Children Are Learning About the Benefits and Destruction of Drilling
The environmental concerns of many in Colorado have begun to spread awareness to other neighboring communities. Northern Utah charter schools are also beginning to learn about both the process of fracking, and also the effects it has on the environment. Utah instructors at this charter school in Logan, Utah are now bringing the boom to the class, presenting students to the science of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and also to the impacts of fracking as well as various other innovations used to extract oil and also gas.
Fracking is the process of blowing up and injecting a high-pressure blend of water, sand, and chemicals right into wells that are drilled deep into the ground. The cracks become pathways for oil and gas to come up from lower layers of rock in the Earth’s outer crust for collection at the surface. Fracking is not a new technology; it’s been done for years. Initially, was only used in vertical wells. But now, a new drilling process lets drill bit turn horizontal once it reaches the layers of shale rock that hold the oil and gas to extract as much of it as possible. Now they can extract as much as 100 times the oil and gas that they use to.
Because of the large outcry by many members of the affected communities to keep fracking out of populated areas, many Oil & Gas companies have begun PR campaigns with students to teach them about fracking and try to develop community relations regarding the subject. What many students are finding however, is that the fracking operations are indeed affecting not only the air quality, but also water contamination as well. The environmental impacts have spurred other alternative education schools to introduce the affects of fracking on the environment to their students as well, even those that aren’t directly affected because of the potential ramifications our actions may have on their generation.
What we’re seeing is the drastic change in what were once peaceful, rural regions of farms, ranches, and open fields to industrial towns of traveling workers who operate with the hum of oil and gas rigs drilling day and night while semi trucks flood the region, hauling crude oil and water. Infesting not only the open prairies but the towns and communities, sometimes installing oil rigs within several hundred feet of schools full of young children.
Ask any kind of group of Coloradoans just what they think of oil and also gas drilling and fracking and you’re bound to get a wide range of responses depending on their involvement with the industry and how they’ve been affected by the practice. Some Coloradoans welcome it for the jobs and added revenue to the area. Others see the what it’s doing to the environment and are strongly opposed to it. What’s even worse are the concerns often voiced here on Erie Rising, that the health impacts on our communities, especially our children are too great a cost no matter what economic revenues come from it.
What’s encouraging is that the topic is under discussion and students are taking unique approaches to the real-life situation that’s going on in Colorado. Students played a game where a Monopoly-like board is used and students must work together to run their town while incorporating all of the factors that affect their town. From the science and engineering of drilling and fracking, the business economics and politics of funding underground exploration, the environmental impact, and the health impact on its residents. In the game, students create their very own town, must work as a community to run the town, and also determine how the town can grow, be financially stable, support a safe environment, and how oil and gas companies will grow in the area.
Students have to use their critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical abilities to be successful. And it gives them the opportunity to see the kinds of decisions adults make and how they use these same skills to make very important and impactful decisions for many different reasons.
Other teachers focus on the farming communities and the effect of a deteriorating air quality and water quality on the agriculture community. Students grow plants that represent bellwethers for ozone pollution. (Their leaves deteriorate with high ozone contamination levels.) Air pollution that is having a negative impact on the crops throughout these affected agriculture areas are particular concerning, as many of the students in Logan have close ties to farming in their community too. The lesson also shows the students a side of social science, having to go out into their community to learn what people consider valuable about their town and how they would view the economic benefits of oil and gas in relation to the environmental and health concerns.
While the oil and gas boom doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon as money continues to pour in and fuel the destruction for the sake of profits, we’re encouraged by the awareness and education that’s being taught on the subject so students are learning about everything from the environmental impact to people whose health has been affected, to the business side of difficult decisions and how they’re handled by people in positions of power. We can only hope that the students see and understand that communities should be held sacred and our caring for our neighbors must come before the wealth of others who care nothing about the towns in which they destroy.