Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone

One of my college professors is publishing a book he has been researching for years, called Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone.   Dr. Jimmy Guignard is now Chair of English and Modern Languages at Mansfield University in PA.   He and his family live in countryside that is being fracked to tap into the natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.  Here is his book’s cover:


Jimmy is an exceptional person.  He was a teaching assistant working on completing his PhD when I had him in my senior year for Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism.  I had added an English minor to my Geography major and this was a required course.  I had finally begun to enjoy learning and was opening up to the power of critical thinking skills and figuring out my way through this complex world.   Jimmy got to know me and made me feel important.  His father was a truck driver, as I had been and would be again after I graduated, and I remember Jimmy telling me how his father was always on the lookout for hawks and birds as he drove.  Jimmy had worked construction, as I had.  He was approachable and a great teacher.  Jimmy wanted to know what you thought and how you arrived there.   He made the connection between getting in touch through outdoor activities with studious learning and hard work.  I can’t wait to read this book, and I’m so glad Jimmy is sharing with a wider audience.

I’ve been surprised by the extent of gas and oil in New Mexico.  As a State, NM ranks 7th for natural gas and 5th for oil.   Pennsylvania is 3rd for gas largely due to the Marcellus Shale.


We have two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Carlsbad Caverns and Chaco Culture park, that abut our largest oil and gas production regions in the SE and NW corners of New Mexico.  It is a remarkable contrast seeing these different value systems of extraction and preservation juxtaposed in the landscape.  Without energy conservation, sustainable production guidelines, and a serious transition plan, this delicate balance seems headed in a bleak direction.  We need more nuanced economic metrics that measure the quality of what we produce with the energy we use and the efficiency with which we do it, rather than narrowly isolating the volume of production and consumption, which conflates waste and inefficiency with economic growth.

cliff slant

We have a methane hot spot over the four corners region because of leaking wells and infrastructure.  And high ozone levels, though not as extreme as the one’s seen in Utah’s Uinta Basin production region.  We need meaningful, sustainable jobs and energy, and we need a healthy environment for centuries to come.   We need a long term perspective and a serious discussion on how we can make the good life last.   I am looking forward to digging into Jimmy’s book and going for more rides to listen to the lands we draw our life from.

A stunning story with great imagery, stats, and research on the San Juan Basin gas:

Michael Collier has done incredible work documenting the changes in the land and people with the Uinta production fields with his An Unconventional Future coverage:

NM State planning:
“Breakeven costs for oil development cost to completion range from $52 to $70 in the San Juan Basin and $40 to $55 in the Southeast.” p. 41 NM Energy Policy and Implementation Plan
“Implement an education campaign to increase citizen knowledge of renewable energy and energy efficiency operations and investment potential. Explain the nature of renewable versus non-renewable energy resources.” p. 36 NM Energy Policy and Implementation Plan

“Beauty…is something that inheres between the congruence of the landscape and the strivings of the spirit.”  –D.W. Meinig, Reading the Landscape, an Appreciation of W.G. Hoskins and J.B. Jackson, from The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays  p. 232

NM Renewable Energy

Jimmy’s blog:

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