Sunday, May 17, 2015

Some Philosophical Observations About "Community Rights," Pipeline Fights, and "Rights of Nature"

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee, 5.15.15


*The following is a set of observations posted on a Lancaster On-Line article, written by Ad Crable

"What is track record of community-rights ordinances sought by some in Conestoga and Martic townships?" at: What is track record of community-rights ordinances sought by some in Conestoga and Martic townships? - LancasterOnline: Local News


There are certainly many very important issues here--the pipeline being one, but not the only one.

First, and most importantly, what is at stake is the fundamental idea that communities have a right to self-determination. At one level, this seems obvious, and clearly consistent with the democratic ideal that a community--as a body of voting members--ought to be able to determine the character and ordinance structure of that body. There is much to recommend this. But it also must be said that if a community is going to uphold equality and justice as essential governing principles, it must--MUST--act not only in its own interest, but that of communities affected by its decisions. Although the CELDF/Community Rights Network aims certainly do not oppose these principles, there's also little particularly explicit in their current presentation that emphasizes their significance. And this does matter--greatly. 

For example, what prevents Community X along the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline ROW from enacting a CR ordinance, and then determining that what's in their best interest is hosting the pipeline? Perhaps they decide that since their township is, say, an unlikely site for a Compressor and their not really in drilling country, that their monetary gains outweigh the risk from potential pipeline explosions or leaks? What if this is a relatively poor and small township--and Williams has offered them some substantial bribe? It IS a bribe--and we all know it. But that's not really the point. The point is that what in the current CELDF promotion of a charter--something Community X HAS adopted--prevents Community X from deciding something that is manifestly damaging to Community Y? 

And to be clear--I have ENORMOUS respect for the community rights approach--but I also can see plainly that it is not a panacea for solving the tremendously serious issues we face with respect to the environmental costs of the gas company buildout--cost that outweigh in important respects the capacities of any community--some which simply do demand an approach BIGGER than any community.


Second, CELDF's perfectly reasonable response to my critique here might be this: Community charters ought to be drafted consistent with these principles--equality and justice, and the "rights of nature." Any charter not so drafted is not adequately democratic and does not EXPAND rights. 

Well and good. 

But this does not and cannot go nearly far enough.

Here's why:
A community--and we have copious examples--can absolutely agree to these principles, AND determine that they apply to some who then count as members while others do not. A community can decide, for example, that the criteria for membership depends on sex, ethnicity, gender, or species status. ELDF can rightly decry this as discrimination--but without clear criteria for determining what/who counts as a member, "expansion" remains elusive. Let me give a specific example: If my understanding is correct, one township on the pipeline corridor recently held a chicken Bar-b-que to raise money for its community rights efforts. 

Fine. 

But this effectively makes a determination that nonhuman animals are not to be accounted as members with any right to equality in any respect in their particular vision of "Community." This stands in direct conflict with CELDF's specific referencing to "rights of nature." Or: If chickens are not to be counted as community members in any sense--minimally that they have a right not to be killed unnecessarily, then this township has a duty to explain as a part of their understanding of their own charter WHY. The upshot is clear: It's one thing to talk about justice and equality. It's another to enact it as a chartered part of a community's forward-moving structure. 

And WHO is to count is as essential to that charter as it could possibly be. Moreover, if the meaning of "expansion" does not include very explicit and clear language concerning one community's relationship to others affected by its chartered decisions, it's hard to see how conflicts will be resolved. 

Let me offer one more example here: let's say that the township that held the chicken Bar-b-que sold chicken raised at a factory farm. What that means in effect is that while they oppose a pipeline, they do not oppose factory farming--at least chickens. In addition to this seeming VERY inconsistent with their concern for the health and welfare of their own community members--since animal agriculture is a FAR more serious immediate and long-term health hazard for people in and out of that community--it is clearly not in keeping with any concern for the health and welfare of people in other communities who may very well be affected by, say, Tyson's proposal to build a factory farm in that county. 

How does CELDF litigate between the community who--at least judging by their behavior-- is OK with the prospect of factory farms and the community who opposes them? Perhaps this seems apples and oranges with pipelines--but it manifestly is not. VOCs wafting from compressor stations and toxic pollutants wafting from factory farms across relatively wide distance on a breezy day affect folks OUTSIDE the community where the specific facility is located. How does a community rights charter deal with this? To be clear again--I favor the community rights approach. But it has begun to worry me greatly that some really deep-going and fundamental issues have not seen the light of day.


Third, there is much to be said about the meaning of "rights of nature." But if CELDF is really committed to that principled idea, how does it sanction a community that has a Chicken Bar-b-que to raise money to wage its community rights campaign? This strikes me as a tad bit mercenary. That is, is CELDF so committed to a win in this community that it is willing to sacrifice a central tenet of its platform in order to advance that community's charter? I don't know the answer here--but what I do know is that CELDF is caught in a Queen's fork here:

1. If what CELDF means by "community rights" necessarily includes nonhuman nature and animals, then it cannot attach its name to an event that violates the rights of nonhuman animals (especially factory farm animals whose lives have been nothing but misery). That includes chickens. 

2. If what CELDF means by "community rights" is negotiable around nonhuman animals, it's negotiable around human animals. Hence nothing prevents a community from writing a charter that converts women to sex slaves or any other group of people into subservients. 

3. If CELDF's response here is that ALL charters must recognize at least people equally, fine--but then it must remove its references to rights of nature. 
4. If CELDF removed the references to rights of nature, any and all cases against factory farms, and gas company activity including pipelines is seriously weakened since a crucial part of the fight against the latter industry was premised on environmental considerations.


Fourth, I appreciate greatly CELDF's Chad Nicholson's point that people are tired of having no options. But the fundamental fact here is that while a community charter is at least potentially better than the township structure that clearly privileged corporations--CELDF is right on the money here--it will still mean very little unless the community members empowered by the charter are willing to actively defend it. And with respect to the pipeline, that could mean a siege--very much like the defense at Crestwood at Lake Seneca. In other words, there is NO charter, ordinance, law, policy--anything--that's going to keep out that pipeline without the willingness of citizens across the Pipeline ROW to join with others from neighboring communities with their BODIES to defend it.

I make this obvious point as another way of expressing the crucial observation about cross-community communication and organization. This could not be more essential than with a pipeline. Moreover, while it is certainly in the interest of CELDF as an organization looking to advance a highly laudable campaign to re-empower citizens over corporations in the U.S.--a campaign for which I applaud them--it is another thing for particular communities to be the effective test cases in the service of that larger objective. 

It is no doubt true that there's no other way to get to that larger objective than through communities adopting charters. But that does not mean and cannot mean that particular communities can be sacrificed along the way. CELDF MUST take on the responsibility of standing with the communities they offer to assist--and if these mean great sums of free legal service, pepper spray in the face, arrests, then so be it. There's no revolution without revolutionaries.

And I put it this way not to by incendiary, but to make it clear that CELDF's premises about the powers of corporations trumping those of private citizens is absolutely on the money--but what taking back what is rightfully ours means IS nothing short of a revolutionary objective. We need to be and have a right to be clear about what this morally defensible objective is.


Fifth, and lastly, it bears repeating a thousand times that there is NO reason whatever to believe that FERC has any other interest but permitting this pipeline. Register objections. Absolutely. 

But ONLY because we have the right to an historical record where we have clearly said NO to this incursion on our rights and our lands. FERC WILL approve this pipeline. Make no mistake about it. Township supervisors WILL be bribed into silence about it. County Commissioners--ditto. 

A charter may be the beginning of your assertion of your right to clean air and water--but it cannot be more than that. 

Pittsburgh's charter is commonly referred to as a successful example of where a community rights approach has been successful. I would caution us all to be thinking about this. No gas company was going to risk drilling IN Pittsburgh. The hazards were far too great, the outcry too loud. 

Rural communities are a VERY different animal. Fewer people, more bribable old boy township boards and county structure--lots of sparsely populated land. Our lives just don't rate as highly--and so it is doubly important for communities to band together.

But that is precisely what raises the first set of questions I have posed here.

Put differently: many issues lend themselves to a community rights approach. But some--and especially where the issues have GLOBAL consequences--are not as obvious a fit. 

Any industry as intimately connected to the emission of greenhouse gasses is one. The reason why is because what one community does in choosing FOR any bit of gas infrastructure contributes to climate change. 

In other words, it's a fairly easy thing to stand up for the rights of one's own community. It's a far harder thing to see the implications of one's community for the GLOBAL community. 

A collection of independent communities, each with their own charters no matter how humane and thoughtful, does not necessarily make a sustainable--much less desirable--future for the planet.

Monday, March 16, 2015

When the Roots Aren't Made of Grass, the Solutions Save the System, and the Only Thing Hotter than the Planet is the Bacon



About two thirds of the way into Josh Fox' Solutions Grassroots Tour performance at Clarke Chapel, Lycoming College, Pennsylvania, I and my partner, Kevin Heatley, got up and walked out. We weren't noisy--but we were definitive. 

I could say that Fox' gig just wasn't very well put together (it wasn't), or that it seemed pretty cheesy on the side of a pitch for his new installment in the Gasland documentary series (it was). I could say that the "theater" promised in the trailer was wholly MIA, and that it wasn't much of a concert--but the surprise musical guests were really really great.


Nope, I got up and walked out because the Progessive Democrat brand of politics being sold to an audience mostly made up of all the usual anti-fracking movement suspects--and no one really new--is a recipe for reinforcing the very system of commodification and exchange that generates endemic social and economic injustice and--through both willful blindness and the demand that the solutions be easy--contributes to climate change.



Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
We walked out because it's just not true that we Westerners can keep consuming practically everything at the massive level we do, and that--just by the easy-peasy switch from centralized fossil fuel production to centralized solar and wind--we're actually making a substantial difference.

Here's just a few reasons why:


1. Corporatized solar/wind is as much a privatizing of a public utility as were fossil fuels, and therefore every bit as much the province of the profit motive as are their predecessors. For anyone committed to the view that a system--in this case globalized corporatism--capable of converting public utilities into private profit ventures is intrinsically inconsistent with basic human rights of access to necessities like water, the prospect of any privatized and corporatized control of a centralized power grid ought to be troubling. It doesn't matter, moreover, what the resource is--if people and nonhuman animal lives depend on it, it ought not ever be a source of profit-generation. What goes for water goes for education goes for medicine goes for heat. We have precisely no more reason to think poor folks will benefit from this systemic reinforcement of a national--and global--system of economic class than we did under the fossil fuel barons--and every reason to believe otherwise. By making solar and wind power just another high stakes commodity for big corporate players, we will do damage to our communities--and we will maintain a class structure that was mirrored in that chapel: white, relatively affluent, Western.


2. In addition to reinforcing a system--centralized corporatized utilities--that re-produces an economic and class system within which some benefit while others are likely to continue to struggle to pay their utility bills, still others--out of sight and apparently out of mind--remain vulnerable to labor exploitation and to exposure to harmful toxins in the manufacture of these panels. As reported by National Geographic, although solar panels are certainly an improvement over coal-fired power plants because they produce renewable energy:



[f]abricating the panels requires caustic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, and the process uses water as well as electricity, the production of which emits greenhouse gases. It also creates waste. These problems could undercut solar's ability to fight climate change and reduce environmental toxics. (How Green Are Those Solar Panels, Really?)
Among these chemicals is cadmium: "OSHA estimates that 300,000 workers are exposed to cadmium in the United States. Worker exposure to cadmium can occur in all industry sectors but mostly in manufacturing and construction. Workers may be exposed during smelting and refining of metals, and manufacturing batteries, plastics, coatings, and solar panels." (Safety and Health Topics | Cadmium).

To be clear, considerable improvements are and will likely continue to be made in the manufacture of solar panels (see: Solar Energy Isn’t Always as Green as You Think - IEEE Spectrum). There is much to recommend them. 


But to blithely entrust the manufacture and marketing of solar technology to the same economic and political system that generated the conditions of deforestation, desertification, species extinction, pollution, and climate change is folly in the extreme--and that is precisely what the Solutions Grassroots Tour is doing. Indeed, just because a corporation has the word "ethical" in its name is no guarantee that they actually care about how their product is manufactured.


Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

For example, Ethical Electric--one of the companies for which Fox stumps on the tour--includes nothing whatever on their website about their commitment to insuring that their solar or wind energy suppliers from the "wholesale market" are themselves committed to fair labor practices or safe working conditions--and there is nothing on their "activism" page that speaks to these central issues. Although they claim on their "mission" page to be committed as a B-Corps corporation to "having a positive impact on the world and benefitting society," they provide no information about how they do that other than by being a renewable energy supplier company. Indeed, Ethical Electric propagandizes the idea that just by signing up with them and their 56,000 customers, you're part of a "movement," a tidily cathartic claim for the activist who wants an easy way to feel good about themselves--all the while being given a pass to wholly ignore how solar panels are actually made--and by whom (Ethical Electric). To be fair, CEO Tom Matzzie could rightly respond that the 588,471 pounds of Co2 not emitted into the atmosphere since 2012 is a contribution to mitigating climate change, and that is also a contribution to an improved global environment. But this is cold comfort to the developing world laborer whose potential for toxic exposure is very likely to rise as the competition for alternative sources of energy heats up (no pun intended).

We can tell a similar story about the manufacture of industrial scale wind turbines which requires a substantial commitment to mining rare earth metals--itself a serious environmental and toxic exposure problem:


[E]very wind farm has a few turbines standing idle because their fragile gearboxes have broken down. They can be fixed, of course, but that takes time – and meanwhile wind power isn’t being gathered. Now you can make a more reliable wind turbine that doesn’t need a gearbox at all, King points out, but you need truckload of so-called "rare earth" metals to do it, and there simply isn't the supply. (A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is Hindering Green Technologies by Nicola Jones: Yale Environment 360).

The moral of both wind and solar technology production is the same: if the winners of centralized utility scale renewables benefit at the cost of others--especially all of the same others both at home trying to make their heating bills and in the global economies of extraction--as labor and resources--then we're just lying to ourselves that what we have are really "renewables," are a "solution" to climate change--and most of all are in any way socially or economically just. If it ain't accessible as well as renewable for my neighbor here and everywhere, it ain't really renewable for me. And to whatever extent I am participating in the reproduction of exploitive labor conditions in addition to ecologically damaging ones--even if CO2 emissions are reduced--I am still responsible for harm. 


3. The number of times the word "easy" appears on the Solutions Grassroots website is designed to give us the impression that just switching over to, say, Sungevity (where you can get $750.00 and Solutions Grassroots gets $750.00 for finding the company through the tour), is a real and meaningful contribution to mitigating climate change. This is deceptive. Fact is, the word "conservation" didn't appear once in the hour I spent at the Clarke Chapel--but the notion that we in the West can continue to live the way we live, consume what we consume, and ignore what we ignore is crazy. Fact is, we haven't gotten even close to confronting one of the most significant contributions to climate change--one that all the solar panels and wind turbines in the world aren't going to affect one bit: animal agriculture.


4. There's a tremendous lots more to be said here, but suffice it for now that it's a sure sign that we don't really expect any real change in the activist audience--let alone the sort of systemic change that's clearly demanded if we're to mitigate climate change--that no one even whispers "factory farm" in the equation. But the facts here are as plain as the day for any animal unfortunate enough to be born into a factory farm is horrific. From Cowspiracy (COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret)



The moral here is obvious: stop eating bacon. In fact, stop eating beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Stop now. "A plant based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%" (COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret).

Here's at least two implications that follow directly from the facts above--neither of which rated any mention at Solutions Grassroots:

1. If we put an end to animal agriculture in all of its forms--including sea and ocean--we could keep on driving our Hummers and still significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
 2. Conversely, we could convert every fossil fuel consuming industry, car--whatever--into a solar and/or wind-driven dream--and it isn't going to make any but the most teeny of differences to climate change if we don't end animal agriculture.
Obviously, if we really gave a tinker's damn, we'd do both--we'd stop eating, wearing, using animal products altogether--now that's easy!--and we'd head for decentralized, truly community based solar and wind solutions--with a clear eye to the conditions under which everything we use and consume is produced.

So why wasn't animal agriculture prominently featured in Mr Fox' Solutions Grassroots tour?

Because there's nothing whatever grassroots about Solutions Grassroots.

I actually have no clue what Mr. Fox means by "grassroots." But what I do know is that he doesn't mean:

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
1. Solutions to energy consumption. Fox' program plays like an infomercial for Big Alternative Still-Centralized Energy like Ethical Energy, Solar City, etc. And we've got no really good reason to think that these companies are any more interested in you or your community going solo than Big Gas does. Their first objective is to make a profit, and they're not going to make it off you or your neighbors if you've got it figured out for yourselves--along perhaps with a nifty community rights bill that keeps out the Big Players. Hells Bells, even if the Big Players are renewables, that by itself is no justification for sanctioning the labor abuses and environmental destruction you're buying into when you sign up with them.

2. Looking to the grassroots anti-carbon extraction community for sponsorship of his message: that the Responsible Drilling Alliance sponsored the Clarke Chapel gig suggests that (a) Mr. Fox or his people have no idea what grassroots organizing in Pennsylvania looks like, (b) Mr. Fox simply called up friends he happened to know in PA, and/or (c) Mr. Fox doesn't really care much where the sponsorship money comes from. All are troubling since RDA is in no way anti-drilling. Indeed, the meme "responsible drilling" has been publicly and enthusiastically appropriated by Department of Environmental Protection's new leader John Quigley who--following the governor's lead to "have our cake and eat it too"--is now spouting the meme as the rallying cry for thousands of new wells, compressors, and pipeline.  Mr. Fox mentioned that he understood the Williamsport region as the "belly of the beast." Indeed, it is--and among those he should be thanking for their contribution to the gas industry's despoiling of Lycoming County is RDA. Not only is RDA in no way "grassroots"--arguing for the protection of "special places" that are manifestly not your back yard or your working class neighbor's--they're not even anti-fracking.

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

3. The big donors listed on the Solutions Grassroots homepage like the Rockfellers who--behind the green-washing magical words "divestment" have (a) not actually divested from natural gas and transport--at least yet, and (b) were clearly more interested in making sure their companies are viable into the future than they are the future of the planet:

The Rockefeller family is attracting adulatory press coverage for its decision to divest their $860 million charity, the Rockefeller's Brother's Fund, of its investment in fossil fuels. There are at least two significant catches, however. As the statement from the Rockefeller's Brother's Fund puts it: 
 Given the structure of some commingled investment funds and investments in highly diversified energy companies, we recognize that there may continue to be minimal investments in out portfolio in those energy sectors, but we are committed to reducing our exposure to coal and tar sands to less than 1% of the total portfolio by the end of 2014...we are also undertaking a comprehensive analysis of out exposure to any remaining fossil fuel investments and will work with the RBF investment committee and board of trustees to determine an appropriate strategy for further divestment over the next few years.
Second, there's no word at all indicating that Rockefeller and Co., the family investment and wealth management firm, that says it has $44 billion of Rockefeller and outside money undermanagement, will follow suit. As recently as November of 2012, Rockefeller and Co. was touting North American shale oil and natural gas as a "once or twice in every generation" investment opportunity...It's as if the Rockfeller family decided that vegetarianism  is such a fine idea that by year end all of its household staff are going to stop eating meat. Divest the charity from fossil fuels, but not the family's own personal wealth and not the wealth of the clients that the family earns money for managing. (Rockefeller Energy Divestment :: The Future of Capitalism)

This is a lot of hypocrisy for Mr. Fox to sleep with at night.

But here's the far more important upshot: Mr. Fox' Solutions Grassroots Tour is really just one more example of "in the box," "in the system," "in the Democratic Party's Political Tank" thinking. By making an infomercial for Big Solar and Big Wind, by wholly ignoring the more uncomfortable issues of conservation and animal agriculture, by making an advertisement for the "easy activism" of switching from one centralized industry to another, he effectively just creates one more apology for the same-old neo-liberalism that got us the global disparities of North and South, the 1%, the conditions of contemporary war and terrorism, and climate change in the first place. 


Why on earth would we think that the same centralized structures of power and wealth that got us this list of woe could get us to a desirable future--even a survivable one?


It won't.  Mr. Fox doesn't have much excuse for not knowing better.


But this isn't really about him since neither do any of the adoring fans in his audience have that excuse. I think we have a right to expect a lot better from our leaders and heros. 


But "leader" and "hero" are not necessarily, I have learned, the same thing as "frack-a-lebrity," and Mr. Fox is clearly more interested in avoiding offense than mitigating climate change.




Thing is, we absolutely positively could do the right thing by our families and our communities. We have the roof tops. We have the science. We have the capacity for a conscience. We can say no to a system that systematically reinforces global economic disparity, social injustice, animal cruelty,   and ecological destruction. 

It won't be easy

But when was the worthwhile ever easy? It wasn't easy to get up and walk out of the Clarke Chapel--but to stay knowing that by doing so Kevin and I had signed on to the next fawning endorsement of the same old status quo...nah.

Better to be able to sleep at night.

Wendy Lynne Lee




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Citizens are not Subjects, Reform is not Revolution: A Letter to My Friends in the Pennsylvania Anti-Fracking Movement



Gas Line Trail, Cammal, PA near Pine Creek, 5.14
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee



Dear friends,

My message is a simple one: there are reasons why the anti-fracking movement in Pennsylvania has thus far failed to staunch the liquidation of the state, and if we do not begin the difficult task of asking what these are, there will be little left to salvage. 


Our collective self-respect will be among the casualties.

Yet we seem to be far more devoted to maintaining our social ties that our moral objectives. This, I think, is because we don't have a single clear objective. 

When our leaders cannot bring themselves to whisper the word "ban" for fear of offending or alienating their elected representatives--when they let the rest of us act as the Hoplites while they pontificate about harms at their next media event in front of a mic--that is no movement. 

That's something more like a corporation who, like any such organization has as its first objective the reproduction of itself--a reproduction that requires either that the harms continue or that something out of which we can create equal celebrity replace them.

Be that as it may, the Pennsylvania anti-fracking movement has had some spectacular moments--most of them a direct challenge to the system that disenfranchises our citizenship virtually autonomically.


The trouble is that ultimately these moments 
must come to something more than 
the placeholder that the word "movement" fills. 

Because the Gas Behemoth against which we were compelled to move was so daunting, we could not afford to remain a few moments of movement.

We needed to become an insurgency--but we seem not to have the stomach for it--returning over and over again to the same worn strategies, appealing to the same system of law that undermines us.


The truth is that a movement so fragile 
that it cannot even look in the face of 
its critic's arguments--
much less digest those arguments 
and respond to their reasoning-- 
is not a movement at all. 

I have argued that a movement whose capitulation to the thin blood of "halts" and "better regulation" and "moratorium"--notions that appear to infuse its very bone marrow--is not only doomed to anemia and slow death--but to the pre-emption of its very purpose as a movement. 

Why would any industry ever accede to a ban when they know its leaders will settle for the withering diorama that's left of the state forest? When they know that we can be intimidated by as little as a request for a survey of our lands?

The gas industry has billions of dollars at stake--and all the immense power that goes with it. Yet we think standing on the steps of the capitol building in the middle of a workday will move them to reconsider.

The governor tosses off a crumb from the frack cake he will have and eat too, and we drop to our knees in thanks--all the while he signs more permits to poison us with his free hand.


When did our disposition become so servile and cloying?

We thought the enemy was the gas industry, but truly it is our own unwillingness to see that until we are willing to put our bodies by the thousands in front of the drill rigs and trucks, nothing is going to change.

Instead, we lie to ourselves and to our fellows--insisting to them that the next petition will matter, the next 10 am Tuesday protest, the next plea to the Gas Wolf Governor.


And then the harm continues. 
Truth is, we simply do not care enough.
Or we are too afraid to challenge the system 
that allows our employers to fire us 
for participating in our own lives as citizens.

Even worse, the essentially fascist state and its industry partners are more than accommodating of our current strategies because these strategies exhaust us, keep us where law enforcement can conveniently surveil us, and are reliably ineffectual. 

The movement in its current incarnation is a gift to law enforcement--especially since they get to pretend we are some sort of threat, and we get to pretend we're making headway.


But this is all a game. Same moves. Different day. 

All the while the systematic destruction of our air and water continues as the "energy sector" becomes more and more in control of every aspect of our lives.

The thing is--I wish I were wrong.

But this is what I have come to see. 

And I feel certain that no one will want to mount a counter-argument--not because there might not be one--but because we have little stomach for truth, preferring to lie to ourselves instead about how much we're accomplishing. 

The facts tell a very different story.

So long as we continue to invest our faith in a system of law rigged in its very origins and objectives against us--so long as we continue to appeal for remedy to that system even though the predictable outcomes remain the same--we will continue to see the same tragic results. 

And the fault is not the gas industry who simply acts like the consumption machine that it is.


The fault is ours.


We are so myopic and parochial in our vision 
that we cannot see that it's not fracking 
that's the crisis--
it's the system of laws that privilege the wealthy 
and the corporatized that creates us 
not as citizens but as subjects--
not as rights-bearing members 
of communities, 
but as labor, as consumer-- 
as disposable.

More drilling permits, more pollution, more deforestation, more property value loss, more explosions, more damaged streams, more cancer, more asthma, more birth defects, more neurological disease, more harm.


That is the legacy of subjects 
whose value is measured 
in the terms of production and commodities--
not intrinsic worth and not as life.

We are not merely sacrifice zones--we are  impediments that must be moved out of the way--and we routinely oblige.  

We evince this blind faith in a system that makes us subjects--but not citizens--every time we appeal to FERC, every time we seek remedy through the courts, every time we respect a "free speech" zone--every time we move just because we are told to move.

We are convinced of the very myth that law enforcement would have us believe--that if we do not obey the law, we are guilty of a violence.


We know unequivocally that we are governed 
by the threat of force and through intimidation--
but we cannot bring ourselves to 
challenge the system 
that denudes our communities 
and makes a mockery 
of our aspirations to democracy.

We also know that solidarity is forged out of experience--something for which the mere repetition of petitions and signs and press releases and newsletters and photo-ops cannot provide sufficient fire in the belly.

As long as we believe that the system will ultimately work, we will never be able to muster the collective courage to take a decisive stand against what is a fascist relationship between the government, law enforcement, the gas industry, and the burgeoning private security firms that make up organizations like the Marcellus Shale Operator's Crime Committee and its proliferating analogues.

And so long as our leaders seem more interested in celebrity-frack-alebrity--than in actually organizing an insurgency against a system that autonomically disenfranchises us all well beyond the drill bit and the pipelines, we will see at best the cosmetic change offered on occasion as a moratorium re-instatement, a pipeline relocation, a fine.


But only subjects are satiated by these stale crumbs, 
and a cosmetic fix is nothing more 
than a cover story.

Citizens demand more--not cake, mind you, but the far more filling bread of rights exercised and objectives won.

We cannot afford to lose--it is our existential conditions that are at stake. 

It is the existential conditions of our neighbors that are at stake.

Wendy