From Dublin: The Oklahoma Earthquake Rising?

Image of Daniel O’Connell monument

I sailed into Dublin on a beautiful Saturday afternoon aboard the Ulysses ferry and eventually made my way to the Temple Bar area fairly near O’Connell street.

The music, a lot of it on the street, was incredible and the pubs were packed. It was Gay Pride here, and the rainbow flags were hung throughout the city. I ended up singing harmony to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with a guy just a bit younger than me as we sang along with an Irish duo at The Temple Bar.

So I mentioned O’Connell Street, which is named after Daniel O’Connell, sometimes known as The Emancipator. In the nineteenth century, he agitated for the rights of Catholics and for Irish independence. His monument sits on the street, just next to the River Liffey.

I won’t go more into Irish history, which I deal with in the literature classes I teach because of authors such as Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Haney. In a postmodern class, I’ve even taught Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry, a beautifully written novel about Irish independence. Irish history, as all history, has its different interpretations, especially among the Irish. I wouldn’t presume to know all the nuances.

But, on this sunny morning here, with the temperature about 60 degrees, I can at least try to transition from Irish history, with its relatively recent arc of oppression, uprising and independence to the latest act of agitation in Oklahoma over earthquakes of all things.

Reading media accounts, I learned of the town hall last Thursday night in Edmond about earthquakes in which several citizens rose up to speak truth to power. One account is here. According to the article, at one point there was an “angry sounding rumble” from the crowd, and it should be that way, and we can only hope it gets louder.

I’ve been writing about the dramatic surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma for some three years now, especially since the 5.7 magnitude temblor struck near Prague in 2011, and I’ve been urging such agitation. The clear point is the scientists have linked the earthquakes to wastewater injection wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process. In the process, wastewater is injected by high pressure underground into rock layers. This, according to the latest scientific information, can cause instability along fault lines.

The oil and gas industry, supported for now by the state’s Republican-dominated government, continues to claim that it’s not conclusive what is causing the almost daily earthquakes in central Oklahoma. The government itself seems to take the position that living with earthquakes, and perhaps even the ensuing property damage and risk of bodily harm, is just the price we must pay for our precious fossil fuels. The fact billionaire and millionaire oil men are running the show for their own benefit isn’t even part of the state-sanctioned discussion, but that could be ending if the town hall is any indication.

So, as was suggested by one citizen at the meeting, why not simply declare a one-year moratorium on injection wells, and see what happens? I would prefer an unspecified time period until we know more abut the issue, but one year seems enough time for considering impacts and options. The industry would just have to do something else with the drilling wastewater. That might cost more, but it’s for the safety of Oklahomans and for the protection of their property.

The oppression inflicted on ordinary citizens by the rich and ruling classes is an old, old story, one inscribed in just about every nook in this beautiful city of Dublin. O’Connell sits amid the beauty and music, teaching us agitation and perseverance is a necessary component of the human experience.