Having recently made legal claims to historical gas and mineral rights under vast tracts of British land, the Church of England has taken a position against those who oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the process of breaking up rock formations underground in order to extract natural gas.
A spokesman for the church says the issue is an economic one and compares opponents of the process to anti-vaccine activists, claiming that the poor “suffer most when resources are scarce.”
In contrast, Pope Francis, who chose the papal name of the patron saint of animals and the ecology, appeared in public after meeting with Argentine environmentalists and held up two T-shirts signifying opposition to the procedure, one of which linked fracking to the issue of water pollution and its effect on the poor.
Q: Is fracking an ecological concern connected to poverty? What position should churches take, if any, on environmental issues like fracking?
Psalm 24 opens with these words: “The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.” So yes, churches should be concerned about the environment, and especially in a situation such as this one. I believe fracking can be connected to poverty — maybe not in every single situation, but certainly here.
It seems to me that the Church of England is letting dollar signs (OK, pound signs!) cloud its vision of just what is at stake with fracking. The Church owns some property and maybe is forgetting that a church's first mission is to people, and after people, to the good care of God's green Earth.
As I understand fracking, it's a terrible process! Water is forced into the ground to break up rocks, and the water that's left is contaminated, never mind the sludge that the water produces. Would church officials like living next door to a refinery or a mine? No, because the smells would be awful and maybe even toxic. The same goes for living next to a fracking operation. In my opinion, the church should say to hell with the whole fracking situation!
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge
God created the Earth and all life on it. He gave mankind authority to rule over all as stewards (or caretakers) but not as absolute owners. God’s commission was “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.” (Genesis 1:28). Our mandate from God is to rule and use natural resources in a manner which multiplies mankind and establishes our long-term fruitfulness. I find two basic biblical principles that regulate our use of resources, both of which are applicable to the issue of fracking.
Caring for the environment and our natural resources is important. They belong to God. He lets us use them for our good. We must hand them down to future generations. To destroy the natural resources and processes upon which life depends is selfish, short-sighted and self-destructive.
Still, caring for people is more important than caring for the environment or natural resources. Given the choice of saving people or saving whales, we must always choose saving people. Only mankind is made in God’s image. God commanded the sacrifice of animals for man’s sake, not the other way around.
There are enough available resources to feed everybody on the Earth. The real problem is accessibility, those who have opening up to the needs of those who don’t. Ultimately the answer is compassion, not fracking.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Isaac Newton’s third law of motion argues that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. Newton theorized that even when we pressed the earth as we walked, the earth pressed back holding us up. We certainly know that as we lovingly tend the earth it yields its wonderful bounty of sustenance, flowers, food and even plants that complete what we need to breathe.
We know that the children of the earth, human and otherwise, when loved and treated with respect on this beloved planet, generally respond by becoming the best that they can be, loving and respectful themselves.
The Bible and other canonic texts report stories of flood, drought, earthquake and fire, as a result of human cruelty upon the Earth.
The Earth interacts intimately with all Earth’s creatures. How can any human reasonably think that systemic disregard of the Earths’ ecological balance will result in anything but disaster for the already struggling planet, as well as its inhabitants? The position that the church should take is that not only is fracking morally wrong, fracking is global suicide.
The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
Fracking is most certainly an ecological concern, and it is absolutely connected to poverty.
As I address this week's question, I am dismayed but not surprised to read of the latest report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the work of hundreds of scientists from around the world. “Worst Is To Come,” says one headline, unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control. The world's food and water supply is already being harmed and predictions are dire.
Though “greenhouse” may sound benign, these gases (mostly carbon dioxide) which are altering our climate are produced from burning fossil fuels such as petroleum. Blasting millions of gallons of sandy water into the depths of the Earth to harvest every last whiff of natural gas or drop of oil — fracking — is being done because it is more profitable than reducing our energy consumption or converting faster to green alternatives, in the short run anyway.
As for fracking's connection to poverty, here's another headline: “Poorest High on List of Victims” of climate change.
What the Church of England is asserting, that the poor will suffer if fracking is ended, is ridiculous. The poor don't own oil and gas fields, and they use a tiny proportion of the energy resources we consume. The poor already suffer disproportionately from fracking's waste of water and pollution of ground water, just as they will from the rising cost of food and drinking water as climate change proceeds.
I usually refrain from telling churches what to do but in this case I beg everyone who hasn't already to join in opposing anything that contributes to climate change, and that includes fracking.
Christians should stand for important causes that affect mankind. We’re all made in God’s image, and everyone requires certain necessities to ensure proper thriving. It’s odd that “fracking” has now become an acceptable substitute for the F-expletive, and people use it to mean something terribly nasty when in fact it’s not so much.
Fracking is a means of drilling, whereby holes are punctured below the water table into the shale strata, and liquid is forced into cracks to break the barriers between us and trapped energy. It’s an amazing advance, but of course, like any technological jump, there are problems to overcome, and those are primarily related to the “possible” aftermath drifting upward into groundwater. Everyone needs both power and water, not one or the other, so we simply must work out the bugs.
England is no third-world country, either, and it essentially invented water filtration to make it potable. As well, modern drillers construct underground barriers to prevent frack-fluids from polluting, so I believe the forward progress here trumps the risks, though all care must be maintained, along with research diligence to refine the technique and eliminate worries altogether.
The pope is a popular voice, but what he thinks hardly sways any of non-Catholic subscription simply because he opines or poses with T-shirts. Personally, I favor the Anglican Church’s position, because energy needs will only grow, and I am inclined to think that any water issues will be minor and localized. This may not be the case in countries where people still use a bucket rather than a faucet to get their drinking water. I understand that Argentina is such a place where a large minority has no connection to public water or sewage, which suggests that they have greater issues than fracking to worry about, and maybe they should solve those before launching any fracking of their own.
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church