In his second inaugural address, President Obama was right to urge us to get on "the path towards sustainable energy."

There should be no fracking along that path.

Fracking is the process of injecting water at high pressure into rock formations in the Earth to create cracks so as to get at the oil or gas beneath.

In the recently released movie "Promised Land," Matt Damon portrays a corporate representative who buys up property in a small Pennsylvania town to begin gas and oil drilling. It's 10 minutes into the movie before an elderly resident challenges Damon that what he really wants to do is called "fracking."

"Sir," Damon shoots back, "that's a scare word used by environmentalists." But fracking is a health and safety hazard -- scary indeed.

The story of a small township that must vote on a fracking ordinance, "Promised Land" is admirable for calling attention to an issue faced by poor and rural communities across America after drilling company representatives identify mineral-rich local land deposits.

Corporate representatives have huge monetary resources to influence state and local politicians, to pay enormous sums to property owners, and to make promises of increased tax revenues to enhance the blighted community's general prosperity.

But the pact is Faustian.

Fracking endangers local water supplies and ecosystems by propelling millions of gallons of water, containing many toxic chemicals, into the Earth. Fracking can lead to mercury, lead and methane pollution and increase the risks of cancer.

The pictures of dead farm animals featured in "Promised Land" are not exaggerations. Farmers have reported strange illnesses and deaths among domestic animals where fracking has occurred.

Fracking is poorly regulated, both at the federal and the state levels. And at the local level, it can be difficult to put fracking to a vote, despite the depiction in "Promised Land". Only by a lengthy and rigorous process of organizing and petitioning have local municipalities passed fracking bans or moratoriums.

But it can be done, even statewide. Look at Vermont. Last May, the governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, with popular backing, signed a state law banning fracking.

We should follow Vermont's example and petition for statewide fracking bans.

That will help put us on the sustainable path.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and social critic living in Santa Fe, N.M. He can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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