Fracking debates alienate

If you imagine the future, what does it look like? Is the future you see dependent on oil?

Dear Editor:

If you imagine the future, what does it look like? Is the future you see dependent on oil? Some say we’ve lived for millennia without it, surely we can live without again.

In learning about the peak oil crisis, I have heard many people ask, “Does it mean we all need to be farmers?” I don’t think so. Rather, I think it means that we begin taking back responsibility over our own lives and our own communities.

What are the things that we are “response-able” for? Are we responsible for the clothes we wear? The food we eat? How important is it to be responsible for these things?

Erich Fromm wrote of pre-Second World War German society as a people free from belonging to a social order. He believed it was because Germans were not accountable to each other that so many submitted to an authority. That next authority was the Nazi regime. Fromm’s observation warns us that if we are not responsible for the wellbeing of our neighbour, our “freedom” from belonging to each other will overwhelm us and we will submit to the next authority.

At what risk?

Do you live in a free-from-belonging society? What is the authority to which we now submit? What would your life look like if you took responsibility for your neighbour, perhaps a stranger? What if they did the same for you? Now, what does your future look like?

The topic of hydraulic fracturing is an increasingly controversial subject. Why? Perhaps because it is both a water and a livelihood issue. Many Albertans work in the oil and gas industry; it is how they support their families. So, arguments against the industry are personal because one’s livelihood — and the livelihood of one’s children — seem at stake. Yet, there are also many Albertans who have been dehumanized by this same industry. Their stories are chilling — of burned skin, methane water, sickly animals, sickly children. Naturally, these Albertans want to see a change, if not a moratorium, on the process of fracking. Others sit somewhere in the middle, uncertain between which side is “right”. Most haven’t even heard about the process. The fracking issue pits livelihood against livelihood. It is no surprise that these “sides” are so alienated from each other.

So where do we go from here? How do we speak to each other when one is so hurt and when another must risk “everything?”

We create a space where all sides simply share a meal and their stories. Even in this issue, in this province, the commonalities between our stories far outweigh the differences. When we listen to our neighbour’s story, we begin to be responsible for their wellbeing. And when do this, we begin to have the future for which we all hope.

On Nov. 2 and 3, the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta hosts this common space. Please join us and register at

“Will we get the future we plan for?” I don’t know, will you?

Carmelle J Mohr