Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Albert Borgmann

Commitee Members

Christopher Preston, Daniel Spencer


environmental ethics, environmental justice, fracking, human flourishing


University of Montana


As it is currently being discussed, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is the unconventional method of drilling and extracting oil and natural gas. Fracking starts at the earth’s surface where the technology is created and the sites are constructed. The process continues downward: drills pierce thousands of feet vertically and then horizontally underground. Then, millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals (referred to as “fracking fluid” or “slick water”) are pumped at high pressure through the pipe so as to fracture shale deposits and release gas or oil. Whether to allow fracking and its associated industrial activity is a complex and heated controversy. The mainstream positions on the issue are typically divided between concerns for the environment and the economy. My subsequent argument against fracking moves beyond both of these mainstream positions. The following argument against fracking is moral and moves in the opposite direction than fracking; it starts from the bottom and moves upward. At the bottom layer, I point out that fracking violates necessary obligations of environmental justice. At the middle layer, I claim, fracking threatens local moral solidarity as I conceive it. Finally, at the top layer, I argue fracking collides with the good life and human flourishing. In other words, I claim fracking not only hinders the availability of necessary material goods, like clean water and air, it also significantly impedes human flourishing. Moreover, fracking promotes or propagates a life of consumption that displaces the good life. I argue against fracking because of its insidious and neglected moral implications. The following three chapters are moral layers; starting at my claim that fracking violates necessary obligations of environmental justice and ascending toward the social and then the material conditions of daily life. The layers of the argument are interconnected, just like the layers of the fracking process itself. By shedding light on how fracking impedes the good life I aim to bring attention to the issue in way that is has yet to be assessed.



© Copyright 2013 Angela L. Hotaling