Commentary

My Love,The Land

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A photo of me as a child. Yep, we raised pigs.

I grew up with the land.
With the earth.
With nature.

During the winter, we visited my grandparents in Harrison. My brother and I climbed towers of hay that were stacked to the rafters of the barn, while my grandfather would load the back of the pickup. We took his work gloves, oversized and stained with grease, to protect our hands from the prickly straw. We looked for cracks in the bales, and we would jump. Fearless then, armed with a flashlight and grandpa’s gloves, we took turns exploring those tunnels inside the hay, finding only the occasional spider or cobweb.

In the spring, the honeysuckles bloomed; and my brother, sister and I would drink our fill of nectar. It seemed then an endless supply, an entire wall of honeysuckle blossoms that we passed on our way to the woods.

I remember searching for stones at the bottom of a creek that ran off the Buffalo River. The water was clear and cold, so different from the muddy, murky water of the Arkansas River where I grew up.

There, in the Arkansas River delta, the soil was rich. After the rain, it looked almost black. In the summer days, the humidity and mosquitoes filled the air, but during the nights, the sky would flicker with fireflies, and we chased them and captured them with mason jars.
We always let them go.

We had respect for wild things.

Sometimes, when I was very young, I would sit and watch the ants and spiders and grasshoppers travel through the grass. It was a peaceful time in my life.

Last week, when I visited the Makedo farm in Hartford, I was reminded of my country girl roots. For many years, I have tried to shed the stigma of the South — my accent, my vocabulary, my education — all of the changes I’ve made in my life, have been made in hopes of one day “making it” in a city like New York or San Francisco.

But my roots are still here.

In this land.

In this earth.

Jack and Mary White did not simply lose their farm. It was taken from them.

Their situation has left me wondering if other people in the state feel the same way I do. I wonder if we still belong to The Natural State, where land means more than money.

Where the earth still gives us life.

And joy.

And promise.

Jack and Mary White could have been my grandparents, or your parents. They could have been you. Their land has recovered, and they are able to survive, but they have the right to do more than survive. They have a right to pursue happiness and prosperity. They have a right to do more than just “make do,” especially because they are ready and willing to work for it.

Hydraulic fracturing needs to be regulated in the state of Arkansas. The state environmental protection agencies need the resources to enforce such legislation. The goal is not to hamper industry, but to protect our most precious resources.

There will come a time when there is no natural gas left, when the oil and gas companies will move on. Will our land be in the same condition it is now? Will the Natural State still hold its intrinsic value? It is our job to ask these questions. It is our job to demand answers.
I understand very well that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. I also understand that you can’t get greedy and use all your eggs to make omelets. Eventually, you have to raise a couple of chicks. You have to replenish your resources. You have to tend to your flock.

The modern process of hydraulic fracturing is still new, which means there has been little time to standardize and regulate the methods for safety. As Joanna Pollock explained in her article “Fracking: What’s at Stake?” in last week’s issue — attempts to research and regulate hydraulic fracking have been compromised by industry influence.

Industry influence can be seen on a national level in 2005 reports that the original EPA study included staff of Halliburton, a company that manufactures fracking fluid. The EPA also received pressure from an energy task force, led by Halliburton’s CEO, who was, coincidentally, Vice President of the United States.

The result of Mr. Cheney’s task force?

Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Clean Water Act.

In response to this ruling, the natural gas industry exploded across the nation.

Two months ago, fracking received national attention when the EPA reported a connection between hydraulic fracturing and a contaminated aquifer in Wyoming. The findings could spark a national regulation, but not without controversy and not without a fight from the oil and gas industries.

With no federal regulation, the weight of protecting public interest falls on the state. It is the responsibility of Arkansas lawmakers to hold the industry accountable and to execute a long-term vision for the state’s economic and environmental welfare.

Last year, when proposing legislation that would help regulate the industry, lobbyists from the natural gas industry outnumbered concerned citizens. In addition to lobbyists, stands the Arkansas General Assembly Shale Caucus.

The caucus is comprised of 16 legislators whose goal is to “protect the economic well-being of the Fayetteville shale drilling from what they fear is potentially damaging legislation,” according to an article written on Arkansas Online.

You can visit them on Facebook, where you will find comments such as these:
“We appreciate the public input and comments, and we hope that some folks from the fracking industry will comment, too! We believe in keeping this discussion FAIR AND BALANCED! Lol” — May 31, 2011

Fair and balanced? I am not laughing at that concept, especially when BHP Billiton just leased over 400,000 acres of land and spent billions of dollars to begin fracking in Arkansas. BHP has a less than reputable environmental and human rights record in developing countries. Will they treat Arkansas like a third world country? More importantly, will our legislatures allow them to do so?

“Drill, baby, drill! That fracking sound you’re hearing is the sound of MONEY and JOBS!” — May 29, 2011

The roaring noise of mining wells has driven people from their homes. Yes, it may be the sound of money and jobs, but with Australian/British BHP on the scene, the major industry player isn’t an Arkansas company. It’s not even a domestic company. So how much money is actually going into the Arkansas economy?

I leave you with this final question, which you can answer for yourself on the Arkansas General Assembly Shale Caucus Facebook page: “Do you agree that the gas ‘fracking’ industry is too heavily regulated in Arkansas?”

No. Fracking is going to destroy water supplies and the environment.
Yes, the Tree Huggers are destroying America!

Visit http://www.facebook.com/shale.caucus to share your opinion with these legislators. Or write to bjackson@nwaonline.com to submit a letter to the editor.

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