Doug Hostetter

Kati Garrison introduces Darcey O'Callaghan at Food and Fracking event.

During the early years of the Working Group on Food and Hunger (WGFH), Policy Briefings featuring agricultural and food policy-related experts were a monthly event, frequently attended by representatives from UN agencies and NGOs alike. After a brief hiatus from these events, the WGFH, on which MCC UN staff serve as both Chair and Coordinator, hosted its first briefing of the year—a presentation led by Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director for Food and Water Watch, on the dangers that fracking poses to the environment and world food systems.

            As O’Callaghan shared during her presentation, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a procedure to retrieve natural gas and oil from deep underground shale rock formations, and it has become increasingly popular in recent years, as traditional oil and gas reservoirs are beginning to run dry. Many fracking supporters have claimed that this method of extraction provides a more sustainable form of fuel through natural gas than oil does, because it releases less carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere after burning.

            Darcey O’Callaghan argues, however, that the process of fracking costs the surrounding environment much more than simple emissions tests would reveal. O’Callaghan addressed a room full of various NGO staff and a representative from the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN, explaining that fracking machines pump a dense mixture of chemicals, water, and silica into shale as far as one mile underground. This mixture often washes into the groundwater supply or comes back up the hole that was initially drilled, contaminating the soil and water supply in the surrounding area. These effects, along with the chemicals released into the air during air compression, the amount of fuel it takes to transport the gas and oil, and various other environmental repercussions, made evident for O’Callaghan and Food and Water Watch that fracking should absolutely be banned internationally.

            The audience, upon receiving this message, was quite receptive, asking clarifying questions on where this problem had already take root, what the arguments for fracking sound like, and where they might find more information on supporting a ban. After the briefing, members of the WGFH and Darcey O’Callaghan talked with the attendees of the event, one of which being a representative from the Irish Mission, who expressed his deep interest in learning more about fracking and his intentions to use what he learned to advocate against fracking on an international level.

            As the first WGFH policy briefing of the year, the event was considered a success by the members, and the group’s aim is now to improve our notoriety among the UN community and continue to attract a wider audiences in all future briefings.