Campus community needs to start talking about fracking

If you passed through the campus center around lunchtime yesterday, you probably noticed some very animated puppets arguing about the pros and cons of fracking. It is my hope that they encouraged you to think about, consider and discuss the myriad complexities surrounding Allegheny’s decision to frack or not to frack in Allegheny’s Bousson Environmental Research reserve.

For those who don’t know, Bousson is a 283 acre forest owned by the College and used for a variety of research in the environmental science and biology fields. It has been left largely untouched for many years in order to study a forest under recovery, and the College was recently approached by seismic testing and natural gas companies to see if we would allow hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) on college property.

In short, hydraulic fracturing is when a mix of water and chemicals is injected at high pressure into shale deep underground to release natural gas in the form of methane. The gas is then used for heating purposes. Depending on who you believe, allowing hydraulic fracturing in Bousson could be an economic boon for Allegheny and the Meadville community, a disaster both environmentally and in terms of our college’s green reputation, or fall somewhere in the middle ground of what has become an increasingly polarizing issue.

The goal of the guerrilla puppet performance, put together by myself and a group of active students as part of my senior comp, was not to encourage one side or another. Rather, we want to draw attention to the fact that when individuals get too caught up in the forced binary of whether Allegheny should or should not go through with hydraulic fracturing, they forget to consider that the opposite side of the argument can also have valid things to say.

On that note, you are probably waiting for me to tell you what I think. Obviously, I do have an opinion on what our college should do about fracking. But I’m not going to use this space to tell you which way I lean. My opinion is that in order to make a truly informed decision on what will happen to Bousson over the coming years, we need to step up. We as individuals, critical thinkers, and members of the Allegheny community with an active stake in this issue need take it upon ourselves to do our own research and engage in conversation with others who think both similarly and differently than we do.

While the Bousson Advisory Group has good base info on its website and has done its best to hold information sessions, the fact is that their sessions are not a space for the healthy conversation and debate that needs to happen. Other than events held by Students for Environmental Action, we as a campus have largely stayed silent as to where we stand on the fracking that will affect our school for years to come.

So wake up, Allegheny. I’m talking to you. I’m talking to the students, professors, faculty, administration, housekeeping, maintenance, Parkhurst, everyone. Now is not the time to keep your opinions to yourself. Now is the time to engage each other. Challenge each other. Be confused. Change your mind. Ask questions. Get information. Because until the campus community starts having actual, thoughtful, people-to-people conversations about hydraulic fracturing and the effects it can have on our campus, we’re just letting others pull our strings.