Reading with a grain of salt

Ed Smith
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Thank God for the F word.

Without it, I would not be able to write this column. Without it, a great deal of yesterday’s news would be lost to us forever.

You may talk about your N word, your other N word, your E word, your P word, your K word and your D word, but for sheer impact, nothing surpasses the F word.

Nothing can replace it, although it can successfully replace every other adjective and adverb in every other language on Earth, including Swahili.

It can be used in the present, past and future tenses, and is equally at home in the past pluperfect and future perfect tenses.

A king and a janitor may use it equally effectively. Although I’m neither, let me give you an idea of how even a lowly writer can use the F word to good advantage in an ordinary column.

We were told a few days ago that a Harper Conservative Idiot (I was about to ask if there was any other kind, but stopped myself when I remembered that we have a couple of Harper Conservatives from this province who seem to be a cut or two above your run-of-the-mill Harper minions and perhaps shouldn’t be included in that lot) has displayed the normal amount of knowledge that Harper types have for this province, and has passed judgment on an issue concerning us.

Actually, this particular chap is from Manitoba, a province we normally think of as being quite sensible.

But whenever we think of this particular idiot, we immediately think of a word beginning with f and ending with -er.

There is no question but that he is definitely one of those and consequently is referred to as such by all who know him.

The more polite among us do not go around referring to each other in these terms unless we have darn good reason, and in this case we do.

This f----er has taken notice of one of Newfoundland’s most vexing problems and decided to give us the benefit of his vast wisdom and even vaster knowledge of this island.

Stupid suggestion

Accordingly, he has suggested a solution as extreme as it is stupid.

You are probably already aware that the problem referred to is the numbers of moose along the side of our highways which are sometimes in collision with motor vehicles.

This continues to cause serious bodily harm and sometimes death to the occupants.

All kinds of ideas have been put forward to resolve this problem, from fences designed to keep moose off the highways, to lights warning drivers that large animals are near, to cutting brush from the margins of the highways so that at least in the daytime they can be seen before they’re ready to leap out on the road.

Some solutions are more or less effective at certain times. Some are not.

Manitoba Conservative MP Steven Fletcher (the F word) has come up with a novel idea.

The question is why we in Newfoundland, including friend Eugene Nippard, haven’t been able to come up with anything as sensible.

Simply worded and simply put, it is to kill off all moose because “they are an invasive species to the Island.”

Apart from the horrendous potential problems with undertaking a scheme of this magnitude, it probably hasn’t occurred to MP Fletcher that if the same criterion were to be applied to Manitoba, the solution to most of their problems would be to kill off everyone who isn’t First Nations people. People of European descent are more invasive to Manitoba than moose are to our fair isle.

Indeed, before Confederation in 1949, there were no Harper Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are a great many people in this province who would maintain that Harperites are invasive to us in every sense of that word. Should we start looking to our muskets?

Finding fuel

Continuing with this theme of that wonderful F-word, we find ourselves forced into an examination of a particular kind of fossil fuel production. Again the word has a more than slightly obscene tinge to it.

It seems that this company on the west coast wants to go f----ing around with yet another of our potential natural resources, natural gas. The method used is to pump a mixture of water, sand and chemicals up to a mile below the surface to force the gas to the surface that may be trapped in shale.

That process would fracture the shale thus forcing the gas to the surface, hence the term “fracturing.” At least that’s my understanding.

My understanding has been flawed before, such as the time I was invited to go watch the submarine races in Halifax. But I’ve told you all about that.

The potential problem with this process is that the combination of water, sand and chemicals could find itself forced into the watershed, thus poisoning the water supply.

There has been at least anecdotal evidence that this does happen.

On the other hand, this f----ing fracturing idea has been used in the U.S. for some time, it’s said, with no harm to the water system.

On the other hand, which would be the third hand in total, there are those who say it is highly dangerous to our precious water supply.

At any rate, my further understanding is that the application for this process has been withdrawn.

Despite my extensive research into this particular F-word, like my friend Bill Rowe of Open Line, I have not passed the stage of asking questions.

In short, I have to do more reading before I’m convinced either way.

In the meantime, I’m in full agreement with our government, Minister Tom Marshall especially, that we need to have all questions asked and satisfactorily answer­ed, and all i’s dotted and t’s crossed before even considering going ahead with extracting anything that takes us into such unexplored territory.

Dear Lord, what am I saying!? I am in full agreement with the government? Isn’t that the same as saying I trust the government?

Lord ha’ mercy!

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.

His email address is

Organizations: First Nations

Geographic location: Manitoba, Newfoundland, Halifax U.S. Springdale.His

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Recent comments

  • Roger
    August 26, 2013 - 22:16

    One of the main ingredients in fracking fluid is guar gum, mixed with soaps, surfactants, sand, and maybe some acids. I am sure it comes back out mixed with the oil, and is processed out of the final product. If it did stay in the reservoir, it would be no more hazardous than what was recovered from it. Anyone who has worked in oil and gas knows the some of the stuff coming out of a well will kill you good and dead, with fracking fluid being amongst the more benign substances they will probably have to deal with. H2S will kill you before you hit the ground.The fact that we don't know the exact mixture does not automatically imply some coke-bottle glassed minion surrounded by boiling flasks toiling away in a dark basement somewhere is plotting the downfall of mankind with his fracking fluid. It is generally considered bad form to kill your customers and employees. Most people strive to do a decent job and make things better, not worse.

  • Petertwo
    August 26, 2013 - 06:08

    And the mixture does not get forced up to the surface by the "Natural pressure within the reservoir.."? I do not believe Roger's comment was entirely complete, there was nothing about what happens to the mixture after all of the extraction is completed. Is it just left, is it pumped out to a surface holding area, what, what? It is not enough to just make money any more and then leave a mess for someone else to clean up, or worse, to suffer from the pollution effects. I think those days are over now. Complete the project and tell the whole story, instead of just dangling a few old carrots to get a start.

  • Roger
    August 25, 2013 - 15:35

    Fracturing has been used throughout the oil and gas industry for decades. The mixture is pumped into the rock formation under high pressure to break it up to allow the valuable oil and gas within in it to flow out of it more freely. It does not force it to the surface. Natural pressure withing the reservoir does that, through the bore hole. Think of it as clearing the sinuses of the formation, or getting a balloon treatment on your arteries to open them up. This takes place far below any aquifers.