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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thanking the Gas Wolf Governor for "Saving" a Few Acres From the Frack is like Thanking the Armed Robber for Leaving the Curtains After He Guts Your House



Tiadaghton State Forest, construction of a new PG&E well pad, July 2014
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

Fresh out the inaugural gate, Pennsylvania's Governor Gas Wolf wasted no time signing 22 permits to continue the conversion of the state into a giganto-frack-gas factory. 

At the direction of the new governor, (reported by Energy Justice), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),"permitted 22 shale gas wells for five counties in just three days from January 21-23. One of those well permits, Chief Oil’s Teel 4H, is within a mile of a cluster of 19 water wells in Dimock, PA that were spoiled by gas drilling in 2008" (Bad Call: PA Governor Wolf Pursues Drilling on 700,000 Acres of State Land | Energy Justice: Shale Initiative).

The report continues:

The 22 new well permits last week were granted to operators including Chevron, Rex Energy, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Chief Oil, and EQT. Combined, the six drilling companies have been cited for 118 well casing failures by PA DEP, according to a report by Energy Justice Network. Steel and cement well casing failures endanger water supplies across the state.
None of this, of course, is the least bit surprising

Governor Wolf has never as much as hinted that he'd strive for any other but the "have your cake and eat it too" course consistent with the gas company campaign donations, the hand-waving at what would be a disastrous extraction tax, and his promises to use the dirty dollars to fund education.

He even used the disruption of his inaugural speech to reiterate his support for the gas: "“To the protesters here
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
today, I say: help me develop these opportunities in a way that is clean, safe and sustainable.”


The governor's reasoning is deluded to be sure--especially in light of climate change--but it turns out the gas wolf is also smart like a fox.

For in a matter of hours after he signs permits for 22 more frack wells, he delivers a preemptive strike against the potential reaction-of-horror from the anti-fracking movement by bribing it with a teeny tiny "concession" reinstating the moratorium on new leases on public lands.

And we're expected to thank him for that.


That's like thanking the armed robber for leaving the curtains after he terrorizes your family and guts your house. 

That's like thanking the psychotic dictator for leaving one house standing after he torches your town. 

That's like thanking the guy who just beat the shit out of you and took your wallet because he left two of your teeth.

What do these have in common?

You've got no reason to believe that the armed robber, the psychotic dictator, or the thieving assailant are ever going to restore, repair, or return any of your stuff.

You've got no reason to believe that the gas wolf governor is going to do anything other than keep signing permits to frack the state to smithereens.

But here's the really insane part:

You'd never thank the robber, the dictator, or the assailant for leaving your curtains, one house, or your two teeth.

Yet, somehow we're being encouraged by Big Green Sierra Club, and little greenies--The Forest Coalition and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking to applaud the governor's decision to reinstate the moratorium as if being handed a few trees somehow compensates for the other 700,000 acres already robbed, torched, and beat to shit by the gassers--not one inch of which is protected from further battery.

In fact, you're expected to treat what is a straight-up bribe--no new leases on pubic lands-- as if it were a gift even though its a "gift" offered to you after you've already been robbed, torched, and beaten by an assailant who promises you he's coming back!

Even worse--you know the assailant's coming back because he's already unleashed his gasser friends on 22 of your neighbors!

How did we get to such a pathetic groveling place?


PA State Game Lands 75, Tiadaghton State Forest,
new tract cleared by PG&E for a fracking operation, 8.14
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
Answer: by allowing ourselves to be misled by greenies who are willing to work as hard as they can to make crumbs look like cake, wood-lots look like forests, and shit-diamonds look, well, less like shit.


Let's consider three examples:

1. Pennsylvanians Against Fracking: here's the PAF press release--quoted in full, ver batim:


Pennsylvanians Against Fracking regards Governor Tom Wolf’s reinstatement of the moratorium on state forest and park drilling to be an important first step in protecting Pennsylvania from fracking, but continues its call for an end to fracking everywhere in the state. 
Pennsylvanians Against Fracking Calls on Wolf to Stop Fracking Statewide After Parks Ban

Note first that nowhere in this first sentence (and nowhere in the rest of the press release--read on) does PAF include the word "new." Yet, by excluding it, PAF implies that reinstating the moratorium will stop gas drilling in state forests, etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and to omit that essential word "new" is plainly deceptive. Indeed, it makes out the governor to be doing something far more than he is--gettin' the gassers out of the state parks--thereby effectively concealing the tin-trinket-level bribe that this re-instatement really is.

Second, PAF knows that the governor issued 22 new drilling permits, knows what his campaign promises were, and knows who donated big bucks to his run for the governor's mansion.

So why do they keep trying to convince us that he can be persuaded otherwise? Isn't this rather like trying to persuade the armed robber to leave the expensive silverware? He's already robbing your house. Why would he leave the expensive stuff? Hell's bells-- voting for the gas wolf is like leaving your door unlocked. Trying to convince others that he's not really an armed robber is like trying to convince your neighbors to keep their doors unlocked.

But the PAF manipulation of the reader continues:


"Today's decision, just days after hundreds of Pennsylvanians rallied at Governor Wolf's inauguration for a ban on fracking, is evidence of the power of the movement to stop fracking in our state," said Jenny Lisak, of Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, a member of the Pennsylvanians Against Fracking steering committee. “Keeping fracking out of state parks is welcomed news, but I am fearful that the negative impacts of this process will be concentrated in communities already being harmed. We must stop fracking around the state”


To claim that the rally at the Wolf inauguration had anything to do with the governor's decision to re-instate the moratorium on new leases on public lands is simply poppy-cock. Wolf had already made this promise; folks had already been suckered into voting for him on its count. 

At a minimum such a claim commits a post hoc fallacy--assuming a causal connection where there is none for the sake of retaining a self-deceptive belief that the movement is stronger than it is. 

But more likely, the claim's designed to garner support for Pennsylvanians Against Fracking--which would be great if PAF represented itself honestly. But "[k]eeping fracking out of state parks" is not an honest claim--and 700,000 acres shows it. That Jenny Lisak is "fearful that the negative impacts of this process will be concentrated in communities
 already being harmed"--also great--but clearly PAF's not worried about this enough to use the word "ban" in their press releases--opting instead for the far weaker and less definitive term "stop." So I can only assume that what Lisak really means is that fracking should be stopped--but just as the moratorium language implies--until we know it's safe.

Wolf, of course, says that's right now.

A little further down, Karen Feridun--the core of PAF and Berks Gas Truth makes this claim:


“Clearly, Governor Wolf based today’s decision on his willingness to listen to the scientific evidence we had 2010. We’re confident that if he listens to the current science, he’ll have no choice but to protect all Pennsylvanians and end fracking statewide,” said Karen Feridun, of Berks Gas Truth, another member of the Pennsylvanians Against Fracking steering committee

I doubt that anyone seriously believes this. Wolf made his decision based on the capital it would likely buy him with the self-styled representatives of the anti-fracking movement. And if he calculated the effects re-instating this moratorium would likely have--he did a damn good job. 

After all, here we are thanking the armed robber for leaving the curtains.

The notion, moreover, that Governor Wolf has the slightest interest in the science--in 2010 or 2015--has already been laid to rest in his "have our cake and eat it too" remark, so to continue to treat him as if he has anything other than what cache he needs to build to get himself re-elected is just willfully naive--or a strategy to get more sign-ons to PAF.

But what it's not is honest.

 2. The Pennsylvania Forest Coalition (PFC): In a letter sent out today to its list, PFC recommends to its members that they thank the governor for keeping his campaign promise to reinstate the moratorium on leasing on public lands: "Just say "Thanks for keeping your campaign promise." IT'S  THAT  EASY!"

So--should we then thank the governor for keeping his other campaign promises? His promise to continue "natural gas exploration" (such a nice way to put liquidation)? His promise to advance an extraction tax that will institutionalize the industry in the state's tax base? 

Isn't this rather like thanking the robber for leaving the curtains--and then realizing that we also need to thank the robber for stealing everything else and terrorizing our kids--because after all that's what he said he was going to do?

If the fella who's about to beat the shit out of me tells me first, and then does it--leaving two teeth--should I thank him for doing what he said he was going to do because he told me he was going to do it?

Isn't that what consistency requires?

3. The Sierra Club (SC): The biggest win for grotesque political pandering and unabated hypocrisy, however, goes to the Sierra Club who sent out this letter today to its members:


This is big: Governor Wolf just placed a moratorium on new leases for drilling in state parks and forests in Pennsylvania! 

This victory is an important step forward towards protecting our wild places from the oil and gas industry. It wouldn't have been possible without the thousands of letters, rallies and actions taken by changemakers like you, which showed Governor Wolf that Pennsylvanians love their public lands and want them off-limits to fracking. 

Take a moment to show Governor Wolf your support for the moratorium on leases for drilling in state parks and forests! 

By signing this executive order, Governor Wolf demonstrated his integrity by following through on a campaign promise. The governor has listened to the will of the people, and has proven that he takes seriously the constitutional mandate that these lands are held in trust for all inhabitants of our Commonwealth. 

Today's decision is a step in the right direction that Pennsylvania needs in order to move Beyond Natural Gas and keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground. There is much more to do, but this important victory should be an inspiration for Pennsylvania to go all-in on public lands protection and the transition to clean, renewable energy! 

Stand up for protecting Pennsylvania's natural spaces. Take a moment to show Governor Wolf your support for the moratorium on leases for drilling on public lands! 

Thanks for all you do to make Pennsylvania a great place to live! 

Robert GardnerCampaign RepresentativeSierra Club Keep Dirty Fuels in the Ground Initiative 

And then Gardner asks you for money.
   
                                                                                                 

Unlike PAF, at least the Sierra Club identifies the leases as "new." But like PAF and PFC, Gardner fails to mention the other 700,000 acres of the people's land lost to the gassers--and the thousands upon thousands of private acres that make up the sacrifice zones pock-marking the state.

Gardner also repeats the whole-cloth falsehood that pressure on the gas wolf governor from anti-fracking activists had anything to do with this campaign promise--and not just the political expediency of offering us a crumb and demanding we act like its cake.

But this claim about "letters, rallies, and actions" is especially absurd coming from the Sierra Club who not only refused to support the protests at the governor's inauguration--but tried valiantly to censor their own members from wearing SC T-Shirts to the event.

As for "listening to the will of the people," tell that to the people of Dimock who are about to be screwed--again.

The Sierra Club is, in effect, asking us not only to thank the armed robber for leaving the curtains, but is asking us to send them protection money they promise to use to get the robber to think about not robbing us. 

We have, of course, no reason to believe that an organization so worried about its public image with the gas wolf governor that it forbids its own members from wearing Sierra Club baseball caps to a protest is going to use our money to do
anything else than, for example, pay gentlemen like Gardner to write insipid letters just like this one to get us to pony up.

And what do we get for that donation?

We get lied to. Plain and simple. 

We get lied to by what amounts to the BFFs of the armed robber who not only thieves everything from the house, but then tries to convince us that the most important thing in it was the curtains he left.

But what 700,000 liquidated acres means is that what's left is  a woodlot masquerading as a forest--that the curtains--however superficially pretty--are as tattered as the woodlot is really just a cadaver of the forest already gone.

I'm not going to thank the robber for leaving the curtains, or the psychotic dictator for sparing a single house but torching the village--or the assailant who beats me to shit and then thinks I should be grateful for the two teeth he left.

And I am not about to thank the gas wolf governor for leaving a few woodlots while the rest of the state burns. For these woodlots are just like my teeth--each depends on all the others in my mouth. Once the rest have been punched out, the two remaining will not be far behind.






Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Charade of Unity is not Unity; it's an Abuse of Trust and a Prescription for Enduring Harm: Response to Nathan Sooy and Clean Water Action

Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action, and Josh Fox, Gasland
Governor Tom Wolf's inauguration, 1.20.15
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


In his response to a piece I posted recently where I dissect Food and Water Watch's (FWW) Senior organizer Sam Bernhardt's argument  that what the new Pennsylvania governor ought to do is impose a "halt" on new gas leases until the state can
adequately study whether fracking can be done safely--an argument that sounds reasonable on its face, but in fact belies a complete capitulation to Governor Wol'f insistence that we can "have our cake and eat it too--Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action (CWA) posts the following (reproduced ver batim):


Wendy, one problem with your theory is that the anti-fracking movement is entirely dependent on the organizational, institutional and financial resources of the larger environmental organizations. In the history of social change and in the near certainty of cases, something (new social movement activity) nearly always arises from a pre-existing organizational base. In the American Civil Rights Movement, the SNCC sit in movement arose out of the social organizational context of the SCLC and CORE. And SCLC and CORE, in turn, arose from the context created by the NAACP, the Historically Black Colleges, and Gandhian traditions brought to America by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. So, I am not threatened personally by new movements arising out of and possibly in reaction to the organizational basis of the anti-fracking infrastructure in PA that was created by Marcellus Protest, Clean Water Action, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Sierra Club, and others who had a base of funding and staff and whose staff had the time, talent, and inclination to bring activities together. New things happen. But one thing I do know. Individual acts do not a social organization make. You need infrastructure to support, encourage, and develop ongoing organization. And you need funding. If I were you, I would be spending my time organizing that infrastructure to nurture the movement I wanted to create. Wendy Lynne Lee, you are a scholar. I suggest that you take a look at all of this through the context of Resource Mobilization Theory (McCarthy & Zald). New social movement steps do not come out of nothing. It comes out of something that was already nurtured and created. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/sierra.frackers/)

About the only thing Mr. Sooy gets right is the line about how I am a scholar--but this, of course, is intended as damning with faint praise. 

Let's examine Sooy's reasoning:

One of the basic principles of logic involves learning to distinguish necessary from sufficient from contributory causal conditions. Causal arguments that fail to appeal to the correct cause and effect relationship are fallacious--that is, they misidentify the correct causal relationship or they see such a relationship where there is none. 

Sooy commits this causal fallacy in his very first sentence when he claims that "the anti-fracking movement is entirely dependent on the organizational, institutional and financial resources of the larger environmental organizations." In effect, he's claiming that larger environmental organizations are a necessary causal condition for the existence of the anti-fracking movement.

This reasoning is fallacious for at least four reasons:

1. Sooy mistakes contributory (if even that) causal conditions for necessary ones: as the organizing of the disruptive events inside the inaugural venue made abundantly clear, such groups like Clean Water Action, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, and Food and Water Watch not only had no bearing on the success of that disruption, it in fact was successful despite the utter lack of participation of the leaders of these organizations. Indeed, the notion that somehow the courageous folks who risked arrest did so only because they thought they'd have support from Sooy, et. al, is ludicrous. It's like claiming that in his magnificent "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King saw himself as dependent on the white clergy to support the Civil Rights Movement--when precisely the opposite is the case. King chastised his clerical fellows for their lack of committed involvement, their predictable capitulation, their insistence that racial equality had to wait. King moved forward despite the apathy, cowardice, and racist attitudes of his fellow clergy--not because of them. So too, the eight brave folks who were arrested at Governor Gas Wolf's inauguration acted despite the faint-hearted dependence of these faux-environmentals on a political system that rewards them so long as we don't put an end to the fracktastrophe. Note carefully, this is not to say that the risks undertaken by the Wolf protesters are the same as those of the incredibly brave civil rights activists at, say, Selma, Alabama. But it is to say that until we are prepared to take those risks, the gazillion dollar gas industry is going to keep right on fracking and pipelining us into oblivion. And it is to say that because climate change is the global civil rights issue of the 21st century that until we get clear about that fact, we're going to settle for the dry crumbs offered us by these fake greenies.

2. Sooy's position leads to a reductio ad absurdam: if Sooy's correct that the anti-fracking movement is dependent on the bigger environmentals, then there is no movement and there has never been one. The Big Greens cannot brook the possibility of a movement--any movement--since, by definition, a movement lays claim to criticism of the system that has spawned it, refuses to be dependent on a system that generates conditions of harm, and it demands that the system change to prevent that harm or be overthrown. But CWA, et. al. not only fails to challenge that system, it actively benefits from it in the form of donors and political access. As I have argued elsewhere, these groups directly undermine the prospect of any anti-fracking movement from ever emerging by effectively colluding with law enforcement to "protest" only in designated "free speech zones," to not engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, and to not be any real problem to the powers that be. In so doing, they get to portray themselves as the "rational" activists against the "radicals." But the truth is that it is only the radicals--those willing to question the very system that benefits the gas industry, the corrupt political system, and the Big Greens who benefit from both--who will ever get this movement off the ground. To therefore claim that that movement is dependent on these Big Greens is to claim that there is no movement. Of course, Sooy may be right about that--but I don't think that's what he wants.

3. Sooy's argument insures that the gas industry wins, and wins big: to the extent that these smaller wanna-be greenies like CWA and PAF model their organizational structure after the BIG greens like the Sierra Club, they cannot as a matter of policy support any movement. The Sierra Club's explicit policy is to not participate in any act of civil disobedience, and while movements are about many strategies to achieve a goal--like the end of fracking--to preemptively bar members from participating in a direct action insures that unless the goals are very very small (say, moving a pipeline route from my yard to yours) they will not be achieved. No doubt the Sierra Club leadership knows this--so we can only assume that their real objectives have nothing to do with ending fracking, and everything to do with perpetuating and growing the Sierra Club donor base. In that case, of course, SC might as well stand for "sugar candies" or "soggy conjectures"--cuz' that's about as much of a movement as they can support. Nonetheless CWA, PAF, FWW are SC-Clones to the extent that what they value most are their greenie images, their donor base, and their access to whomever is in power.

4. Sooy commits the specific causal fallacy Post hoc--"After this, therefore because of this." Sooy claims that there'd have been no Civil Rights movement without a number of organizations to provide its "base."While it is possible that that is the case, there is no way to determine that it is necessarily the case. Just because these organizations did provide support does not mean that others might not have arisen to the occasion had they not, or that no organization would have provided that base, but rather more loosely affiliated citizens with the same objectives. Indeed, Sooy doesn't get his history correct here since some of these organizations became organizations in virtue of and during the Civil Rights Movement--hence could not have been its base. To claim that no movement can emerge without an organizational base is just silly. Indeed, it is virtually always in resistance to organizational or systemic injustice that movements arise--and the fact is that an effective anti-fracking movement must come to regard organizations who model themselves after the Sierra Club as antithetical to their objectives since those organizations have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.


Disrupting Governor Wolf's inauguration
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
  

At bottom, however, it's just monumentally arrogant to claim that the anti-fracking movement is dependent on groups like CWA, PAF, and FWW. 

It's like Sooy thinks these groups bear some sort of parental relationship to the decision whether to engage in an act of protest, nonviolent civil disobedience--or any strategy to bring attention to the issues. 

But Nathan Sooy is not my dad--and he doesn't get to lecture me about what I should read about movements. Indeed, were CWA so expert, you'd think we'd have seen some modest results with respect to getting the gassers out of the Commonwealth. 

And I'll bet  that if you asked, say, Maggie Henry why she was willing to risk arrest during the Gas Wolf inauguration, her reasons wouldn't include appeal to whether Clean Water Action thought it was OKAY.


The notion that the Big Greens 
are the mommies and daddies 
of the anti-fracking movement is nuts.

And it's pompous nuts.

This sort of peremptory arrogance puts Sooy in the same league as, say, state police officers who, reporting to the Marcellus Shale Operators Crime Committee, think they can intimidate folks into behaving according to a system that rewards Sierra Club-Alikes for towing the line, staying in their "free speech zones" drafting their repetitive petitions, having their one-off marches--

while it punishes real citizens for demanding to live in the democracy we were promised with the clean water and air to which we have a right. 

The proof here is in the pudding. None of the organizations Sooy sites have gotten us one iota closer to a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania. My god, they haven't even really slowed the disaster down. While they ask you for your money, the industry just keeps on keepin' on--ravaging of the state's water and air.

Lastly, Sooy says that "Individual acts do not a social organization make." 

He's right--but that redounds only to his failure and the failure of the organizations he defends. 

Had CWA, et al, organized even just 100 of their loads of sign-onmembers to join the eight arrested, the inaugural events would have seen very different news coverage. And--just to trouble shoot for one rather lame response--this isn't because civil disobedience is the only tool we have in the ban fracking tool box.



It's because without civil disobedience 
as an option we are enfeebled 
from the very outset.

Without that potent prospect,
we broadcast the message that 
we do not have the 
courage of our convictions. 

We concede that our cause 
is not sufficiently significant, 
and that we care only so far as 
we are not inconvenienced.


Nathan Sooy's failed argument reminds me of an image that epitomizes that entire day: 

As I was leaving--hightailing it home to process photographs--I walked past the building where Maggie Henry and her fellows were being charged and processed. As I looked to cross the street, I saw Nathan and Karen Feridun (PAF) strolling together away from the protest--and away from that
Maggie Henry,
Governor Wolf's inauguration
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
building. I have no idea where they were headed chatting and laughing--but what I do know is that there was no risk. They were walking free outside on the streets of Harrisburg. Maggie Henry was being booked on her part in the disruption of Wolf's inaugural speech, after which she got to go home and face the harm done to her directly by the gas industry. 



Sooy would have us believe that it's in unity with some organization to which Henry somehow owes loyalty--although it has done nothing to protect her. I don't pretend to know Henry's specific motives--but she owes nothing to an organization whose policy bars them from standing with her to protect her farm.


Not a goddamn thing


A charade of unity is not unity; 
it is an abuse of trust 
and a prescription 
for enduring harm.


The Big Greens count on folks like Maggie Henry to be the "radicals" so that their paid staff can continue to play the system as the "rational activists."
Nathan Sooy in the
Free Speech Zone
Governor Wolf's
 inauguration
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee 


But they are not activists, and they have no movement. 

And if you doubt this, simply look back to what Sam Bernhardt of FWW "demands":



A moratorium to study 
what we already know 
is damaging to health, 
environment, and community 
in order to determine 
whether we ought to halt 
what we already know 
must be banned.


If that's the best organizational support we can get, we're better off looking to each other and leaving the greenie beneficiaries of the status quo behind.

Indeed, anyone who works out here in the actual trenches of the effort to stop the gas companies from destroying our communities knows that while movements are partly about money--first and foremost their about experience, guts, and commitment. 

Movements are borne 
out of pathos, 
not petitions. 

They're peopled by 
intrepid insurgents,
not polite protesters.

A movement is more of siege than of soiree.

Unless you're a Big Green like the Sierra Club, or a wee little aspiring greenie like Clean Water Action.  

So, like Bernhardt's argument before him, Sooy's fallacious reasoning only shows us that we can do far better than settle for the thin gray gruel of "moratoriums" and "halts" and pleading with governor gas wolves.

The clear direction of reason points one way only: 

a ban that excises the gas industry from the state in defense of the right to clean air and water and in recognition of our moral duty to act to stem the effects of climate change for our future kin.

Anything short of that demand, and our having our cake and eating it too is throwing out the baby with the bath water.

A baby that's the planet.