24 February 2013

Before You Sink It, You Have to Drink It

George Kerr swimming in Burlington Bay, 1975
Today's post might seem a bit more convoluted than usual, but stick with me and let's see if I can make it make sense to you.

I've experienced several "convergences" lately: readings and meetings and thoughts and memories all intersecting, and I'm trying to focus in on that point of intersection ... is there a message waiting there for me?

First, I started reading Joseph Romm's Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga. It's a fascinating look at rhetoric, "the art of influencing both the hearts and the minds of listeners" and "the art of being pithy and profound." And besides being quite a readable book, it's also explaining the mysteries of American politics to me, a Canadian.

I've discovered that without knowing it, I often use rhetorical "figures of speech" in my writing. (Irony is one of them, and isn't it ironic that I use figures of speech in my writing?) 

But rhetoric, which was first honed by the ancient Greeks, and then studied intensively by the likes of Shakespeare and the King James translators of the Bible, was meant for listening audiences; widespread literacy is a fairly recent phenomenon. Indeed, there's this line on the title page of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible: "Appointed to be read in churches."

I sense that it's going to be rather fun and intriguing to use rhetoric more consciously and deliberately, and hence more effectively. (And that is another figure: foreshadowing.)

Second, we had a lovely visit with our youngest son yesterday. He's a thinker, that one! He reminded us that the only way enviros are going to win the day is to join in the economic fray. In other words, we haven't beat 'em, so we need to join 'em. 

Money makes the world go around, he reiterated. Young people with mortgages to pay and kids to feed will only pay attention if we can say, "Here's a secure job with good pay in the renewable energy field — and it happens to be much better for the environment." And older people whose investments are propping up the fossil fuel industries will only make the switch when we can say, "Here's a secure investment with good payback in the renewable energy field — and it happens to be much better for the environment." 

Yup, our son says, it's our job to make that transition to clean jobs and investments happen — and then to effectively communicate the opportunity.

Third, I've been horrified by the gigantuan (a mixture of gigantic and gargantuan ... doesn't get any bigger than that) backwards step we're taking with our move into fracking to satisfy our addiction to cheap energy. Punish them, Father, for they know what they do. 

I don't know who these people are (I guess I just don't hang out with frackers), though they're certainly being supported by governments at all levels who are salivatingly rubbing their hands together at the thought of LNG (liquefied natural gas) royalties bringing all sorts of wealth to their jurisdictions. ("Environmental assessment? We don't need no environmental assessment. Besides, didn't we lay those assessor guys off?") 

But I do know this: it is the height of stupidity, brainlessness (fossil fuel emissions are neurotoxins, after all) and immorality to allow fracking when we know its devastating consequences — to human and ecosystem health, to the climate, to the future. 

And finally, my horror at what fracking is doing to fresh water reserves* reminded me of something that happened in my hometown when I was growing up. We lived in Burlington, Ontario, next to the Pittsburgh of Canada: Hamilton, aka Steeltown. 

Burlington Bay was becoming terribly polluted and our provincial environment minister at the time, George Kerr, pledged in 1970 that the bay would be clean enough to swim in within five years. Well, Mr. Kerr took the plunge in 1975, bless him! He later admitted that the water wasn't clean enough to swim in, but he wanted to keep his promise (in a fishy sort of way). 

And so ... I've come up with a way to ensure that frackers don't get away with slow murder. If they want to make money from fracking, if they want to use the fresh water that belongs to all living things, and if they want to steal from the commons for their own profit, they should have to purify their fracking waste water — AND THEN DRINK IT

"Take a cup and drink it up" says an old nursery rhyme. Yup, if these folks want to put our health, our agricultural food security, and our future right to fresh water at risk, then they ought to take on some of the risk themselves. No? 

(One commenter on a blog post about the health risks of fracking goes one step further: "It would serve the fracking bastards right to have to live immersed in the crap they expect us to swallow while they reap the profits.")

So here's my dilemma. You've heard the Republican refrain Drill, Baby, Drill. How do we create a slogan just as short and pithy that will help the public "get" the dangers of fracking? I've been working on this for hours, and here's all I've come up with. 

Fracking water
What's that stink?
Fill your cup
And take a drink!

But it should be even shorter and pithier than that. 

Before you sink it,
You have to drink it.

No, that's not specific enough. Help!!! All you wordcrafters and rhetoricians, please sharpen your pencils and give me a hand. This ought to be one no-brainer fight we can win.

*from The Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch: "In the fracking process, millions of gallons of water, with some sand and a secret mix of chemicals mixed in, are blasted into shale formations deep underground to break up the rock and release the oil and gas trapped in it. About 15 to 25 percent of that tainted water comes back up. After oil and gas production begins, another liquid is produced. It is briny and often laced with metals, including radium, that occur naturally deep underground."

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?