Friday, February 22, 2013

Fracking our Farms

(Photo Credit: “American Gasland,” artwork by River Side (marcellusprotest/Flickr))

Working the land is a difficult living. Rising costs and the encroachment of suburbs has led many farmers to seek out non-traditional sources of income. Leasing land to gas companies for hydro-fracking has become a potential lifeline for some.
Farmers who are in favor of fracking are facing opposition from environmental groups and sometimes even neighboring farms that might want to see the practiced banned. Some organic farmers are concerned with potential contamination from fracking activities that could threaten their livelihood by tainting their land.  
as much as 60 percentof land in one New York country has already been leased out. The Marcellus and Utica shale formations that are located upstate are thought to hold vast reserves of natural gas, and natural gas development is expanding.

A few farmers have become millionaires in best-case scenarios; others signed up quickly and receive only a small share of the overall royalties. Cornell researchers did, however, note that many leases are being obtained on the cheap.

Cornell professor Robert Oswald's study compared sickened wildlife to 'canaries in a coal mine.' (image credit:

The effects on fracking includes, possible tainted water in Wyoming, Ohio fracking caused earthquakes and may have caused some in the U.K., Hydro-frackers told the EPA that they use diesel - (what?), we may have less gas than we think, hydrofracking sickening animals and people

Below Reposted: Organic Consumer Association

A Tale
of Five Farming Families

Their names are Carol, Steve & Jackie, Susan, Marilyn & Robert, and Christine. They share a bond. Two bonds, actually: They all own, or owned, farms. And those farms, along with their own health and the health of their farm animals, have all been ruined by fracking.
More than 600,000 fracking wells and waste injection sites have popped up all over the country, according to ProPublica. The oil and gas industry, along with federal regulators, would have you believe that injecting trillions of gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth is harmless. Tell that to Jacki Schilke of North Dakota, who lost two dogs, five cows, chickens – and her health – after 32 oil and gas wells sprouted up within three miles of her ranch. Or Christine Moore, a horse rescuer in Ohio who sold her farm after a well went up five miles from her farm, creating an oily film on her water and making her too sick to care for her horses.
You’ve heard it before. No farms, no food. As one farmer said, “If they frack all the farms, there isn’t going to be any organic.”

With hundreds of thousands of fracking wells and waste injection sites in the U.S., it’s likely that our food supply already contains water, plants and animals (meat) contaminated with fracking chemicals. While we hear a lot about drinking water contamination, including people’s water catching on fire straight out of the faucet, that shouldn’t be our only concern. Contaminated crops and farm animals raised for food are also possible avenues for exposing humans to fracking chemicals.  

Of course, not all farm animals are destined for the food chain. Those unfortunate enough to live near fracking wells can tell us a lot about the potential danger from fracking chemicals to our own health. Farm animals have the same susceptibility to disease that we have, but because they are exposed continually to air, soil and groundwater, and have more frequent reproductive cycles, they exhibit diseases more quickly, presaging human health problems. A study involving interviews with animal owners who live near gas drilling operations revealed frequent deaths. Animals that survived exhibited health problems including infertility, birth defects and worsening reproductive health in successive breeding seasons. Some animals developed unusual neurological conditions, anorexia, and liver or kidney disease.

What causes those health problems? Among the hundreds of toxic chemicals used in fracking are arsenicbenzene,ethylene glycol (antifreeze), formaldehydeleadtolueneUranium-238. and Radium-226. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ list of common health problems from exposure to fracking chemicals includes autism, asthma, cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, infertility, birth defects, allergies, endocrine diseases and immune system disorders. 

Farmers fighting back
Thankfully, many farmers are fighting back.  Here are the tales of five farmers on the front lines of the fracking fight who are heroically sharing their tragic stories with the world in an attempt to expose the lie that natural gas is “cleaner power.” 

Carol French, dairy farmer and cofounder of Pennsylvania Landowners Group for Awareness and Solutions (PLGAS). Carol’s Bradford County farm is surrounded by nine gas wells. Earlier this month, Carol posted to the Fracking Hell Facebook group that she had just lost three calves in nine days. “I have heard from other farmers with ‘changed’ water having similar problems,” she wrote. At the September 2012, Shale Gas Outrage protest in Philadelphia, Carol told the crowd how, two weeks after their water changed, her daughter developed a fever and diarrhea that turned to blood. She lost ten pounds in seven days. Watch Carol’s speech. 

Steve and Jacki Schilke North Dakota ranchers. There are 32 oil and gas wells within three miles of Steve and Jacki’s 160-acre ranch. Jacki blames the wells for the loss of two dogs, five cows and a number of chickens, as well as the decline of her own health. Her symptoms began a few days after the wells were fracked, when a burning feeling in her lungs sent her to the emergency room. After that, whenever she went outside she became lightheaded, dizzy and had trouble breathing. At times, the otherwise fit 53-year-old, can’t walk without a cane, drive or breathe easily. She warns landowners against making deals with frackers: “They're here to rape this land, make as much money as they can and get the hell out of here. They could give a crap less what they are doing here. They will come on your property look you straight in the eye and lie to you.” Watch Jacki talk about her experience. 

Susan Wallace-Babb, Colorado rancher. One day in 2005, Susan Wallace-Babb went out into a neighbor's field near her ranch in Western Colorado to close an irrigation ditch. She stepped out of her truck, took a deep breath and collapsed, unconscious. Later, after Susan came to and sought answers, a sheriff's deputy told her that a tank full of natural gas condensate less than a half mile away had overflowed into another tank. The fumes must have drifted toward the field where she was working, the deputy said. The next morning Susan was so sick she could barely move. She vomited uncontrollably and suffered explosive diarrhea. A searing pain shot up her thigh. Within days she developed burning rashes that covered her exposed skin, then lesions. Anytime she went outdoors her symptoms worsened. In 2006, she moved to Winnsboro, Texas, a small town two hours east of Dallas. In 2007, Susan testified in Congressional hearings on the health impacts of fracking. For three years her symptoms gradually improved, until she could work in her garden and go about her normal daily routine. Then, in early 2010, Exxon launched a project in an old oil field 14 miles away and began fracking wells to get them to produce more oil. Within months, Susan’s symptoms returned. Watch Susan’s testimony at the Congressional hearings.

Marilyn and Robert Hunt, West Virginia organic farmers. The Hunts own a 70-acre organic farm in Wetzel County, where they raise goats, chickens and cattle. When the landman from Chesapeake Energy approached the Hunts to lease their mineral rights, Marilyn did some research then turned down the offer. But that didn’t stop Chesapeake from, as she told, “stealing gas from both sides of our property.” In 2010, Chesapeake received a permit for land disposal near her property and dumped waste on her land. “The water got little white flecks in it, and we started to get sick,” Marilyn said.  “We lost a whole lot of baby goats that got gastrointestinal disorders from drinking the water.” Some of the baby chicks her daughter was raising died of nervous system failure, and the ones that survived were deformed. Interestingly, though, the cattle that drink from the spring water on the highest point of her property were spared any adverse impact, leading Marilyn to believe it was the water contaminated by the fracking waste that caused the illnesses.

Christine Moore, Ohio horse rescuer. Christine Moore and her family lived a dream life rescuing horses deep inside Ohio’s Amish country. When a well was fracked five miles from her house in January 2012, Christine went door to door, begging her neighbors not to lease their land for fracking. But most of the town, many Amish and Mennonite, didn’t listen. Two months after the well near her home was fracked, the water went bad. An oily film formed across the surface of the water in her horses’ bowls. The water inside her home, pumped from her well and filtered through a softener, began giving her severe stomachaches. She sent her horses to a no-kill shelter in upstate Ohio and, in July, sold the property to her neighbor who, according to Tuscarawas County records, has oil and gas exploration leases on multiple properties. WatchChristine describe how fracking destroyed her horse farm. 

Related Article:
Questionable Economics of Shale and Gas

Palestinian Protesters Clash with Israelis in West Bank

Associated Press/Bernat Armangue - A masked Palestinian throws back a gas canister previously shoot by Israeli forces, not pictured, during a protest to support Palestinian prisoners, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers at a rally Tuesday in support of four imprisoned Palestinians on hunger strike, as hundreds of inmates said they were refusing food for the day in solidarity with the fasting inmates. One of the four hunger-striking Palestinians is 35-year-old Samer Issawi whose health has severely deteriorated after he has refused food, on-and-off, for more than 200 days. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

I posted this because of the previous post and my involvement with those living in the West Bank.

Palestinians have staged protests across the West Bank all week in solidarity with the 4,500 prisoners held by Israel. Four of the prisoners are staging a hunger strike and the worsening condition of one, Samer Issawi, sparked the latest round of unrest between the protesters and Israeli troops.


Remember:  I conduct photojournalism workshops in the West Bank, so gather your group and come and learn a ton in the real world!  Workshops

Monday, February 18, 2013

Palestinian Refugees Right to Return

Reposted from 

 Letter from prisoner Samer al-Issawi as it came from the Ministry of Prisoners:

 I turn with admiration to the masses of our heroic Palestinian people, to our Palestinian leadership, to all forces, parties and national institutions. I salute them for standing by our fight to defend our right to freedom and dignity. I draw my strength from my people, from all the free people in the world, from friends and the families of the prisoners who continue day and night chanting for freedom and an end to the occupation. My health has deteriorated dramatically and I'm hanging between life and death.

My weak body is collapsing but still able to be patient and continue the confrontation. My message is that I will continue until the end, until the last drop of water in my body, until martyrdom. Martyrdom is an honor for me in this battle. My martyrdom is my remaining bomb in the confrontation with the tyrants and the jailers, in the face of the racist policy of the occupation that humiliates our people and exercises against us all means of oppression and repression.

 I say to my people: I'm stronger than the occupation army and its racist laws. I, Samer al-Issawi, son of Jerusalem, send you my last will that, in case I fell as a martyr, you will carry my soul as a cry for all the prisoners, man and women, cry for freedom, emancipation and salvation from the nightmare of prisons and their harsh darkness. My battle is not only for individual freedom. The battle waged by me and by my heroic colleagues, Tariq, Ayman and Ja'affar, is everyone's battle, the battle of the Palestinian people against the occupation and its prisons.

Our goal is to be free and sovereign in our liberated state and in our blessed Jerusalem. The weak and strained beats of my heart derive their steadfastness from you, the great people. My eyes, which started to lose their sight, draws light from your solidarity and your support of me. My weak voice takes its strength from your voice that is louder than the warden's voice and higher than the walls. I'm one of your sons, among thousands of your sons who are prisoners, still languishing steadfastly in the prisons, waiting for an end to be brought to their plight, their pains and the suffering of their families. The doctors told me I became exposed to stroke because of the disorder of my heartbeats, the shortage of sugar and the drop in blood pressure.

My body is full of cold and I can't sleep because of the continued pain. But despite the extreme fatigue and chronic headaches, as I move on my chair, I'm trying to summon all my resources to continue on the road till its end.

There is no going back, only in my victory, because I'm the owner of Right and my detention is invalid and illegal. Do not be afraid for my heart if it will stop, don't be afraid for my hands if they will be paralyzed. I am still alive now and tomorrow and after death, because Jerusalem is moving in my blood, in my devotion and my faith.

 Palestine 16/02/2013 The above letter (in Arabic) was published on 16 February on Shirin Issawi's Page in Facebook.

Translated to English and Hebrew by Free Haifa Please share it and act everywhere to save Samer Issawi and for all the people that were imprisoned for their struggle for freedom.