Fracking: Why the Council of Canadians’ new “Fracktivist’s Toolkit” matters

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Feb 19, 2014

In this age of the Harper Conservatives and a rampaging fossil fuel industry, Canadian anti-fracking activism requires more than a sense of environmental and social justice. It requires a toolkit of knowledge about what’s happening and how to effectively respond at the local, national and global level.

The Council of Canadians’ new “Fracktivist’s Toolkit” is one such toolkit.

The toolkit empowers Canadians to push back against fracking, protect Canada’s water sources, combat climate change, and partner with First Nations in their ongoing struggle to protect their besieged rights. It was inspired by the Council of Canadians’ work with grassroots activists working to combat fracking across Canada.

“It was inspired in response to the inquiries the Council of Canadians receives from people who have just heard that fracking is happening in their community and don’t know what to do about it,” the Council of Canadians explains. “Our supporters and chapter activists work to promote clean water protection, renewable energy sources, democracy and community health at the grassroots level. We work with communities and local groups to stop fracking projects and protect our air and water commons.”

The Council of Canadians defines fracking or hydraulic fracturing as “a technique that involves the injection of millions of litres of water and thousands of litres of unidentified chemicals underground at very high pressure in order to create fractures in the underlying shale rock formations and extract the natural gas below the surface.”

The “Fracktivist Toolkit” is divided into two sections.

The first section summarizes the “current state of fracking” in Canada. It shows that fracking is spreading “at an alarming rate.”

British Columbia has the dubious honor of hosting the world’s largest frack. According to media reports, 7,300 wells have been fractured in the province since 2005. B.C. now permits between 500 and a 1,000 new ones each year.

Fracking operations are also taking root in Alberta, the epicenter of Canada’s destructive tar sands operations.

Fracking has disastrous consequences on the climate, water sources, human health and indigenous rights.

According to the Council of Canadians, “fracked natural gas can produce as much greenhouse gas emissions as coal.” The gasses fracking releases directly into the atmosphere include methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that “can trap 20 to 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.”

The UN now recognizes access to clean water as a human right. Fracking poisons and depletes water sources.

“Fracking uses millions of litres of water, thousands of litres of chemicals, and thousands of kilograms of sand to blast apart rock formations in order to capture natural gas or oil trapped in shale formations or coal beds,” the Council of Canadians explains. “There is no method to safely dispose of fracking wastewater. Municipal wastewater plants are not equipped to treat fracking wastewater.”

“Banning future fracking would be an important step forward by the Canadian government in meeting its obligation to implement the human right to water in Canada,” says the Council of Canadians.

Related: Fracking Well Blowout Causes Oil and Chemical Wastewater Spill In North Dakota

Study after study has shown that some chemicals used in the fracking process cause a variety of human health problems, including cancer.

According to the Council of Canadians, “U.S. residents that live close to or downwind from “fracked” wells have reported a number of health problems including eye, throat and nasal irritation, frequent nosebleeds, extreme hair loss, unexplained rashes, chronic coughs and lung congestion and extreme fatigue,” the Council of Canadians. Children have developed asthma and even tumors, and are particularly susceptible to environmental hazards.”

Then there’s the unrelenting assault on indigenous rights. A significant number of fracking operations in Canada are situated on Indigenous lands. They were developed without respect for First Nations Treaty Rights. And some are taking place in in or near communities “already struggling to have access to clean and safe drinking water.”

The first section of the “Fracktivist’s Toolkit” also highlights current laws relating to fracking. Unfortunately, energy companies are currently not obliged to disclose the nature and quantity of harmful chemicals used in the fracking process. Instead, Canadian governments seem as determined as the energy industry to sell fracking as a solution to our energy, employment and security needs.

“The false promises of new jobs, low natural gas prices, energy security and energy self-sustainability are all part of the industry spin being put forward to push fracking projects,” the Council of Canadians notes in a publication titled “What is fracking?”

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently implemented a series of energy industry-friendly acts, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act (now the Navigation Protection Act). These changes have resulted in the fast-tracking of energy projects, limitation of stakeholder participation, and removal of “protections from 99 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada.”

The Council of Canadians argues that, by blindly promoting fracking and the fossil-fuel industry, the Canadian government is “failing in its duty to protect water sources and the public from harmful projects”. Canada is neglecting its responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight the global climate crisis.

“Canada cannot take meaningful action on climate change while expanding the fossil fuel industry,” the Council of Canadians says. “It is up to communities and individuals to urge governments to protect public health and drinking water from fracking.”

The “Fracktivist’s Toolkit” has examples of inspiring community actions already underway.

The second section of the toolkit contains ideas and suggestions for anti-fracking action, case studies, social media tips and sample letters to the editor.

The Council of Canadians, its chapters and communities pushing back against fracking are part of a growing global movement dedicated to protecting democracy, rights, water, ecosystems and public health. More than 30 countries participated in the second Global Frackdown, which took place last October.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.