Fundamentals of Shale Energy Development: Geology, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Environmental, Geopolitical and Socio-economic Impacts

Lesson 1: Constructive Conversations

Lesson 1: Constructive Conversations

Energy and Your Life

Please watch the following video from the Switch Energy Project. (2:12)

Click here for the video transcript.

Dr. Scott Tinker: Most of the time, we are too caught up in modern life to realize that energy makes it all possible. There are obvious things, like our cars, we know those are powered by energy. But everything else is, too. The internet, all phone systems, every appliance, air conditioning and heating, everything in our offices and houses, even while we sleep. We consume energy 24 hours a day. Every single product we buy, like a pair of blue jeans, requires energy. From the time it's made in a factory, washed and dried and worn, and eventually discarded, a pair of jeans uses the equivalent of three gallons of gasoline. You might have 50 gallons of gas in your closet from your blue jeans alone.

And it's not just jeans. Every product is made somewhere, then moved by ship, train, truck, car, sometimes all four, from the factory to your house. Each of those steps is powered by energy. Even things we don't think about, like our food, are only made possible today by energy. It's planted, harvested, processed, packaged, transported, retailed, and bought, using energy all along the way. Huge amounts of energy. In your weekly shopping cart of groceries, there's the equivalent of 22 gallons of gasoline. And then you've gotta cook it.

Everything we do in our lives, from the time we're born, through every day of every year, depends on energy. Every home, every business, every government. Every major issue is underpinned by energy, which is why energy is the most important issue of our time. And by joining the discussion, and sharing these videos with your friends, you can help us move forward toward a smarter energy future.

Think about your energy choices on a daily basis from the time you wake up and turn on the lights until you turn them off before bed.

Throughout this course, we will think about how much energy our society uses and the impacts it may have both economically and environmentally.

What changes can you make each day to reduce your energy use?


This lesson focuses on rules of engagement for the course including constructive communication and academic integrity. This lesson focuses on having constructive conversations about contentious topics. And as everyone knows, Marcellus Shale and Natural Gas Development definitely qualify as contentious topics. One of the reasons we are having this lesson toward the beginning of the class is that it helps to set the stage for how we talk with other people about Marcellus Shale and any other divisive topic. The strategies discussed in this lesson, such as active listening, really shape how you might engage with other people when talking about this topic. Moreover, the skills that we will discuss are applicable to any topic in any domain of life, from work to family life to scientific topics, like Marcellus Shale.

This is the only lesson that doesn't focus on the scientific issues involved in Marcellus Shale. Instead, this lesson provides a framework for understanding conflict management. Most of the other sessions in this class focus on science to help you understand topics like geology, energy use, water, community and environmental and economic impacts, and so forth. However, Marcellus Shale is a very complex and divisive issue and it's hard to talk about these substantive science-related questions if you don't trust who you are talking with. Also, if you think that the process you are engaging in is lousy, that it's stacked toward one side or the other, or there's no chance for public input and so forth, it is difficult to engage in a successful dialogue. So the substance is really just one part of that triangle. People and relationships are the other part of that triangle. Just understanding the science of Marcellus Shale isn't enough to help people make informed decisions. This lesson focuses on the people and relationships component of conflict management.

Main Topics

  • Rationale for discussing constructive conversations within a class on the science of Marcellus Shale
  • Difference between debate and dialogue
  • Three skills for having constructive conversations, which are active listening, mediating, and reframing
  • Academic integrity

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Illustrate an understanding of active listening.
  • Compare position and interest.
  • Demonstrate constructive conversation skills around contentious issues.
  • Pass the Academic Integrity Quiz

Lesson Roadmap

Lesson 1 Roadmap
To Read
To Do
  • Listen to the following series of podcasts This American Life: Game Changer.
  • Participate in Lesson 1 Discussion as follows:
    • Identify 3 examples of each constructive and contentious conversation in the podcasts.
    • Describe how the contentious portions of conversation could be made more constructive.
    • Reply to at least one peer that no other student has replied to. 
  • Complete Penn State's Academic Integrity Training and upload your certificate.