Just Say No To Fracking

Bhopal. Exxon Valdez. Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. Love Canal. Dimock, PA? And is upstate New York next?

I am not well-versed in the politics, nor the science, involved in natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. I don’t know benzene from formaldehyde, and when you say arsenic, I think “old lace.” But I do know a little about human emotions, and I know a little more about what it means to live in the Catskill forest, inside the blue line.

Right now we have a crisis on our hands, and a moratorium (or a ban) on drilling in this area – upstate NY and neighboring PA – seems like our only hope for maintaining our health, our drinking water, our fishing streams, our tourism industry, our breathable air, etc. It sounds dire. It is. I sound histrionic. I know. Let’s hope one day you can tease me about this and we’ll all have a good laugh (remember Y2K?).

But clamoring for a moratorium or a ban on drilling sounds like taking up the rallying cry of “Just Say No.” Of course we say no. Of course we implore our elected officials to say no. But saying no isn’t enough. Saying no doesn’t change the fundamental problems that existed before Inflection Energy pursued lease arrangements in Broome County, NY. The lack of local opportunities for good jobs and the expenses of maintaining a farm combined to make fertile ground for the gas companies to plant an insidious seed. In one simple transaction, years of debt and stress can evaporate. Counties can balance their budgets. That thought that I can get my family out from under a devastating debtload is compelling. Add the drillers’ promises of safe practices and low impact technology and it is very compelling. But the stories that have emerged post drilling are even more frightening.

Damn good reasons to say no are abundant, and abundantly obvious. I won’t reiterate them here. My point is that we must address the problems that render us vulnerable to economic blackmail. We have to decide where, how, to what and to whom we say yes. Yes, we will support local small business owners and farmers. Yes, we will change out consumption patterns to be more energy conscious. Yes, we will support and protect our neighbors’ interests trusting that they have our back too. Yes, we will use the image of an underground aquifer as a metaphor for the vast and sometimes unknown connections among potentially disparate people. Yes, we will take responsibility for our actions, accepting that while not always cheap or convenient, the alternative is a fracking disaster.

I go to the Kingston Farmers’ Market every week for two reasons. The first is to shop: I buy the stuff I know I can’t get at my CSA that week, like fruit or cheese. The second reason I make the trip is that this particular market feels alive. It is vibrant and bustling, full of people buying. It is an example of supporting local efforts that works. It makes sense and it makes cents. It reeks of recovery and health. It is an oasis of hope: real cold-hard-cash-based hope. Spend some time there. I promise it will feed your soul.

So yeah, just say no to drilling. No fracking up our air, no fracking with our health. But remember, that’s only half of the equation. We have to live in a way that makes us all strong and healthy, individually, as families, as communities and as a region. WE have to do it, not our politicians. Their role is to say no, to listen to us, and to stop this threat. Our role is to tell them what to say yes to – to tell them we want to support small scale organic farmers, light manufacturing, renewable clean energy technologies, and that we want small businesses to have a fighting chance to compete against big box bullies.

Please let me know what you think. How do you navigate the maze of decisions you have to make about how much you drive, where you shop, what you support, and how you protest. Let’s share ideas and hope. And sign those “just say no” petitions every chance you get. The water you save may be your own.

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