3.3 Critical Events to Inspire Discussion

Winifred Athembo; Lee Beavington; and Deirdre Maultsaid


Daniel has a routine of riding a horse or an all-terrain vehicle around the ranch to check on the cattle, fence lines, weather, etc. One day, he notices a terrible rotten egg smell on one of their pastures. He thinks he sees continuous bubbling in a low area and patches of mist floating near the ground. The grass nearby looks white. Daniel also notices some sinkholes about three meters wide. A little further in the pasture, Daniel notices two cows standing very close together. When he encourages them to move along, they limp away with broken or sprained legs, probably from tripping in the sinkholes. Daniel and a ranch hand take these cows into the barn and ask Chida to call the veterinarian. The cows have their broken legs splinted and are resting.

Daniel tells his parents the whole story, and Chida calls Western Energy. A representative of Western Energy calls back two days later and asks the ranchers to take photos and describe what they see. Chida and Daniel take photos and compose the email, including the bubbling, the smell, the caved-in area and the injured cattle. Daniel’s version of the email sounds angry and demanding. Aaron asks him to change the tone so that it does not sound hostile, as this might prevent them from getting help from the company. Chida sends the toned-down version of the email.

The Western Energy representative emails and informs them that the venting and bubbling are “acceptable leakage” and states that they will visit the ranch on their next scheduled rotation in a month. The representative does not mention the injured cattle. After the family reads the email, they have a discussion.

Dialogue between Aaron, Chida and Daniel

Aaron: Sounds like we don’t need to worry. The company will check it out later.

Daniel: Dad, what are you talking about? The ground has caved in. Something is bubbling up! That can’t be good. We need some independent researchers to assess this, maybe from the university. Nothing about this setup sounds safe anymore. They already left their garbage on that burned out patch on the south slope.

Aaron: We have a contract, and we can’t survive without it. Stock prices are going down.

Daniel: Mom? What do you think? We can’t keep hosting Western. Pipelines aren’t popular anymore.

Chida: Daniel, the pipeline is already here. It can’t just be dug out. It’s like a road.

Daniel: I don’t care. And Western clearly doesn’t care about our ranch. We need to do something. Mom, tell Dad!

Chida: I am worried about the cows.

Aaron: Let’s wait for them to do their inspection. We’ll have a clearer picture then.

Daniel: But they didn’t even mention the cows. They didn’t apologize. They are destroying our place. You know, they might listen to a lawyer.

Aaron: Son, that will just agitate them. Let’s wait for Western to come out. We can talk more then.

Chida: Okay.

Daniel doesn’t say anything more.


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Cases on Social Issues: For Class Discussion - 2nd Edition Copyright © 2023 by Winifred Athembo; Lee Beavington; and Deirdre Maultsaid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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