Tasked with writing a blog post about methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure for the Pisces Foundation, a San Francisco-based environmental philanthropy where I work, I contemplated how to make the issue come to life. Commuting on a BART train one morning, I noticed the drawings by one of my favorite illustrators in a cookbook another passenger was reading. It occurred to me that a visual portrayal of the methane issue might be a compelling way to help people understand the problem this pollutant poses. After all, most of us are so bombarded with information that it can be hard for messages to cut through the noise.
While methane emissions from oil and gas operations may seem to be a technical or abstract topic, it is actually a subject that is deeply rooted in the physical world — and one that remains stubbornly relevant. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to the warming of the planet, and methane emissions are rising, in large part due to fossil fuel extraction.
In California, where I live, one can see oil and gas infrastructure in many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and the Central Valley. For the communities that live close to such infrastructure, the health impacts are stark. As the federal government considers rolling back existing regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas operations, affected communities have publicly shared their stories and concerns about health and climate change.
I hope this illustrated series can raise awareness of the methane issue as well as the readily-available solutions that exist to abate it.