Solution or Hazard Tuesday, Oct 8 2013 

The word “fracking” sounds like a bad word to me, and to some people, it is. There are those who sit adamantly on both sides of the fracking fence. And then there are the rest of us who don’t know anything about it.

I hadn’t heard the word until a parade this summer where anti-frackers marched and distributed flyers. Their passion was hard for spectators to ignore.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting fluids deep into the ground at high pressure in order to break up the shale and release natural gases. It seems harmless enough, but whenever we tamper with Mother Earth there’s typically a price to pay.

The oil and gas industry say fracking is safe. It is an avenue to energy independence and is cleaner than coal or oil. It also offers significant employment opportunities and tax revenues.

Opposing environmentalists, scientists, and politicians believe that the health and environmental concerns outweigh the benefits. Symptoms consistent to people across the country in proximity of fracking sights include nosebleeds, headaches, rashes, and neurological and breathing problems. There are concerns about ground water contamination, risks to air quality, and surface contamination from spills. Some believe that an increase in earthquakes in the Midwest is linked to fracking. At the very least, the necessary trucks, lights, and rigs are disruptive.

Fracking’s been used since the 1940s. According to Wikipedia, which is only as credible as the contributing writer, in 2010 it was estimated that 60% of all new oil and gas wells worldwide were being hydraulically fractured. Those numbers are increasing, including in the Midwest.

Interestingly, even if you are opposed to fracking on your property, it still may be done. In some areas another party may own the mineral, gas, or oil rights beneath your land. They then would be able to extract the product without your consent.

As you can see by this post, my knowledge on the topic is minimal. What I do know, however, is that fracking is an important topic to investigate further. There are numerous fracking blogs and sites to checkout, but as always when searching online, weigh your sources carefully and consider both sides.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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Bigger than a Bread Box Monday, Feb 25 2013 

Is it bigger than a breadbox?

This standard question was coined by Steve Allen on the old game show, What’s My Line?

Younger readers are now asking, “Who is Steve Allen”, “What is What’s my Line?” and, “What is a bread box?”

Before we had plastic bags to keep bread fresh, boxes rested on everyone’s kitchen counter to preserve a loaf of bread. Typically the boxes were made from wood or metal. The limited airflow in the box prevented mold yet protected the bread from mice and insects. Rarely do you see these boxes today, although they are available online.

It’s hard to remember a day before  the use of plastic bags to store bread and other items. But the sandwich bag wasn’t invented until 1957 and bread wasn’t sold in bags until 1969. Prior to that, homemakers stored loaves in the boxes, wrapped sandwiches in waxed paper or cloth, and covered leftovers with a plate over a bowl.

A famous line in the 1967 movie, The Graduate, was a piece of advice given to the young Benjamin Broddock (Dustin Hoffman) to invest in plastics, a cutting edge idea at that time. Now we are re-assessing the convenience of plastics, especially when used in bags. The sturdy product takes decades to break down.

Which leaves us with one more question:  “Is the impact of plastics on our landfills and oceans bigger than a bread box?

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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