With only 1/100th of 1% remaining, tallgrass and shortgrass prairies are one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet. Once expansive mosaics of interconnected diversity, these biomes extended through most of our midwestern states. Today prairie remnants are small functionally extinct islands of great biodiversity, surrounded by seas of GMO monoculture, development and invasive species. Despite such precious rarity these prairie “postcard” relics, which survived the plow and pylon, face immense dangers.
Much attention has been directed toward the looming disaster which is Hydraulic Fracturing, but recognition must also be focused on the atrocity which is Frac Sand Mining. The destructive consequences of mining are well known and often too common, including habitat loss, air and water pollution, hazardous dust, excessive carbon emissions, high traffic frequency and noise pollution. These byproducts of mining are not new to our world of endless development and sprawl, but the stakes are higher now than ever before.
The greatest human flaw is a failure to recognize the big picture, an inability to see the interconnectedness of everything. In 1863 a settler could live lightly off of a few acres and would see endless undeveloped land in every direction. Under such low population density the use of natural resources was easily absorbed by the native biome (of course the Native Americans were the best example of sustainable living). As population grew the “settled” spaces began to expand outward. Then the small sections of land started to touch resulting in the need for legal definition and fencing. As agriculture became industrialized the fences were pulled out and the soil was turned under without restraint. Only islands of natural history exist today, usually protected by flooding or shallow top soil. In 2013 a land owner may look at forty acres and say “there are plenty of trees here for birds, I’ll just cut down a few”, though arrogantly fails to look beyond the fence row. On the outside of each boundary may sit thousands of acres, striped, plowed and sterilized by industrial agriculture. Over 150 years the islands of habitat are shrinking in frequency and size. The damage from fragmentation has already been done, but those who worship the winking dollar still want more.
Now new technologies are squeezing profits out of previously considered “useless land”. These ecosystems, once protected from human hands by their pure rugged terrain, survived the plow but are now falling to the blasting fuse and shovel. Remnants of 1/100th of 1%, more endangered than rainforests, are being blasted, dug, stripped and leveled to provide a necessary product for another destructive human practice. Underground, the concealed pollution and destruction caused by hydraulic fracturing requires a terrestrial travesty that is frac sand mining. Just as before, the industrial need to exploit our native biomes pushes forward, fulled by money, and legalized by filthy political inventions.
Just as it has happened for hundreds of years, the pursuit of profits shows no concern for anything beyond exploitation and wealth. The most disgusting fact of this exploitation is that we now collectively know better. History and validated research have told us that plundering any and every resource from the earth will result in adverse affects. A brief look at the Dust Bowl should be enough to shock every American into a mindset that values environmental protection, but we seem to have poor memory and the advertisements tell us not to worry.
If our society continues to ignore science the push for endless growth will cover us in sand. America will become a vast desert as native ecosystems are carelessly destroyed for meaningless numbers in a bank account, or hollow shares in a company. Only one species on earth makes such irrational and cataclysmic decisions based on the values of imaginary currency. It’s time that we figure out a better way.
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