Mercys Lead Catholic Anti-Fracking Effort at COP-21

December 15, 2015

As toxic waste expert Sandra Steingraber spoke at the site of the United Nations climate talks on the dangers of fracking, she noted that back home a group of protesters was getting arrested outside a fracked-gas storage facility near Seneca Lake in New York State. Hundreds of people, often reciting lines from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ , have committed civil disobedience over the past 14 months to block expansion of the facility in the heart of the state’s wine country.

Residents have already won one victory: a statewide ban on the practice of extracting natural gas.

That proves that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is possible, said Steingraber, who participated in a U.N. side event about the international movement to ban fracking co-sponsored by Mercy International Association, the Medical Missionary Sisters at the United Nations, Food and Water Watch and 350.org.

Both Steingraber and Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter stressed that fracking is too dangerous to regulate. There’s no engineering fix, they said, to keep methane from leaking out of the fissures in shale rock created by the injection of high-pressure water mixed with chemicals to force out the natural gas, or in other cases, oil. And recent evidence points to methane over its entire life cycle being at least as much a potent greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

That’s why 1200 organizations around the world, including many congregations of women religious, signed onto a letter to world leaders urging them to issue an international ban on fracking. And why religious women joined the anti-fracking effort in New York and are speaking out for bans from Pennsylvania to Argentina.

For women religious who participate in the Mining Working Group at the United Nations, fracking is as much a human rights issue as an environmental issue. Communities lose the fundamental right to water when their drinking supplies are contaminated from chemicals in the fracking process. And indigenous people are losing their right to have a say over the use of their land.

You may read more here about the side events on fracking at the site of the UN climate talks.

World mining