It's been a few nights since Nova Scotia's independent fracking review passed through Halifax, addressing a frustrated and distrusting crowd of concerned citizens. These brave PhDs stood before hundreds of people and presented some unpopular conclusions...on an even less popular topic.
Fracking - the controversial process of fracturing shale rock deep underground using a toxic mixture of chemicals in order to retrieve bubbles of natural gas. We've become a profoundly desperate people, haven't we?
The public meeting was held in a lecture hall at King's College. Some people from the audience spoke out of turn, while others simply shouted over the panelists trying to deliver their findings. I was caught between sympathy for the panelists and stark agreeance with the hecklers.
One guy barked about corporations controlling the review process, for which I was annoyed. Another gentleman demanded solar energy instead of fracking...and I had to restrain myself from cheering.
The Q&A session began early, which was suiting because it continued well after the meeting was supposed to end. Those who stepped up to the microphone were extraordinary in their criticisms of the fracking panel. For the most part, these people were knowledgeable, polite and articulate. I applauded more than a few times, even though I was trying to take notes while directing a video camera.
As often happens when I have an opinion, I too wanted to step forward and speak, but my duty to record the meeting took precedent. However, as the panelists were quick to remind us, our opinions matter. So, here goes:
"Hello everyone...my name's Zack Metcalfe and I just moved to Nova Scotia from PEI...and I moved there from farmland Ontario. No matter where my life takes me I'm constantly bewildered by two things: the desire of citizens for a clean environment...and the need to stop nonsense like this.
"Panelists, thank you for speaking with us today. I've been a part of public consultations before, when the PEI provincial government closed a series of rural hospitals last year. They made their decisions before holding public meetings like this. Locals were allowed to vent their anger but their concerns didn't change anything. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen here.
"Some excellent points have been made tonight: The environmental and health monitoring you're suggesting hasn't been accomplished anywhere else in North America; learning the impacts of fracking after the fact does us little good; you've committed your review to the benefits of fracking without adequately acknowledging the consequences; you've ignored climate change entirely; etc.
"My fellow citizens have already voiced these concerns, some better than I could have, so I'll instead address a your earlier comments about approaching fracking with an open mind. Let's do that.
"Fracking could have enormous consequences for groundwater and thus every living thing that depends on it. Work by some of the people on your panel, who are sadly absent today, suggests fracking could be a greater contributor to climate change than coal. Any economic benefits would be short-lived and if New Brunswick is any indication, those benefits would come with violent arrests and immense cost.
"Regardless of what's been confirmed by study, or what hasn't been studied at all, there is something very wrong with this technology. I understand the dangers of reaching a conclusion without peer reviewed study, which is why I share your hesitation with documentaries like Gasland, but the conclusions of environmental safety reached by this panel are likewise unproven. That's why this audience is here today and that's why the fracking moratorium in this province must endure.
"Public money being invested into this review frightens me. We have renewable energy sources in this province which rival that of any other, be it wind, solar or tidal, yet these boundless resources have never been the subject of a review as large or as thorough as yours. The collective expertise of this panel should be discussing the potential of solar panels on every rooftop. Please take that comment seriously. That, I feel, would be a revolutionary way to spend our money and put our experts to work.
"To be blunt and with all due respect, I'm disappointed that your time and talents are being wasted on a technology we know, by example and common sense, has no business being in Nova Scotia.
"I would ask this panel to emphasize its ignorance of environmental and health impacts in its final report to government as evidence the moratorium should continue. I'd ask the economic benefits of fracking be put into context - they have not been measured against alternatives in any serious way. Finally I would ask the panel and our provincial government to acknowledge the opposition to fracking in this room and elsewhere in Nova Scotia. We, as a province, should know better than to invest in fossils. Thank you."