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Mmph — a Suggestion for North Carolina Frackers


MMph. Fnmn, nng, mmmmm, knknknnk.

DAYUM, it's hard talking with tape over your mouth. And now that I've ripped the tape off (about the tape more later), I can't even talk about what I want to talk about.

You know what I would like to talk about? I would like to write today again about Solar Roadways, the cool-but-nutty solar solution to all our problems which is worth looking at for like a million different reasons, and I hope I'll do that later in the week.

But I can't today, because today, once again, I have to write about North Carolina legislators and their scientific and environmental madness. Here in North Carolina (motto: "Mining a vein of stupid so rich it'll never run out"; sorry, I don't know the Latin), up is kind of down. It's full-time crazytown here as you well know, and they're at it again.

Fracking, right? As you may know, since in 1945 passing a sensible rule against unpredictable and dangerous drilling practices, North Carolina has had a de facto ban on fracking, which the current legislature has been in a pants-off hurry to end since it came to wield statewide vetoproof power in 2012. They've been busy, mind you -- outlawing sea-level rise measurement, for a start, and then deciding that since scientists keep saying the long term looks very scary, we'll just think about the short term instead. Like the old joke about the person who jumped off the building taking stock halfway down: everything's fine in the short term.

It will hardly surprise you to learn that North Carolina will join the states with poor or no disclosure laws about fracking. North Carolina, of course, is now living through the horrific Duke coal ash spill, at the beginning of which Duke Energy waited almost a full day after discovering the spill to mention it to the state Division of Environment and National Resources and plans to bill its customers for the cleanup.

Given that level of corporate responsibility, you have to admire the legislature for not merely failing to pass a law requiring that frackers disclose which poisonous chemicals they're pumping into the ground to fracture rock and release natural gas. In addition, the North Carolina legislature passed a different law, making it illegal for you or me to find out about those poisons and tell anybody about them. So the companies don't need to tell us what they're using -- trade secrets, you know; bad for business -- but if you or I find out and spread the word, we go to jail.

Again, to be clear: if you find that the frackers are poisoning the water, the land, the ecosystem, whatever, and you share that information? THEY don't go to jail. YOU go to jail.

This only fits with Best Practices of these guys. Given the wide publicity about the Moral Monday protests against the legislature's madness -- the protests have helped rebrand the once-progressive state as a population hostage to a coven of madpersons and science deniers -- the legislature dealt with that too. By convening a committee that hadn't met for 15 years and changing rules that hadn't changed since 1987 -- and changing them without debate or comment, by the way -- the legislature made it an offense not just to disturb the legislature but to "create an imminent disturbance." Which means now they can arrest you because you look like you MIGHT disturb them soon. So they're mind-reading now. (You can tell when they're doing it -- their lips move when you think of a word longer than one syllable.) We're not at "ignorance is strength" yet, but that's where we're headed. For now we're having to make do with "the strong are ignorant and the ignorant are strong."

Oh, and by the way -- you can no longer protest on the enormous grassy plaza in front of the building, where the previous Moral Mondays were held, either. "Keep off the grass." Seriously: The NC State Legislature has made "get off my lawn!" the law of the land.

My little thinker says stick it to the man!

Anyhow, the first Moral Monday after the rules change involved protesters taping their lips shut and filing through the legislature silently, two-by-two. It was pretty stirring, but NC responsible thinkers expect things to get plenty noisy again soon.

So: disclosing irresponsible poisonous chemical use gets you sent to jail, and protesters have to tape their lips shut.

Given which, there's only one thing left to say to the NC legislature: mmph mph.


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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