American Elizabeth Nelson learned about fracking two years ago from the movie Gasland.
Now, she’s travelling the continent in her self-styled Frackmobile, warning people of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing.
She took an old canoe that wasn’t being used and put it on top of her Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and painted it with slogans like “Ban fracking” and “Once you’ve been fracked you can never go back.”
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a controversial method of extracting natural gas that involves pumping a slurry of water, sand and chemicals to break apart shale rock deep underground.
The Yukon government is currently working on coming up with recommendations on whether and under what conditions the practice should be allowed to take place in the territory.
The Frackmobile has been getting a lot of attention around Whitehorse this week. Nelson made a stop here on her way to Alaska to visit her sister.
“The great thing about the car is it’s doing all the work for me. I’m not banging on anyone’s doors.”
Nelson has been on the road for a few months now. Her journey started in New Jersey where she lives and has been rallying against fracking in the Delaware River watershed.
The reaction to her car has been mostly positive, she said. Even if she’s not around to hand out materials or have a conversation, she sees how her vehicle sparks people’s interest and gets them talking about fracking, said Nelson.
But the drive between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, where the natural gas industry rules, was a little frightening, she said.
Every motel and campground was overrun with industry trucks and workers, and she and her driving partner drove through the night to get through the area, said Nelson.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m driving.’ And we just drove away from Buckinghorse and kept going until the other side of Fort Nelson.”
Nelson’s visit to the Yukon coincided by chance with a visit by journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, who spoke Tuesday evening at the Beringia Centre to a packed auditorium.
Nelson extended her stay in Whitehorse in order to attend.
Nikiforuk came promoting his latest book, The Energy of Slaves, which compares the world’s dependency on cheap oil to the dependence of earlier civilizations on cheap human labour in the form of slavery.
In his talk, Nikiforuk argued that fracking is not a revolution for the energy industry, but a retirement party.
As sources of oil and gas that are easy to get to are being dried up, companies are expending more and more resources to get at what is left, said Nikiforuk.
Fracking is extremely energy intensive and produces lower yields compared to other methods of extraction, he said.
But as energy projects require more and more investment and show fewer and fewer yields, global demand continues to rise.
The result is that these energy projects “are going to cannibalize our economy,” said Nikiforuk. All of the investments we put into finding more and more energy amounts to resources not being spent living otherwise healthy and productive lives, he said.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at