Friday 27 January 2012

What the Frack?

President Obama's State of the Union address framed and endorsed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale deposits as a clean energy strategy (it also endorsed opening up "more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources"):

[...] Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right - eight years. Not only that - last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy- a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock - reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground. [...]

Obama's comment that "my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy" SOUNDS good, but every day articles emerge about the documented emissions produced by this technology, and the threats it poses to aquifers, communities, health, ecosystems. ProPublica has been doing an excellent series on the threats posed by fracking for some time.

The following of Obama's comments also SOUND good: "And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."  I'm pretty sure, however, that most if not all fracking for shale gas is currently done on privately owned land, and so these sentences may be a precursor to opening up public lands to such fracking.  And disclosure of chemicals isn't the same thing as protection from chemicals. It's also true that the effects of many of the chemicals have been very minimally studied, and some may be proprietary.

In addition to all the other threats to health, water, and ecosystems that fracking for shale gas poses, a recent report documents that fracking also allows large quantities of methane to escape into the atmosphere. Such "methane has 105 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20-year time frame, after which it rapidly loses its warming potential. If large amounts of methane are released through fracking - as seems likely with hundreds of thousands of new wells forecast in the next two decades - Howarth [Robert Howarth of Cornell University] says global temperatures could rocket upward from 0.8C currently to 1.8C in 15 to 35 years, running the risk of triggering a tipping point that could lead to catastrophic climate change."

(From an email sent by Joe Miller, instructor at St. Mary's in South Bend Indiana, and a member of the Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition)

Thursday 19 January 2012

We're on an Adventure! Figuring out "Plan D" by the 28th of January

This message is for our local Canberra network of friends in particular:  It's time for us to get creative in developing a solution to a particularly vexing and urgent need of ours. So here goes - exploring whether a bit of creative "social networking" will help us.  (I've posted the following on Facebook.) 
The couple for whom we had plans to house/pet sit all of February have informed us that one of them has discovered serious health problems, needs to wait for an MRI and possibly undergo surgery -  and therefore they are needing to cancel their whole trip!

We have no time to negotiate an alternative house-sitting assignment with anyone else as most everyone plans these things months ahead. We are otherwise booked through September already. We've also developed contingency Plans A, B and C (friends' granny flats) previously for such situations, but unbelievably all three are currently engaged - at least for February.

So, our current housing need begins Saturday 28 January - this coming weekend - and ends Easter Monday, 9th April. We have been actively looking for a situation where someone in Canberra is or will be away and planned to keep their home vacant but are willing to let us housesit or "rent" their home (or maybe their motor home?) for the months of February and/or March, or parts thereof. 

If you think of someone who represents "Plan D" for us, please give them the url to this page or at least our contact information below. I suppose we can always rent a motel/hotel room for a while, but that sure is the expensive way to go - and I've already loaned out our tent to a friend. (Ha!)

Carole Anne and Clair Hochstetler

Email:  -or-

Click here to see our personal house-sitting info site - with a lot more background on who we are, what we offer, and more specific contact details...

"I Shall Not Hate" - Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

Here is an interview at the Sydney (Australia) Writers' Festival in May 2011.  It features one of the most extraordinary human stories you're likely to encounter. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian doctor and infertility expert who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He trained in Egypt, London, Israel, Italy, Belgium and the US, and spent most of his working life working in Israel. His three daughters were killed in January 2009 during the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Dr Abuelaish continues to preach a message of peace and understanding. ‘I Shall Not Hate’ is his first book. 

So, if you don't have the hour right now to listen and reflect on this powerful story, bookmark this and come back.  It will be one of the best-spent hours of your life, guaranteed!


Friday 13 January 2012

Iran has NOT even attempted to build a nuclear weapon -- but does the average person know that based on current news headlines ?!

Today I sent the following as a letter to the editor of the main newspaper here in Canberra, asking that if they choose not to print it (due to it's length) that they seriously consider writing their own editorial to help bring the public's attention around on this issue.   I hope my friends who share these convictions will follow suit in their own contexts, as I fear that we have entered very dangerous territory.  May cool heads prevail!   
Cheers, -Clair

Letter to the Editor - The Canberra Times - 13 January 2012

The top US military official seemed to confirm in a New York Times article Monday that war plans against Iran are indeed moving forward.   [1]   

“When asked on [CBS’s] Face the Nation about the how difficult it would be to take out Iran’s nuclear ability in a military strike, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: ‘Well, I would rather not discuss the degree of difficulty...  But I will say that my responsibility is to encourage the right degree of planning, to understand the risks associated with any kind of military option, in some cases to position assets, to provide those options in a timely fashion. And all those activities are going on.’”

Have the editors at the NYT become so inured to such an admission they don’t think it worth any higher prominence than to be buried in a final paragraph?!

However, near the end of the same story the NYT quotes US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who makes a striking admission which should be worth a headline: Iran does NOT have a nuclear weapon.  Panetta says: “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”

American intelligence agencies in at least two US National Intelligence Estimates in 2007 and 2010 – have determined that Iran has not even attempted to develop a nuclear weapon, yet look at the title given to that article within the NYT.  Sadly, the tone of much of our mainstream corporate-controlled media simply reflects the ongoing bellicose attitude of the US Administration in response to similar attitudes exhibited by Iranian leadership and has the general public believing otherwise.  Have we learned nothing from similar mistakes in the run-up to the Iraq War? (Major media organisations later admitted "we should have been more responsible!")

Facts are important: As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to develop nuclear capability for civilian purposes. This is what Iran has consistently said it is doing and what countless UN inspections of facilities over many years, including the new plant at Qom, have verified.  The enrichment of uranium constitutes “nuclear capability” and is an essential part of harnessing nuclear energy for civilian energy generation and for making medical isotopes.  That Iran has managed to achieve this in spite of years of sanctions imposed by the US its Western allies is remarkable. 

Instead, because of overarching geopolitical interests, the United States and its allies are portraying Iran’s legitimate nuclear capability as a diabolical threat.  Yes - Iran's leadership is difficult to deal with, but whatever happened to the art of strategic diplomacy to defuse conflicts?  Instead we now have escalating tensions, assassinations of scientists, and sabre-rattling standoffs in the Gulf of Hormuz.  I almost feel ashamed to say it, but the country which still claims me as a citizen is virtually confirming diplomatic and moral bankruptcy if it proceeds with these war plans, which could realistically push us all into a World War III scenario on the basis of a spurious claim that even its own top brass do not believe!  

Australians who see the truth for what it is - speak up now before the leaders of your great country allow it to get dragged once again into another needless and costly international conflict.  The minority voice of dissent is far more valued here at this point, so exercise it.  This is not about disturbing the peace -- it's about disturbing the war!

Clair Hochstetler,
Canberra, AUS