I developed this "research blog" to compile information about the rapidly evolving industry of frac sand mining, especially its social, economic, and environmental impacts. This blog also allows me to disseminate some of my impressions, observations, and social analysis in a public manner.

I am currently finishing a book about grassroots activism in response to frac sand mining. Titled When the Hills Are Gone: Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community, it will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in late 2017. The manuscript is complete and has entered the production and copy-editing process.

Fairmount mine, outside of Menomonie, WI. Photo courtesy of Jim Tittle, The Price of Sand.

The Author and Researcher

I am a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in the social science department at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Since 2012, I have been researching social and environmental changes caused by the expansion of frac sand mining in western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota, with a focus on grassroots activism and community-level social and political conflicts. If you would like to learn more about my research or contribute to this project by discussing your experiences with frac sand operations, please send me an email or call me at my UW-Stout office.

In my research, I have been using ethnographic methods, such as participant observation and informal interviewing, to document how local communities are responding to the changes caused by frac sand operations. Three general questions guide my inquiry:
  1. How does society determine who has the right to permanently transform the natural environment? What explicit or tacit ethical considerations come into play? When are concerns about fairness, equity, environmental justice factored in? I am interested in how various actors, such as citizens, local governments, and private companies, negotiate and contest the right to transform shared landscapes and exploit natural resources through mining. 
  2. What impact does this have on local communities and democratic processes? I am exploring how the rapid expansion of industrial scale frac sand mining affects community cohesion and local democratic control over land use, natural resources, and decision-making processes. How do larger, even global economic and political forces influence local conflicts over frac sand? How do such forces trigger dramatic land-use changes in specific places? 
  3. What new forms of community organizing are taking shape in response to frac sand mining? I am documenting how and why numerous local citizens groups have organized to address frac sand issues.  
I welcome comments on this research or my blog.

Tom Pearson

I'm the guy on the far left.
This photo was taken in Bridge Creek, Eau Claire, in 2014. Courtesy of Public Lab.

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