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When the Hills Are Gone

Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community

2017
Author:

Thomas W. Pearson

When the Hills Are Gone

An overlooked part of fracking’s environmental impact becomes a window into the activists and industrial interests fighting for the future of energy production—and the fate of rural communities

When the Hills Are Gone tells the story of Wisconsin’s sand mining wars. Providing on-the-ground accounts from both the mining industry and the concerned citizens who fought back, Thomas W. Pearson blends social theory, ethnography, stirring journalism, and his own passionate point of view to offer an essential chapter of Wisconsin’s history and an important episode in the national environmental movement.

Thomas W. Pearson takes us to the front lines of one of the great under-reported environmental issues in America today—how the fracking industry’s hunger for sand is impacting rural Wisconsin. His deep research and intimate portraits of people on all sides of the controversy make this an important and timely read for anyone concerned about our country’s environment, natural resources, and what happens when the needs of big business collide with those of ordinary citizens.

Vince Beiser, award-winning journalist

Fracking is one of the most controversial methods of fossil fuel extraction in the United States, but a great deal about it remains out of the public eye. In Wisconsin it has ignited an unprecedented explosion in the state’s sand mining operations, an essential ingredient in hydraulic fracturing that has shaken local communities to the core.

In When the Hills Are Gone, Thomas W. Pearson reveals the jolting impact of sand mining on Wisconsin’s environment and politics. A source of extraordinary wealth for a lucky few, and the cause of despoiled land for many others, sand mining has raised alarm over air quality, water purity, noise, blasting, depressed tourism, and damage to the local way of life. It has also spurred a backlash in a grassroots effort that has grown into a mature political movement battling a powerful mining industry.

When the Hills Are Gone tells the story of Wisconsin’s sand mining wars. Providing on-the-ground accounts from both the mining industry and the concerned citizens who fought back, Pearson blends social theory, ethnography, stirring journalism, and his own passionate point of view to offer an essential chapter of Wisconsin’s history and an important episode in the national environmental movement. Digging deep into the struggles over place, community, and local democracy that are occurring across the United States, When the Hills Are Gone gives vital insight into America’s environmental battles along the unexpected frontlines of energy development.

When the Hills Are Gone

Thomas W. Pearson is associate professor of anthropology and assistant director of the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. His research has been published in American Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology, American Ethnologist, Human Organization, and other academic journals. He lives in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

When the Hills Are Gone

Thomas W. Pearson takes us to the front lines of one of the great under-reported environmental issues in America today—how the fracking industry’s hunger for sand is impacting rural Wisconsin. His deep research and intimate portraits of people on all sides of the controversy make this an important and timely read for anyone concerned about our country’s environment, natural resources, and what happens when the needs of big business collide with those of ordinary citizens.

Vince Beiser, award-winning journalist

A masterful blend of stories and scholarship that will be the definitive account of a major environmental justice issue. Thomas W. Pearson is fair-minded and unflinching as he traces the erasure of place and the scramble to salvage community and democracy.

Adam Briggle, author of A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking

When the Hills Are Gone is a riveting, sobering story about local democracy at the whipped-around tail-end of the frack-driven oil and gas boom that has rocked the United States since the turn of the millennium. The writing is lively and reflective—deftly portraying the many micro-tactics through which local democracy can be undercut and the many kinds of people working against this in rural Wisconsin. This is critical reading for understanding contemporary politics on the ground.

Kim Fortun, University of California, Irvine

The churning engine of the global energy economy always touches down in local places, sometimes to brutal effect. Thomas W. Pearson provides a compelling and deeply personal story of one such place, the sand hills of Wisconsin. Both an ethnography and a study of state and local politics, When the Hills Are Gone richly describes community divisions and sudden activism in places where disruptive environmental change is ongoing.

Paul Robbins, director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

When the Hills Are Gone

Contents
Introduction: Magic Mineral
1. Save Our Hills
2. Low-Hanging Fruit
3. Dangers Unseen
4. Where You Live
5. Neighbors
6. In Pursuit of Local Democracy
7. Confronting the Next Boom
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index