After 30 years of persecution by Nigeria’s government, he was arrested in 1994 on what many believed were trumped-up charges of involvement in four murders, given a trial universally regarded as a sham, and put to death by military tribunal. Wherever in the world fossil fuel extraction comes to communities, people find themselves divided over whether the short-term economic benefits are worth the long-term health and environmental impacts.


Today this debate is occurring in North Dakota and many parts of the West in response to oil and gas drilling, and in Pennsylvania, New York, and other states above the Marcellus Shale where the petroleum industry is fracking for gas. The debate has gone on for years in Appalachia over mountaintop removal mining.


Along the Gulf of Mexico, the oil and gas industry employs 100,000 people and helps fund local economies—yet still more people are employed in tourism, fishing, and service industries, all of which were hurt by the Deepwater Horizon spill. There are no easy answers, but impacts would be lessened if extraction industries were to put more health and environmental safeguards in place for workers and residents. Putting all your eggs in one basket is always a risky strategy. Because virtually all our modern technologies and services depend in some way on fossil fuels, we are susceptible to supplies becoming costly or unavailable.