Science Lags As Health Problems Emerge Near Gas Fields

http://www.propublica.org/article/science-lags-as-health-problems-emerge-near-gas-fields by Mel Buckner

I liked the lede’s vivid description of Susan Wallace-Babb’s first encounter with the toxins. It did a fine job of illustrating the chilling thought of being poisoned during the course of one’s daily routine, without one having done anything to warrant fear of chemical exposure, such as opening a can of some hazardous substance. That said, I thought that although the nut graph did plenty to describe how serious the problem is, and how widespread, it was lacking in supporting the article’s title. It seemed that most of the problem lay with failure of government agencies to either enact or enforce laws that would enable research.

What do you think of the ending paragraph? After all the examples and information about the seriousness of these incidents, should the last few comments be about monetary compensation making the problem more palatable?

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2 Responses to “Science Lags As Health Problems Emerge Near Gas Fields”

  1. Really cool article you shared here. I think the ending was pretty effective given the balance of emotion and monetary concern. Obviously monetary is not objective and has a tie to our emotional health. Given that fracking is largely done for economic reasons, it’s even the more powerful ending. It plays the balance between the exchange for the more functional cost of fracking (tools, man power, money saved) with the emotional cost of it (health, community, and so forth).

    On a separate note, I really loved the lead image and the secondary images accompanying this article. That first image, albeit simple and straight on, shows a tender balance of humanity and how it itself is dehumanized by the technology we create. We see Wallace-Babb dehumanized to the point that her health is clearly an issue with the striking mask she is wearing in juxtaposition with her dog that is not masked and has his tongue hanging out, healthy looking and all. As humans, we often see ourselves above animals (and the pets we keep), and so to be dehumanized to the level that Wallace-Babb is necessitated a mask to breathe whereas the dog can breathe on his/her own volition is such a powerful contrast.

    The secondary image is technically well-done contrasting nature with the technology at hand, and the tertiary image is an very nice intimate portrait of Wallace-Babb in her home. Often times, the most powerful images are those in the home — for, it is where we can be ourselves in the purest, for better or worse. Here we see Wallace-Babb for worse in expression and dependency of the oxygen tank by the bed that she seeks rest on.

    All three images are technically simple on surface level, but intimate and well-thought out with regards to furthering the story itself rather than just standing as accompanying images to be brushed by.

    Thanks for the share — I enjoyed reading and viewing!

  2. I really liked this article; I thought it was really well researched and did a good job of highlighting the horror of these accumulating public health cases and the frustration of the general public with agencies and research that should theoretically be acting objectively to protect the interests and well-being of the people.

    There was a fair amount of statistics incorporated in each paragraph, but I feel that the point of the article– calling officials out for a lack of initiative and research on the health threats of fracking– was really driven home by the obvious correlations made in all of the numbers and eyewitness reports. What really gets me is the insidious way that data and cases pile up before becoming too big of an issue for anyone to willfully turn their heads. Have we not learned from so many ecological and public health disasters in the past that prevention is far more desirable than remediation after the fact? I think of the Love Canal disaster, and can’t help but see the obvious connections between the two situations.

    I thought the focus on monetary compensation was a good way to emphasize the role that corporate politics plays in this issue– a large part of our ‘lag’ in racking research and longitudinal analysis of effects is due to the reluctance of drilling and natural gas companies to cooperate, and this in itself should be a red flag. It is disconcerting to think that something with such a huge magnitude of environmental and public health impact is so easily concealed and waved aside by the few controlling the operations– and all in the interest of making a profit at the expense of others who are unable to speak loudly enough against them.

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