardly acquainted with the term let alone all the ramifications of the process. Actually fracking has been going on since the late 1990’s without much public attention. Today, thanks to people like Sister Rosalie, we can be well informed, if we so choose. That is today’s issue, if we so choose and where we choose to get our information.

Some people regard fracking as the way to make the U.S. less energy dependent on outside sources, while at the same time creating jobs, and there are data to support that thinking. According to 2010 figures, there are enough recoverable shale gas reserves to potentially satisfy domestic consumption for more than 30 years. Additionally, others stand to gain financially because they live in the Marcellus shale region which stretches across NY, PA, OH, WV and MD, about 95,000 square miles. Their choice is whether or not to deed their land to gas companies to frack and receive royalties. To some these choices present a win/win situation, more gas for our energy hungry nation, more jobs and a source of unexpected income for some landowners.

As we know there is a whole other side to that story:

Compromised health and water quality:

  •  Natural gas extraction through the process of hydraulic fracturing in the Monongahela River Basic has put the health of hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the river for their drinking water at risk.
  •  Hydraulic fracturing uses millions of gallons of water, usually taken from nearby streams, lakes, and rivers such as the Monongahela.  Water is mixed with chemical sand injected deep down into the ground to release natural gas.  Such massive water withdrawals have serious negative consequences, both on the waterways from which the water is taken, and on the groundwater into which the chemical-laden water can seep.  The excessive water withdrawals can impair wildlife and recreation and decrease the water body’s ability to filter pollutants.
  • Natural gas extraction, especially when combined with pollution from other industries such as coal mining, can cause a high concentration of total dissolved solids in the beds of these waterways.  The extra chemicals allow algae such as the toxic golden algae bloom to flourish, and can result in massive kills of fish and bivalves such as mussels.
  • Air pollution
  • The drilling process and its related industrial truck and equipment traffic emit harmful air pollutants linked to respiratory, brain and nervous system impacts and increased risk for cancer.


To go back to the question, “How can I embrace a contemplative stance when considering this issue?” Here I quote from May 18, 2012, one person’s response that seems to come from a place of contemplative understanding. In May 2012, in a funeral ritual for his wife who died of cancer, Stephen Cleghorn asked the former owner of his farm:

“How could you allow the earth to be destroyed for some money? and you told me that it did not really matter because at the end of time, according to your faith, Jesus Christ would return and make the world whole again for his faithful, and those people who did the damage to the world would receive their just due. But don’t you see that ‘those people’ are you? ‘Those people’ are all of us if we allow the destruction of our earth.”

He was speaking of the destroying power of fracking from which the former owner of his farm was benefiting because of his deal with a drilling company. Please click on the link below to Natural Resources Defense Council to take action so that we are not ‘those people’ who damage the world by inaction:  NRDC.

Pace e bene,

Sister Diane

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