Illustration by Peter and Maria Hoey
On the one hand . . .
The Church of England doesn't have an official position on fracking, but it does have a position on those who oppose it. Last summer, Philip Fletcher, chair of the church's Mission and Public Affairs Group, compared fracking opponents to anti-vaccine activists, saying that they fail to consider the "fuel poverty" of the poor. "Blanket opposition to further exploration for new sources of fuel fails to take into account those who suffer most when resources are scarce," Fletcher said. The church recently reasserted historical rights to gas and minerals under several hundred thousand acres of British soil. Will the church frack them? Fletcher is "not ruling it in, not ruling it out."
On the other . . .
After meeting with a group of Argentine environmentalists, Pope Francis, the Buenos Aires-born head of the Catholic Church, was photographed holding up two anti-fracking T-shirts. "Water is worth more than gold," proclaimed one--a reference to the danger fracking poses to water supplies. Argentina has some of the world's largest reserves of shale oil and gas, but indigenous activists worry that fracking them will lead to what might be called "water poverty." "[The pope's] concerns are the environment but also the impact on poor people, polluting their water supplies, etc.," explained Thomas J. Reese, senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. Francis took his papal name in honor of Saint Francis, patron saint of both the poor and ecology.