I took a walk last week with the Moratoire d'une génération. These dedicated folks are walking over 600 kilometers from Rimouski to Montréal to raise public awareness and call for a moratorium for shale gas exploration in the province of Québec.
Shale gas exploration involves hydraulic fracturing, or fracking: drilling a hole in the ground up to 3,000m deep, creating mini-seisms in the rock bed, and pumping down millions of gallons of water that is mixed with several tons of assorted chemicals. The millions of gallons of water are then contaminated by the chemicals, and, if you're unlucky, your drinking water supply may also become contaminated. All to produce natural gas to continue fueling our unsustainable lifestyles. Want to know more? Check out the movie Gasland. Or if you only have two minutes to spare, check out the trailer.
Non means no!
Unfortunately, shale gas exploration may become the next big thing in Quebec. In Canada, you can buy land, but you don't really own the land under your land. Which means that the government can sell off the exploration rights to private companies because of grossly outdated mining laws that favour exploration. Rather than encouraging people to practice healthy land stewardship, we're disempowering people of the simple decision about whether they'd like 596 chemicals pumped under their houses or farms. If the government has no business in our bedrooms, surely they should have no business in our bedrock either, unless it's to stop environmentally-problematic exploration.
And so, a group of committed volunteers are walking from Rimouski to Montreal, an immense area slated for shale gas exploration. They are calling for a moratorium for a generation. The shale gas has been in the ground for about 200 million years, and it's not going anywhere: why not put exploration on hold for 20 years to wait for appropriate scientific reports, health and environmental assessments and public debate? A recent 2011 study from Cornell University shows that shale gas has a worse environmental footprint than coal when viewed over a 20 year period. I can't imagine how we'll feel in 2031 if we're drinking tainted water and realizing that the government's premature and unbacked choices were worse than burning coal. Better to reach 2031 after a 20 year moratorium, and perhaps during those 20 years we can look for more appropriate solutions and embrace much needed energy-use changes by individuals and industries. People say that shale gas will bring jobs and energy, though this ignores the greenhouse gas emissions, contaminated water and potential health implications. Planting massive numbers of edible perennials like fruit trees and blueberry bushes would also bring jobs, along with benefits of long-term food security, sequestering carbon, cleaning the air and water, and providing habitat for wildlife. I know which one I'm voting for.
Luckily the government enacted a temporary moratorium earlier this spring... a good start... let's keep encouraging them to commit to a long-term halt...
Jumping for a moratorium: listen up, government!I walked with the Moratoire d'une Génération for two days, a wonderful 58 kilometer stroll on the first hot days of the year. I brought along my bicycle, which blister-footed walkers happily accosted during the two days I was with them. And I was able to get back to Québec City using pedal-power on the morning of the third day. The moratoire has now walked past Trois-Rivières, and will be in Montréal on Saturday June 18th to make some noise and raise public awareness. Come and join us if you can make it: