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What impact will the controversial practice of “fracking” have on U.S. communities?

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a means of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand, and proprietary chemicals are injected under high pressure into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. Some bloggers have suggested that fracking may be related to unusual seismic activity around drilling sites in shale beds in Arkansas.


With every spin of Planet Earth comes change. That change includes how, where, and “in what” people live. But what if we’ve got it all wrong, and we’re trying to control every aspect of our indoor environment, when instead we should focus on the variables that are most problematic?

“The use of energy is one variable we can and must control,” says architect Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, a research organization committed to solving climate, energy, and economic issues through the far reaching impact of our built environment.

Mazria developed and issued the 2030 Challenge: “an achievable strategy to dramatically reduce global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030.”

Inspired by architect Louis Kahn, Mazria believes that humans are polluting the silence in the natural environment by eliminating both time and nature from design. “By sealing out the environment and using fossil fuels to make buildings comfortable,” he says, “we are left with only form and space.”

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow of the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), Santa Rosa, Calif., agrees that the design of our homes and work places has gone astray.

“We have to make peace with wind, rain, weeds, and bugs in our buildings as much as in our food and energy systems if we expect to be successful,” Heinberg says. “That doesn’t mean we have to live naked in the forest, but it does mean we have to take account of limits, and work with nature rather than against it. We do that first in attitude and intent. These then influence things like building orientation, choice of materials, air flow, choice of energy source, what happens with waste water, and so on. If a building helps us be more aware of our relationship with our environment, then it’s performing a much greater service than just keeping us warm and dry.”

He argues that, by becoming more psychologically distanced from nature—the effect that most buildings have on us—we are undermining our own survival prospects, because adaptation is a better long-term survival strategy than dominance.

“It’s understandable that our goal in the design of buildings is to increase the amount of control we have over our immediate environment,” Heinberg says. “That’s why we have buildings in the first place. But we can’t really control nature in the long run. We can wall out wind and rain and weeds and bugs temporarily; however, in the end, our buildings will revert to dust–as will we.”

Buildings: Guilt by Association?
Since the 1950s, Mazria says, we’ve accelerated our use of imported energy and fossil fuels in buildings. “Today, the same building design can be placed anywhere in the world, irrespective of its environs, and operated and conditioned with energy produced by burning these fuels. It doesn’t make any sense.”

This connection between fossil fuels, uranium, and the built environment means that our planning and design decisions influence major world events, Mazria points out—including BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, two wars in Iraq, the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, and the armed intervention in Libya.

“By consuming massive amounts of energy and fossil fuels, the building sector is directly connected to these problematic world events,” Mazria says.

Futurist and author Jerry Mander, distinguished fellow of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), says housing is just one part of a bigger shift that’s needed. He says that all of our current lifestyle choices are in play. “Since we are running out of oil and it’s getting more expensive to recover fossil fuels, we need to decrease our use of these things,” Mander says. “We need to change, but, new energy systems don’t have the scale to match the efficiency of those powered by fossil fuel, and won’t be able to promote growth and financial self-sufficiency.”

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