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When in a hole

When in a hole, don’t dig, goes the aphorism. It came to mind when I was reading George Monbiot’s latest column, “No fracking, drilling or digging: it’s the only way to save life on earth” (The Guardian, 27 September 2016). He is guilty of overstating the case in his headline as life on earth could happily survive a 20°C rise in global temperatures let alone the 2°C threshold he is writing around. It wouldn’t be human life, though, or certainly not without killing billions and leaving our vaunted civilisations in tatters so I am willing to concede that he is rhetorically correct.

The problem is that fracking is an effective way to allow us to exploit massive untapped reservoirs of hydrocarbons. I don’t think many people are claiming that it doesn’t produce stuff we can burn to produce energy. The problems are the disruption to local communities (human and animal) while the work is going on, the untested question of the long-term geological stability of creating new underground voids and – the point of Monbiot’s article – the fact that feeding our hydrocarbon addiction calamitously contributes to global warming.

As the human race, what we need is not another supply of candy but to start eating a healthier diet. Each time we extract more fuel from under the ground, especially when creating new enterprises to do that, we bring ourselves further into the zone of future adverse consequences.

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