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Costs of Growth Coming to Your Neighborhood

FrackBusters Banner I’ve been missing-in-action lately from the global GrowthBusting scene. Duty called for growthbusting of an unusual variety in my own community. I believe the best citizens think globally and act locally, so I had to step up and offer my help when my hometown of Colorado Springs came under frack attack.

Yes, I’ve been frackbusting lately, and that’s a little out of character for me, because I usually focus my energy on the root cause of threats like hydraulic fracturing – growth addiction. There are plenty of people working hard on the symptoms (fracking, drilling in the Arctic, climate change, habitat destruction, species extinction, fisheries decline, plastic oceanic garbage patch, hunger, poverty, etc.), and too few addressing the growth obsession and mythology driving us to create all these problems.

I took a break from growthbusting, however, because I do think citizens have a responsibility to be accountable for the behavior and footprint of their community. A little research convinced me hydraulic fracturing is a very irresponsible (risky, hazardous, toxic) way for us to get energy. Here’s a video I created to help balance the preponderence of industry spin on the merits of fracking.

It’s bad enough the greenhouse effect of natural gas exploration and production is infinitely worse than energy from hardly clean coal. Add to that the sheer lunacy of adding carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors to water and injecting it underground where it almost certainly will contaminate groundwater (just a matter of time), and it adds up to a cost of growth we simply should not pay. There are many more reasons this is an absurd energy strategy.

Active wells in Frederick, CO What really intrigues me about this issue, however, is something few fracking opponents have considered. In the past few years oil and gas companies have moved from drilling in rural areas to wanting to drill in urban environments. Colorado’s Front Range – the population center of my own state – has come under intense pressure recently, as the drilling has moved farther and farther south in the Niobrara formation.

Worldwide we’ve drilled the sparsely inhabited and easy places to extract oil and gas. Now we are forced to explore the deep oceans, the inhospitable Arctic, pristine wilderness, and even our own cities. So desperate are we to keep the party going, we’re tempted to risk polluting the air and water in our communities, and almost certainly poison our children, in order to keep the cheap gas flowing. On top of that, we’re tempted to permanently toxify and remove precious water from the hydrologic cycle. And these costs are drowned out by the chant that this will create jobs and give us energy independence!

Gardner at anti-fracking rally But a growing number of citizens are rising up and shouting, “not here!”This is noteworthy, in my view, because for the past 50 years we’ve managed to keep so many of the costs of growth out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Now the costs of growth are coming home to roost. It’s as if all the landfills were full and we had to start dumping our garbage in our front yards. Today, if you insist on continued economic growth, if you insist on continuing to ignore the perils of population growth, then you must be prepared to have a drilling rig set up in your front yard.

Will this finally change our behavior? Will this awaken us to the increasing costs of our quest for eternal growth, now that we can’t hide them half a world away? Stay tuned. At present I’m not sure the residents of Colorado who are rising up against drilling and fracking in our cities have figured out you can’t oppose drilling for oil and gas on your cul de sac while insisting on 3% annual GDP growth and remaining silent as cities and nations pursue population growth.

Dave Gardner
Filmmaker & GrowthBuster

Thanks to for the aerial photo showing active wells in a Frederick, CO neighborhood.

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