Fracking: Our Experience Is Not An Abstraction

Reporting from amidst fields of fracking wells in Colorado, Trinity La Fay writes about the conscious experience of being in relationship to the place she lives, and the disconnect between people and land needed to maintain the destruction.


Experience Is Not An Abstraction

by Trinity La Fey

On the Colorado Rising website, the maps of oil and gas rigs light up the area just above where I live, past my friend’s house halfway up the state, all the way up and out along the plain in a great sweep.  Like some demented statistical X, the active wells appear in a sea of blue dots: the abandoned wells.  Combined, they swarm completely around the jagged Rocky Mountains, a rising, desperate sea of exploitation.

I remember when the word fracking was used as a supplemental television curse.  The way that they said it seemed perfect, as if they understood that it was a primary contributing source of the doom.  The story was about a people who, ejected from a poisonous Earth, had colonized in space only to be pursued repeatedly by a predatory cybernetic race. A race they had created. I think stories are important.  So does Joseph Campbell, but, as Mary Daly quotes him regarding child victims of sati (the Hindu practice of burning widows alive in the funeral pyres of their late husbands):

“In spite of these signs of suffering and even panic in the actual moment of the pain of suffocation, we should certainly not think the mental state and experience of these individuals after any model of our own more or less imaginable reactions to such a fate, for these sacrifices were not properly individuals at all.”

While I have visions of flickering relatives keening at the river’s edge, smell burning hair, feel the air being sucked from my lungs: he does not imagine their stories are relevant to his experiences.

So, harrumph.

Scrolling out on the Drilling Maps.com site, I see that we, at least, have the resistance of Mountain Range.

Texas; Oklahoma; Louisiana; Mississippi; Kansas; Michigan; the border between North Dakota and Montana. Just about every square inch from Cleveland, Ohio to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Charleston, West Virginia: like fire, the red dots blend.  The names of places are all but erased behind them.  I cannot see Arkansas written, but I know it is there.  From Pennsylvania’s border with New York; all the way down California; all the way up from the Gulf of Mexico to the ice of the Beaufort Sea.

From the Great Lakes down to the Rio Grande; like a ring of fire around the coast of South America, like accidents waiting to happen from the Gulf of Oman to the Barents Sea; like sinking islands from the Arabian Sea to the Yellow Sea to the Tasman Sea. From the North to the South Pacific: companies know no boundaries.

The beneficiaries of these companies, the responsible, I wonder if they learn these names.

I wonder if they are all unreachably psychopathic, or stupid, or if it matters.  The dead squirrel on the road; the stoodup friend; the barren landscape full of ghosts: to their experience, it does not matter if it was cruelty or carelessness.

Besides making it possible to set aflame the now undrinkable water that results from such enterprise, whose footage abounds online, Elementa, Science of the Anthropocene, hosts a special collection forum of “Oil and Natural Gas Development: Air Quality, Climate Science and Policy” wherein an article by Chelsea R Thompson, Jacques Hueber and Detlev Helmig, entitled Influence of oil and gas emissions on ambient atmospheric non-methane hydrocarbons in residential areas of Northeastern Colorado discusses ozone levels and calls it abstract.

Like Paul R. EhrlichPaul R. Ehrlich and Carl Sagan in The Cold and The Dark: The World After Nuclear War, everyone agrees that this is not working.  Unlike that pivotal conference, however, modern realizations are lost in a desperate sea of distractions.  Here is what The Cold and The Dark said abstractly:

“- survivors would face starvation [as] global disruption of the biosphere could ensue. In any event, there would be severe consequences, even in the areas not affected directly, because of the interdependence of the world economy. In either case the extinction of a large fraction of the Earth’s animals, plants, and microorganisms seems possible. The population size of Homo sapiens conceivably could be reduced to prehistoric levels or below, and extinction of the human species itself cannot be excluded.”

Boundaries are underrated.

According to me. Lots of people like to travel; I’m not into it.  I have fallen in love with every landscape I’ve seen, but then, I didn’t get to know them.  I live in a hard place that I know very well.  Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson have a wonderful conversation during which they speak about the necessity of listening to the Others that are places to care for and live with them, and also the joy of being of a place: the intimacy that comes from noticing what cannot be observed in passing.  It can be argued that Amber is ancient light that has been stored and that Jet is ancient darkness.  Like Saga, they keep our stories.  Shale; Oil; Gas; Tar: these exhumed ancestors seem to bellow as they burn that we wake sleeping titans at our peril.  Or, as the article put it:

“The findings presented here suggest that oil and gas emissions have a large-scale regional impact on ambient [non methane hydrocarbons] levels, thereby impacting a large population of [-] residents, and representing a large area source of ozone precursors. The short-chain alkanes exhibit strong correlations with propane in Erie/Longmont, Platteville, and within Denver, supporting the conclusion of widespread impact of [oil and natural gas] emissions.”

They recommend further monitoring.


Trinity La Fey is a smith of many crafts, has been a small business creatrix since 2020; published author; appeared in protests since 2003, poetry performances since 2001; officiated public ceremony since 1999; and participated in theatrical performances since she could get people to sit still in front of her.

References and/or Suggested Reading:

Featured image: fracking in progress by Joshua Doubek, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

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