Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gasland: America's Inconvient Natural Gas Truth

I know it's been almost a month since I last posted, but this topic is so important I let go of my petty little life problems and sat down to write about it.  If you are subscribed to HBO, record and watch Gasland.  If you're not, find a friend who is.  This is a story every American needs to know and, having learned the truth about another dirty little secret from the previous administration, everyone needs to work to stop the increase of natural gas production.

Like most, I believed the hype.  I saw T. Boone Pickens on TV advocating for natural gas as a way to bridge our country's transition to clean renewable energy.  I thought, "Maybe this man isn't as crazy as he sounds?"  Of course, then I learned how much money he was making from natural gas and I became suspicious.  Tonight, I watched the documentary Gasland on HBO.  My suspicions were confirmed still further, with horror and fear to top it all off.

I'm sure everyone has heard about people who can light their water on fire.  Personally, I thought it was an urban legend or just some dumb joke.  Instead it is a waking nightmare for thousands of people in the Midwest and Middle South, from New Mexico to Colorado, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, and yes Louisiana.  Contaminated drinking water, not fit for anything living to drink, pours into these people's homes through their faucets.  When you watch the documentary, you'll see many people light their water on fire.  And by many, I mean just about every person the director/writer interviews.

There are jars of murky water.  There are dead animals who drank the contaminated creek or river water.  There are chemical emissions hundreds of times above heath standards.  And there are companies (and yes Halliburton is one of them; they even have a loophole named after them) who are involved, but they constantly deny all of it: the problems faced by the victims, the toxic chemicals they refuse to disclose, the harm it is all causing.

Watching this movie was like watching An Inconvenient Truth, but going 100mph.  Neurological problems, cancer, loss of hair, deaths.  It's all happening right now.  And the public at large just doesn't know.

This is the type of movie that makes you want to scream, to hit someone or something, and then ride your bike to work.  If you watch this movie, you will not want to use any natural gas.  I say this as a person who is about to move into an apartment where my heat is created through natural gas (and yes, it gets very cold in the winter where I live).  I say this as a young America who wants her future children to have clean air and clean drinking water.  And I say this as a person who votes.

Watch this movie.  It is yet more you need to know and more you need to work towards fixing.

At the end of this movie, I remarked how I would love to see wind turbines on the sides of highways, out in the ocean in the horizon, in back yards, in fields, anywhere you could fit them.  The same holds true for solar panels.

I can't remember what I was watching, but a gentleman remarked you could almost create universal clean energy just by paying every household $7000 to put solar panels on their roof.  This also included apartment buildings and the like.  And he said how absurd this was because it cost too much to implement.  But what he didn't ponder is the cost we are already paying because we have not converted to a clean energy society.

If anything, I believe everyone in the Gulf region would argue for a better way to find energy than what we are doing now.

I suppose this is all to say: I'm willing to pay to have clean air and clean water for myself and my future family.  And I believe others are willing to, as well.  Because I don't want to pay for my lifestyle the way our country currently is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In Memoriam

In the suburbs outside where I grew up, there is cemetery that acts as the final resting place for the black middle and upper class.  Surrounded by expensive homes and a few acres of corn, it is an odd sight to come upon. 

Every Memorial Day, this home for the dead has a homecoming of sorts.  Hundreds of people come to place flowers at the sight of their loved ones.  This year, I also took part in this ritual.

Driving to the cemetery, you would hardly know a city was close behind you.  Take a turn, pass a few apartment buildings, and drive for ten minutes.  Gradually, houses get bigger.  The land surrounding each expands.  One car garages become two.  Carports become driveways become private roads.  Pools sink into the ground.  Tennis courts rise.  You know this is not where you were before.  Foliage covers the road, obscuring the brilliant sunlight that would otherwise pour through.  It feels as if you are privy to some secret hideaway, some better place to live.  How ironic that it takes death for these black folks to, "move on up."

Turning into the cemetery, you are immediately greeted by a volunteer in a yellow shirt.  You roll down your window and they ask, "Do you know where you are going?"  I knew.  I remembered the way: down the hill, past the large floral sign, around the curve with famous black folks graves marked in bronze & marble, up the hill with the mausoleum to the left, go about a quarter of the ways down the hill on the right.  I remembered the way we took, carrying Ella's body in tow.  I remembered the line of parked cars, the men in dress shirts who I'd never met before, walking across the grass, sitting in the folding chairs on the earth, never actually finding stillness. 

As I drove towards where she lay, the sheer enormity of people was daunting.  Cars lined the sides, down and up and down the hills.  I made my way, but was stopped not twenty feet from where I needed to park.  There was a jam.  Over a dozen cars, including mine, needed to back out.  I became frustrated, annoyed, and contemplating leaving.  I was already having a bad day (I'll talk about that in another post).  But I didn't leave, not yet.  I waited for a moment, watching the people walk by.  A woman carried a small child passed out on her arm.  Life & death are so preciously close.  A man walked on crutches, his right leg gone.  Death ever present; who knows when the end will come.

I turned around and parked my car down yet another hill.  I walked towards the plots.  I found my family.  Aunties & Uncles in the same grave; Ella just below them.  I brushed off their markers.  I didn't know what to say.  In situations like these, I always feel awkward.  Am I suppose to cry?  Am I suppose to say something?  What am I suppose to do?  I half expected an altercation to ensue; I had anticipated other family members being there.  But it was just me, alone, with the crowds of people seeing their loved ones.  I told Ella I missed her.  I saw the small damage done to Aunties & Uncles marker.  I went over to one of the volunteers.  He put in a work order for the fix, which apparently was common.  I left.

When I got back to my car, I pulled out the rose my ex gave me when Ella died.  I had carried it in my car since that day, two years ago.  I put it in some tall grass and took a picture for posterity (they only allow fresh flowers on the graves).  I was okay.

I don't know if I'll go back next year.  But I don't think it really matters if I do.  Family is in your heart, not in a hole in the ground.
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