Protecting Mexico’s Flora and Fauna from Fracking

Originally published on By David Lauer on 29/07/15.


Chihuahua versus Fracking, one of 40 organizations that comprise the Mexican Alliance Against Fracking, includes concerned citizens, cooperatives, and organizations. We spend our time studying the negative impacts of fracking, making instructive materials for the public, organizing workshops for other concerned citizens and holding press conferences.


Desert cacti flora. Photo by David Lauer

Mexico’s largest state, Chihuahua, accounts for 3.2 percent of its total population. Our arid state gives name to the Chihuahuan Desert, the world’s third most important desert in terms of biodiversity. Over 80 million years ago, the Tethys Sea covered what are today vast expanses of fossil laden desert, and what could soon become an endless horizon of fracking wells, pumping stations, and pipelines. There are too many reasons why we cannot allow this to happen.


The water in our aquifers and rivers is limited and must be used to sustain life. Pumping underground water for extensive agriculture has already surpassed the recharge rates and drought is always a dangerous possibility. Recently announced mining projects will affect the aquifer that supplies the water for Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s eighth largest city. The fracking industry will make safe and clean water permanently useless for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Additionally, it will diminish the flow of the Conchos River.


Contrary to popular belief, deserts are not empty, dead spaces; they are filled with unique life forms that are both delicate and rugged, many of which go unnoticed to the unobservant eye. Little is known about most of the flora in the Chihuahuan Desert, but we do know that over 20 percent of the world’s cacti originate here and that many of the niches are highly specialized and interdependent, and, therefore, delicate. Platform construction, well drilling, road construction, pipeline construction, and wastewater disposal will seriously and irrevocably destroy hundreds of thousands of hectares of desert habitat.

Wind marks on a desert stalk. Photo by David Lauer

Wind marks on a desert stalk. Photo by David Lauer


In economically depressed regions, like the desert, people are often willing to sacrifice long-term health for a well-paying job, especially when they are unaware of the consequences. We know that Big Oil and Gas has manipulated job creation statistics. We also know that the fracking industry has put huge strains on local infrastructures. The financial burdens of the inevitable infrastructure damages fall on the taxpayers, not the industry.


When the fracking frenzy was announced here in Mexico, huge tracts of land began to change hands. After all, desert acreage is dirt-cheap. Proxies for high-level government officials who are privy to the information regarding auctions now hold most of it. They are able to use tax monies to build roads that benefit their investments and public policing to ensure the secrecy of what transpires on their private property. The abuse and corruption almost defies imagination, almost. International treaties and the reconfiguration of the Mexican state almost guarantee complete impunity. Almost.

We were shocked by the abysmal ignorance of local and national leaders who attempted to sell the idea of the wonders of fracking to the public. We systematically countered their media lies with scientific arguments, to which their only answer was silence and censorship.

What was once considered the rational exploitation of resources to fuel development has become a greedy and irrational pursuit of wealth. This year Pope Francis admonished us all to pause, reflect and change, and he acknowledged the debt we all have to those who have fought and even died to protect our home.



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