“I haven’t seen an issue that’s affected so many people in so many places,” Doug Shields, former member of the Pittsburgh City Council, remarked at Stop the Frack Attack rally last Saturday. And indeed, the thousands assembled on the lawn of the US Capitol Building reflected this truth. From as far as California and even Australia, Ohio and Minnesota, normal folks turned “fracktivists” descended on Washington last weekend.
Those of us in the environmental community can craft a solid argument around the severity of the climate crisis. For example, Bill McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone locks down the logic pretty tight.
The battles ahead are clear. Just this week, the House approved HR 6082, which opens up drilling and leasing in the Arctic and Outer-Continental Shelf. The final permit for the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline just went through. This summer we’re reeling from the weather-related impacts of climate change, from extreme temperatures to forest fires. And to date, this Congress has taken over $20 million in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Our work is cut out for us. And it’s pretty daunting.
In the face of what McKibben fairly describes as “the greatest challenge humans have ever faced,” sometimes it’s the stories that keep the motivation going.
And that’s the beauty of an event like Stop the Frack Attack. Not only did we spend three days talking policy and strategy around fracking, but we shared the many personal reasons why this issue matters to us. We shared our connection to this issue, as mothers, community members, business owners, farmers, and more. These stories remind us that as a movement, we have tremendous power.
Here are a couple of the snapshots from the weekend.
Carolyn, her daughter Zoe and their little poodle traveled to Washington from Columbus, Ohio. It’s Zoe’s first political rally, and she was busy handwriting her sign and decorating it with various anti-fracking stickers she’d picked up throughout the day. “We had to be here,” Carolyn commented. “We have to make sure that our President knows that this is unacceptable. Fracking poisons our children’s water, air and soil. We’re here to expose it, and to demand that it stops.”
A woman named Jenny from Pennsylvania explained how she unsuccessfully begged her neighbor to not sell the leases on her land, and once the deals were done how she spent thousands of dollars drilling a water well right on the property line, in a desperate move to keep the rigs from getting too close to her house and children. “A child’s nearest pond is now likely to be a toxic waste pit,” she noted on Thursday. “Will we be refugees from our own homes?”
John, a farmer from Wyoming, described the situation when “progress happened” to his family farm. Some of the wells on his property are within a stone’s throw of his back door, and the value of the land that’s been in his family for 60 years is half what it once was. Although his son wants to continue their way of life on the farm when he’s grown, John doesn’t see how it will be possible. “No matter where we’re from, we need to set aside our differences… We’re talking about human rights… about our land, air, water and natural resources to feed and shelter ourselves,” he commented to a packed room during the Friday evening Town Hall meeting.
“We go to school in Pennsylvania and it’s a big issue there,” students from Gettysburg college remarked as they eagerly took five of the rally signs to carry in the march. “It’s really necessary that we show opposition.” I also met five students from Youngstown who’d traveled all night to be there.
Katie organizes students from across Ohio around fracking. “We’re traditionally a farming state,” she told me. “The threats to our food, air quality and water are reprehensible.”
And a young woman from West Virginia shared an op-ed by her mother, Nancy Bevins, denouncing fracking’s impact on water in the state. “West Virginia, in my humble opinion, is the most beautiful state in the nation. It is like a secret garden, it’s ancient paths and waterways and hidden woods unseen to many from the outside. The best kept secret in the nation. To lose the water that sustains this Eden so that a few corporations can get rich would be criminal… Protect what we have. Take pictures… get the water levels on film,.. If you have a well, get it tested…Work to elect representatives in our state who care about the health, safety and environment of WV and its people,” she writes.
Many of us have similar stories around the issues we’re facing in our own communities, or at the national and global levels. But let’s remember that moments like Stop the Frack Attack, and the many other inspiring events taking place this summer in what is truly shaping up to be a summer of action around climate change, offer hope. The fight against fracking, and to protect our planet, won’t be won quickly. But stories like these can offer some essential nourishment for the journey ahead.