By Alexis Baden-Mayer
[Author’s note: On Sunday, Feb. 17, I marched with the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) at the Forward on Climate rally in Washington, DC. At one point, our banner, “Cook Organic Not the Planet,” caught the eye of a dairy farmer. He approached. I handed him a flyer and launched into my pitch about how organic agriculture has the power to bring dangerous carbon dioxide levels back down to the safe level of 350 parts-per-million. He nodded politely, then stopped me short with this “If they frack all the farms, there isn’t going to be any organic.” Back home, I sat down at my computer to research farms and fracking. I learned that there’s a growing movement of farmers around the country who are fighting fracking. And I found some stories that should give all of us pause.]
Their names are Carol, Steve and Jackie, Susan, Marilyn and 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 across 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.
But 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.
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 arsenic, benzene, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), formaldehyde, lead, toluene, Uranium-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 co-founder 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 ShaleReporter.com, “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. Watch Christine describe how fracking destroyed her horse farm.
Stop the Frack Attack!
Want to join with farmers fighting fracking? Join the OCA on March 2 - 4 in Dallas, Texas, for the national summit to Stop the Frack Attack!
The summit is expected to draw hundreds of people who will share stories and learn how to become better spokespeople, learn about clean energy alternatives, celebrate fracking victories and strengthen this national movement. There will also be a rally in Austin on March 4 to welcome the Texas state government back to work, and to remind them they work for the people, not the oil and gas industry.
If you can’t make it to the summit or rally, please consider donating to a scholarship fund so others can attend.
Check out this great music video by Dr. Susan Rubin from the Forward on Climate rally in Washington, DC on Feb. 17:
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director of the Organic Consumers Association.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.