Proactive vs. Reactive Environmental Communities: The Role of Hydraulic Fracturing in New Zealand and California Comparatively




Kortick, Kristen

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The proposed thesis will compare two different environmental contexts for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) through textual analysis of debates on environmentalism, economic gain, indigenous rights, land alterations, and legal jurisdiction. These texts will include anthropological discussions of environmental issues, newspaper and media articles, court filings, legislative bills, and environmental impact studies. The thesis examines the proactive regulation of fracking in New Zealand and reactive regulation in California. The environmental frameworks of both California and New Zealand are known for being progressive and pro-ecology. California is often referred to as “Ecotopia”, and New Zealand’s tagline is “100% Pure”. Regulatory procedures are more decentralized and reactive in California than in New Zealand. Environmental regulation in New Zealand is divided between the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development. Fracking regulation from these two ministries has been proactive, and annually or semi-annually redrafts regulation depending on industry and community concerns. California’s environmental regulation is collectively enforced by a selection of the 500 different state agencies. The Division of Oil and Gas of the California Department of Conservation, the focal agency for fracking oversight in California, has taken a reactive approach toward fracking in the state. These state approaches toward fracking shape the attitudes of community members toward the environment in these different regions. New Zealand’s regulation has fostered increased cooperation between the government and residents, whereas California’s regulation has resulted in a decreased cooperation.



New Zealand, California, Hydraulic fracturing, Anthropology, Environmental ethics, Oil and gas extraction