Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Climate Access -- Lessons from the Field: Talking about Climate and Fracking

Most of this post is an excerpt from a blog post titled "LESSONS FROM THE FIELD: TALKING ABOUT FRACKING AND CLIMATE" on the Climate Access website. The excerpt describes some of the Museum of the Earth's work related to Marcellus Shale education and how we are using the public interest in the Marcellus as a teachable moment to engage the public in learning about energy and climate.

As the Climate Access post on lessons from the field came out while we were running an educator workshop that included a field trip to a well pad where drilling was underway, I've also included a couple of images of the field trip.

Before getting to the excerpts and images, I'll share a bit about Climate Access by quoting from their "About" page:

In the fall of 2011, The Resource Innovation Group’s Social Capital Project, in partnership with the Rutgers Initiative on Climate and Society and theStonehouse Standing Circle, launched Climate Access to provide climate communications thinkers and doers with access to the necessary tools, knowledge and people. This is all in the name of increasing public support for climate policies and engagement in programs that help people, organizations and communities change their energy and other carbon-intensive behaviors.
Climate Access facilitates the rapid peer-to-peer exchange of information, bringing together those working on climate communications from various organizations and institutions. As such, Climate Access serves as a network of networks that fosters connection and collaboration and helps turn ideas into action. It also features the Social Capital Project’s ability to synthesize and analyze the most relevant research and campaign strategies.
There's a great deal of interest on Climate Access and on the sites of their partner organizations linked above. Check that out after reading the excerpt below, and about the work that other members of Climate Access are doing related to hydraulic fracturing's role in the energy and climate systems.

Here's the excerpt:

Through a series of grant-funded initiatives (NSF 1016359, 1035078, Smith-Lever NYC-124481), the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) is working to nurture evidence-based understandings of Earth systems issues associated with both hydraulic fracturing and the larger energy system. We see the controversy surrounding the Marcellus Shale as a teachable moment – a great many people are suddenly interested in where their energy comes from. This provides an opportunity for nurturing understandings of not only the Marcellus, but also the broader energy system, and also the larger Earth system.
We believe that the Marcellus cannot be understood in isolation and are striving to not only provide evidence-based understanding with as little bias as possible (that is, we will not advocate for or against drilling in the Marcellus Shale), but also help our audiences to investigate deeper questions than the question many in the Ithaca-area are initially drawn to. Residents justifiably focus on the question: Is this bad for the environment? Without contextualization, the answer is invariably “yes.” A more appropriate context-dependent question might be, “Is this better or worse for the environment than what we are doing now, or might reasonably do in the near future, to meet our energy needs?”
A simple pre-assessment used in some of our programming asks participants to identify the two largest energy sources for electric generation in New York state. The most common answers by far are coal and hydro, which rank numbers four and three, respectively behind natural gas and nuclear which are essentially even in their shares of production for the last several years. By gently drawing attention to the fact that most of us don’t really have much of a sense where our energy comes from now, we have had some success in engaging in richer discussions that have, to some degree, shifted people away from their poles related to this polarizing issue.
Education regarding the Marcellus Shale serves as a case study for both developing outreach approaches for emergent energy issues and for how these issues relate to the teaching of other controversial topics. Our goal is to develop heuristic approaches that others can adapt to their community’s needs before polarization becomes entrenched. Strategies include networking formal and informal educators within communities to develop energy education programming.
We have also produced “The Marcellus Papers,” a series of pamphlets that provide an overview of various aspects of the science related to hydraulic fracturing and the Marcellus Shale, and we are working to define what it means to be Marcellus Shale literate, and also what is needed to be aneffective Marcellus Shale educatorThere's No Such Thing as a Free Megawatt is a presentation (created with Prezi) that has been used to provide an overview of the Marcellus Shale and contextualize it in the changing energy system. 
 Our greatest challenge is helping people to shift from working to fortify their position to deepening their understandings of the related issues. In this work, we are finding recent work by Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow) helpful as we strive to help people shift their mode of thinking in Kahneman’s terms from System 1 to System 2, and Joe Romm’s Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and LadyGagaas we work to make the way we speak and write about these issues more understandable.
=== END OF EXCERPT - CONTINUE READING HERE ===

On August 29, 2012 we visited a well pad where drilling was taking place as part of one of our educator workshops. A future post will offer more images and a description of the visit. For now, here's a picture and an interactive panorama to help give a sense of what such a site is like.

Note that the drilling rig is only on site while drilling is taking place. That process lasts several days for each well on the pad, but current practice is to drill only one well before removing the rig.


The drilling rig.





An interactive panorama (a Photosynth) of the well pad

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