In 1997 my personal politics took a decisive turn towards the Green Party. In October of that year I spent a few weeks on my uncle Peter and late aunt Cathy’s farm in rural Alberta, Canada.
Their farm was outside a small settlement, at a railway crossing. Endless goods trains with pipes for a new pipeline were headed out towards the oil sands in the north east.
Farming was no longer the big earner and on his land Peter was proud to show me his latest tenant: a small fenced off area with a gas pumping station. The soil underneath the farm was full of gas, he proudly announced. I’ll show you, he said. He took me to the water borehole in the basement. The gas collects at the head of the pump and you can light it. He lit it.
My aunt complained about having to get water from the nearest town as their water from their own well was no longer drinkable. It had gone too salty. It was great for your skin, though.
A trip took us to Drumheller and all around were the signs of shale oil exploitation. That dark band over there, my uncle said with a joyful spark in his eyes, pointing at a level in the bad lands landscape, is oil.
In my head the simple puzzle fell together. Exploitation of shallow deposits of shale oil and gas, no drinking water, bad lands and the end of farming.