Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing, and Living above the Marcellus Shale

Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing, and Living above the Marcellus Shale

Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing, and Living above the Marcellus Shale

Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing, and Living above the Marcellus Shale

Synopsis

Before the dust settles, as many as 100,000 natural gas wells may be drilled into the Marcellus Shale on more than 20,000 well pads in Pennsylvania.

Living on seven acres above the shale, Jimmy Guignard tells his story as an English professor grappling with the meaning of place and the power of words as he watches the rural landscape his family calls home be transformed into an industrial sacrifice zone.

From the vantage point of an avid and experienced cyclist, Guignard tracks the takeover, chalking up thousands of miles pedaling through Tioga and surrounding counties. Encountering increased truck traffic on the roads, crossing pipeline construction on the trails, and passing a growing number of flaring gas wells, the author's rides begin to shape his academic work in ways he found surprising and sobering.

Juggling his roles as disinterested professor, anxious father and citizen, and reluctant activist, he reveals how the rhetoric of industry, politicians, and locals reshaped his understanding of teaching and his faith in the force of language.

Excerpt

The idea of starting a new series at Texas A&M University Press on survival, sustainability, and sustenance was still a dream with a good chance of coming into reality when I first met James Guignard. I was giving a talk about nature writing for an undergraduate conference at Susquehanna University, to which Professor Guignard had brought a group of his students from Mansfield. Jimmy recognized in my accent a fellow Carolinian and told me a little about his adjustment to life in Pennsylvania after graduate study in Reno. We talked about writing and place. (As our fellow series author Sid Dobrin has pithily said, “Writing takes place.”)

Over the next weeks, we started up an email correspondence. I read his blog about living, bicycling, and teaching over the Marcellus shale, the fracking of which was turning the rural countryside around Mansfield into a new world—more profitable for some, more dangerous and disturbing for others, but different for everyone. the image of Jimmy on his bike, or in the classroom, or in his old house with his young family, puzzling over what was happening to the place around him, proved irresistible to me. I told him about the series and urged him to submit a proposal. He bought into the dream. He wrote the book. the reality exceeded the dream.

I cannot imagine a better contribution to the series, now called Seventh Generation: the Survival, Sustainability, Sustenance in a New Nature, than this book. It questions the sustainability of ramped-up gas production in the rural countryside resulting from the high demand for US-produced gas and oil to meet the everincreasing energy needs of the nation. It introduces a personal . . .

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