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Photographs from The End of Country Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Narrow country roads more suited to tractors and rusting pickup trucks are quickly buckling under the weight of thousands of tons of heavy drilling equipment and the trucks needed to ferry it all.
A Cabot drill pad in Springville Township, Susquehanna County.
The heavy trucks and other equipment necessary for the drilling industry are tearing up the roads of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Barns and gas drilling rigs have become familiar pairs throughout the Marcellus Shale region.
A drilling rig in Meshoppen, Wyoming County. Once the rig is in place, the work of extracting the gas goes on around the clock.
Farm property along a winding country road near West Nicholson in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Praise for The End of Country
“[An] impressively detailed, highly engaging look at issues of energy policy, economics, and sociology that arose when a bucolic town was suddenly faced with the ‘traveling circus’ of energy exploration. McGraw presents a rich history of the economics and geopolitics of energy as well as a fascinating cast of characters . . . A completely engaging look at how energy policy affected a quiet, rural town.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Deeply personal, sometimes moving, sometimes funny, The End of Country lays out the promises and the perils faced not just by the people of one small Pennsylvania town but by our whole nation.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“The End of Country is an elegantly written and unsettling account of what can happen when big energy companies come calling in rural America. This cautionary tale should be required reading for all those tempted by the calling cards of easy money and precarious peace of mind. The result too often is bitter feuds, broken dreams, a shattered landscape.”—Tom Brokaw
“This is an environmental tale on the surface, yet something more powerful lurks beneath the soil of this wonderful book. Seamus McGraw is really writing about the enduring complexities and contradictions of the United States. He goes beyond the easy stereotypes of greedy promoters preying on farmers and gives us the unvarnished truth about a twenty-first-century energy rush in a place we never expected it. This is tale told with heart, gusto, close observation, and sly humor—truly a remarkable memoir.”—Tom Zoellner, author of The Heartless Stone and Uranium
"This story is remarkably lively and full of heart. McGraw’s calm and coherent prose sails over hundreds of years of hopes and dreams in the Pennsylvania countryside, charting a uniquely American story in cinematic fashion, conjuring up images of country folk making a stand and looking out for their lineage."--Progressive Reader
Seamus McGraw is the author of a few books, including the critically acclaimed The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone, and the forthcoming Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Line of Climate Change. Seamus has been a regular contributor to many publications, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, Stuff magazine, Spin, and The Forward. He has won a number of journalism awards. A father of four, he lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife, Kren, his children, and a neighborly bear named "Fardels" with boundary issues.
My only complaint about this book was that it ended too soon, although I know that the story of gas exploration and drilling in rural Pennsylvania is far from finished.
McGraw does an excellent job of humanizing and clarifying a complicated topic. For those who are interested in learning about the relentless pursuit of profits and fuel and its effect on the land, "The End of Country" is illuminating. But the human tale told in this story is what makes it a page turner.
McGraw brings to life a topic that combines politics, business and the environment. In other words, the stuff written in articles that are easy to skip in The New York Times. Because he tells his story in a family framework (who can resist the opening scene with his mother and her myriad mechanical clocks all chiming different times throughout her farmhouse), McGraw is able to convey what truly happens to a region when the promise of progress, jobs and riches confuse the judgment of ordinarily straight-arrow folks. Aside from McGraw's mother, most enjoyable is the portrayal of local character Ken Ely, a sometimes cantankerous watchdog, who symbolizes the flavor of the people and the variety of the conflicts in this part of the country. McGraw's encounters with Mr. Ely, and the tales of this audacious individualist and his dealings with the oil men, drive the book forward. You'll find that you have learned something in spite of yourself.
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This mighty "little" book of a wee bit over 200 pages, is incredibly informative about hunting for natural gas but way more than that, it is about spirit. It is about the depth of the people living above an unbelievably huge cache of natural gas bearing shale. The Marcellus Shale which is one of the characters playing out in these pages. I found it absolutely amazing the amount of pure information that Seamus McGraw hands the reader along with some of the most unique characters living above one of the biggest energy resources in America today. But it is also a history of "country". McGraw paints a picture of what is also valuable besides the gas. He shows his understanding of the people of this hard scrabble part of our country. Those that grew up there and those who adopted it. How they held the line against the big energy companies and that they, the few, did have the ability to hold those companies to the letter of the law. It was not an easy fight. The whole country was depressed and money badly needed in the communities was being held out like a carrot to anyone holding land in the Marcellus area. The handing of money was a very uneven flow pitting neighbor against neighbor but a few groups created out of necessity to protect their homes and farms taught the majority how to hold the line and also profit from the damage that well drilling and fracking would do to this area of the northern Appalachian mountain chain. ( didn't even know that the Appalachian's went that far!) "The End Of Country" is history. It is geology. It is law. But above all, it is an exciting story. A hold your breath kind of story. To add to its "cool" factor. It is real. I really, really enjoyed it and I learned while I enjoyed. That is a good book and a great read.
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McGraw takes a very personal view of hydrofracking that is occurring in eastern Pennsylvania, approaching the topic from the point of view of the impact that it is having on the people who live above the Marcellus Shale. I found the book to be balanced and thoughtful, with consideration given both to the environmental effects that drilling and fracking are having on the local community, and on the potential long term repercussions of failing to reasonably exploit energy resources. The technical details he provides are easy to understand, and provide a solid background for the real story he's telling here.
And the real story is where this book truly shines. McGraw breathes life into the characters who are most affected by the discovery and exploiitation of the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus shale, his friends and neighbors. The environmental impact of the drilling, the financial impact of the money that follows energy reserves, the way it affects the careers of geologists and scientists are all considered; it is obvious that he cares deeply about his community. And again, it's a balanced picture that he provides, showing the strengths and the flaws of the people he writes about. The only possible complaint I have about the book is that I would have loved to read more about the people.
I would definitely recommend this book. I found it to be very well written, and the view it gives of the human side of energy policy is thought provoking.
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In the chaos that ensues among environmentalists, gasmen, and Washington when the words "hydraulic fracturing" are uttered, we tend to forget that this, fundamentally, is a story about people - and not just any people, but people who are shrewd, conscientious, and whose unimaginable sacrifices and sometimes divisive decisions cost them far more than they cost us. We forget, but McGraw reminds us. He reminds us that this issue extends far beyond the gas fields of Pennsylvania and the Houses of Congress; it reaches all the way across America, landing at each of our feet as a test of character. We say we want cleaner energy, and we want it now. We know all the benefits. But when we hear of the risks, change seems to take a backseat. The End of Country forces us to think about the kind of future we want to build, the kind of nation we want to become, and how we'll choose to proceed from this point forward. And McGraw shows us that when we can't make these decisions ourselves, a small group of people in rural Pennsylvania will help us.
Carrying us through the narrative sort of like gas through a pipeline - swiftly, carefully, effectively - McGraw weaves seamlessly between the arcane details of natural gas extraction - which suddenly seem so simple - and the people under whose land the gas is being extracted. He makes the land itself so dynamic, so sentient, that it's a wonder we ever saw land as just earth. He's raw, honest, and isn't afraid to tell us that this has been a struggle for him, too.
Pick it up, and I guarantee you won't be able to put it down. It's a wonderful read and an excellent piece of writing that'll change the way you consider the natural gas debate. Wish I could give it more than 5 stars, Amazon.
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