I’ve been accumulating some information about the Bakken, so this is the first of a few posts on the subject. The posts will have more to do with the impacts of an oil society on communities rather than specific oil and gas issues.
Lisa Ling is a CNN reporter who hosts This is Life, a series of video-magazine stories that take her on a “gritty, breathtaking journey to the far corners of America.” One episode is entitled “Filthy Rich,” and it deals with the life of women in the Bakken.
There’s no way to tell exactly, but a best-guess estimate of the ratio of men to women in and around Williston is about 10:1. Imagine — in a town of 40,000 people, that’s fewer than 4,000 women.
The episode opens by focusing on a few women who have been brave enough to come to Williston to seek their fortunes. Their stories are inspiring. They are tough. They learn to deal with intolerable housing, tremendous social pressure and numbing isolation, and, for the few who can stick it out, they are able to find high-paying jobs in service industries, in the oil fields, and in transport.
But the second half of the episode deals with the flip side of the stories of those strong women, and it is frightening. The trafficking industry is a substantial part of life around the oilfields, and the stories of who they are and how they got to the Bakken will make you angry.
When we look at the community cost of giving up our communities to the oil industry for temporary riches, we have to recognize that they are daunting. For every new millionaire there are dozens who wash out, and when the rigs are gone, what is left is less than what was there before.
You can watch the episode below.