What Does the Plight of Japanese Farmers Have to Do With Fracking?
After I wrote a blog last week about banned pesticides and nuclear fallout in tea—looking at how the Fukushima disaster and use of banned pesticides in the growing of tea might affect consumers—I immediately wanted to work on a blog showing the other side of the coin: how environmental disasters harm the very farmers that seek to bring us our food sustainably.
That’s why we work on energy issues like fracking. The oil and gas industry injects millions of gallons of a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to fracture rocks deep below ground and release oil or natural gas, posing a risk to not only surface waterways (from spills or inadequate treatment of waste) but also groundwater resources.
At the World Water Forum this past March, Food & Water Watch held a panel on fracking that included Bulgarian activist Borislav Sandov, who very eloquently pointed out that what we’re really talking about when we talk about fracking is water security and food sovereignty. When you turn farming communities into communities that produce oil and gas instead, you’re risking both a region’s food system and water resources (knowing that sustainable agriculture needs sufficient amounts of clean water, as well.) Activists in Bulgaria successfully resisted turning Bulgaria’s breadbasket into an ATM from which oil and gas giant Chevron could withdraw shale gas, with a ban implemented there in January. But communities there remain vigilant, because Chevron has friends in very high places lobbying Bulgaria to repeal the ban.
Meanwhile, Andrew Restuccia at TheHill.com alerted us to a Fortune magazine interview with Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who continued to assert fracking is safe, even as the EPA is conducting a study to detail how the practice impacts drinking water resources. He also lambasted fracking critics saying, “If you want to live by the precautionary principle, then crawl up in a ball and live in a cave.”
I wonder what Mr. Tillerson would say to Japan’s farmers dealing with fallout from the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima about the precautionary principle? (If you’re not familiar with the phrase, you can check out the definition here.) Take Tatsuko Ogawara, an organic farmer in Japan. “Not a single drop of pesticide or any chemical fertilizer has ever been used on my farmland, and now it has been contaminated by radioactive dust,” she says.
Filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski are documenting the heartbreaking struggle of Japanese farmers after the Fukushima disaster:
The organic farmers of Fukushima prefecture toiled for 40 years to grow safe, nutritious and delicious crops on their ancestral land while two nuclear power plants in the prefecture helped feed Tokyo’s increasingly voracious energy appetite. Since the March 2011 tsunami triggered the meltdown that spread radioactive contamination on much of the lush farmland of Fukushima and eastern Japan, the farmers have been caught between a government in constant denial of the risks of radiation, and outraged citizens who brand the farmers “child murderers” for continuing to cultivate irradiated land.
It’s no wonder that foodies here are worried. Check out Chefs of the Marcellus to see what the New York chefs and other food professionals are doing to stop fracking.
You can also do something today to help put an end to fracking. Sign our petition to ban fracking now.