Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review: Fracking America by Walter Brasch

Walter M. Brasch
Greeley & Stone Publishers, 2016
Reviewed by:  The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship, Lexington Theological Seminary, Lexington, KY

When future generations look back in confounded horror at the sordid history that led to the devastating effects fracking has had on their country, Walter Brasch’s book Fracking America will surely provide them with a detailed compendium to help them understand. 

Walter M. Brasch
Weighing in at over 600 pages, it is not a book that one will necessarily read cover-to-cover in one sitting.  This is not due to the quality of the writing (which is both meticulous and engaging), but instead due to the nature of the topic itself.  Reading about the ways in which industry executives, lobbyists, and both elected and appointed  officials at all levels of government have colluded to exploit the land, water and communities of this nation is infuriating and distressing.  And so it is recommended that this book be taken in small doses.  But do, indeed, take the doses. Because Brasch’s book, which represents nearly seven years of research, is a necessary antidote to the toxic effluence of advertising and public relations campaigns spouted by the oil and gas industry over the past decade meant to fool the public into thinking that fracking is a safe, “homegrown” energy that will miraculously grant America energy independence.  Fracking America, with its exhaustive research (supported with 70 pages of endnotes) and first-hand accounts of people on the front lines dealing with the deleterious effects of the fracking boom-and-bust cycle, testifies to the truth about the shale gas and oil industry often ignored by mainstream media.    

As an ecological theologian with many years of experience as a “fractivist” in Pennsylvania, I especially appreciated Brasch’s inclusion of the chapter “Theological Perspectives on the Environment.”  It is not often that journalists and secular writers recognize the important role religion plays in public policy and environmental consciousness.  Brasch not only realizes why the theological angle is important, but touches on several different perspectives, including the Roman Catholic stance articulated by Pope Francis, several Protestant voices, and the Jewish perspective.  He also includes the ways in which religion is being manipulated and twisted by several right-wing radical Evangelical organizations and politicians to justify the use of fossil fuels, discredit the science about climate change, and undermine efforts to care for God’s Creation by casting aspersions on Christian environmental efforts. 

Perhaps the greatest value of Brasch’s work is as a reference book for those needing to find information on aspects of the fracking phenomenon largely overlooked by most journalists and writers.  The index alone is 25 pages and carefully catalogues the topics and subtopics of this medusa-like topic he has taken on.  Brasch’s book is the mirror we need in order to see the fracking industry for what it really is without getting mesmerized by the corporate advertising that lure us into petrified silence.  I, for one, am grateful that Walter Brasch has cared enough about the injustices committed against Earth, children, women, men and communities to bear witness to this painful history as it is unfolding.  And my hope is that armed with the information Brasch has provided, these children, women, men and communities will align with Earth and rise up to take back their rights for clean water, air and land.

The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade is the author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press 2015) and blogs at  
Leah Schade at an active fracking site in Tiadoghton State Park near Williamsport, PA in 2012.
The shirt reads: Where Would Jesus Frack?

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