Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Matters: Muncy Women’s Prison High School Graduation Remarks, September 18th, 2014

Wendy Lynne Lee, 3 yr.s old, 1963

Well more than a hundred years ago, the great philosopher John Locke argued that the unique identities of persons—of individuals like you and I—were woven out of our memories, sewn out of the stories we tell about ourselves. 

And while those stories may become, like tattered jeans, worn over time, or re-embroidered with a bit more sparkle and shine than their originals, what matters about them is that they’re ours—that no one else can tell them quite like I can tell mine—or you can tell yours.

Wendy Lynne Lee and her Mother,
Gloria Frances Lee, 1959

Here’s just a little bit of mine:

Crazy but true, I was actually trained for some years to follow my Aunt Evelyn into the ballet.  This was not because my family was especially affluent—we were the middle of the middle class. It wasn’t because I was good at toe-shoes; I wasn’t. 

It was because my parents—like many of yours—aspired to give their kids more than they had had. While I’m sure I didn’t recognize it at the time, I see now that that aspiration is elemental to my own identity. 

Indeed, the lesson I absorbed at my father’s knee was that we must justify our existence through the contributions we make to others. So, by the time I was 10, I had decided to be a writer. Not dancing. Not music. Words

Wendy Lynne Lee
Christmas, 1961

Good, bad, or ugly, that thread of identity—that narrative about my own narrative—is the very air and water of my existence. It is the road for my own contribution, sketched out in words, paved in pencil.

Nonetheless, for whatever my high-fallutin’ aspirations, reality is not a patient place. By the time I finished high school in 1977, I was already working. My dad had died at just 49 from brain cancer, and my mom—to whom I remain close—could not support me. 

My dad, Jack Everett Lee
So I married at 17 and promptly went to work as an assembly line laboror—a job that anyone smarter than a gopher would quickly discover was mind-numbing and body-destroying.  

The minimum wage was $2.56 an hour, and the only thing that spared me from being fired for union organizing to improve wages and working conditions was pregnancy and an early labor that, as an unforgettable 20th birthday surprise, produced identical twin sons.  

Wendy Lynne Lee
18 yrs. old, 1978

Truth is, I was ill-prepared for so much responsibility, and like just too many women, I found myself imprisoned in a marriage where that lethal combination of tradition and ignorance made me one more domestic battery statistic. 

By the Spring of 1980, I had fled—suitcase and diaper bag—from Utah to Colorado. I’m sure I didn’t realize it at the time, but I am one of the luckiest women in the world. I had somewhere to go—a mother who could offer me council and safety, compassion and security.

My mom, Gloria Frances Lee, 2014
Fast forward to August, 1982. I have just given birth to my third son, am surviving—but just barely—on welfare, food stamps, and a grant to go to college, and I live in an old Summer vacation cabin at the base of Pike’s Peak. 

Lindsay Lee-Lampshire, 1983
I have miraculously managed a quarter at Pike's Peak Community College in order to enter University of Colorado, and I’m terrified that factory labor has atrophied by brains, that I’ll be exposed as a fraud, and that I’ll never raise my kids out of poverty. 

But what was also becoming as clear to me as this very moment is that education offers an opportunity like no other. 

My family counseled me to the practical—cosmetology or hairdressing, or secretarial work—all the province of women, and way beyond my motor skills. My mother worried aloud that too much education might render me unmarriageable.  

But I saw something else, and while I know this might sound ridiculous or just clichéd, what I saw in the sheer beauty, bigness, and riotous variety that is the humanities—philosophy, English, anthropology, theater, poetry—was a world I could not only embrace, but to which I could contribute in some way that my kids could be proud of me.

Lindsay Lee-Lampshire, 1984
Life in that cabin, ah—life in that cabin. Four rooms, including a walled-in cement deck passing for a bedroom, a bathroom with no sink, a finicky space heater, a camper stove, and a mini-frig. 

Every school day I had to hike up and down the hillside steppes with a baby, a backpack, and sometimes the groceries, often in the snow, and always with hefty books. 

It would be an understatement to say that I had no social life—but what substituted for that was a sense of purpose, the intoxicating ideas with which I was becoming acquainted, and that I lived somewhere always beautiful and ever-changing.  

Living on the side of a mountain is an experience that is etched into my soul; it informs my commitments to the environment in ways both deep and enduring. I stayed in school, and I alternately forgave and expelled my third child’s father for choosing Micky Big Mouth and Southern Comfort over me, but I would be a liar if I told you that self-reliance wasn’t sometimes accompanied by loneliness, or that staking a claim to my independence was some easy thing. It wasn’t. 

Sunset, Pike's Peak, 2013
All the same, the stories you’ve heard or lived about how necessity is the mother of invention are mostly true, and at least for me that uniqueness of identity Locke talked about grew more out of the need to figure out things like food, heat, and more food than out of anything else.

Philosophy gave me a thousand ways to think about all these things. Among the best, hardest, bravest things I have ever done was to choose it not merely as a discipline but as a life worth living. It took a leap of faith to load my kids, my cats, and my then partner into a 1972 oil guzzling Chevy truck with everything I had in the world and $1500.00 dollars and drive it to Milwaukee for graduate school. 

There is no guarantee that such big gambles will pay off. But what there is is the promise that even if they don’t, we won’t get to old age wondering whether we should have taken that chance, made that leap, taken that road. 

Whatever else you do, don’t let that happen. 

Women make up less than a quarter of academic philosophers in the United States—but we are among its most vibrant and creative communities. Working my way through to the first undergraduate degree in my family, and then the first Ph.D. was at some points so hard I nearly quit in tears. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation less than 10 ft. from a Super Nintendo. I gave birth to my fourth child less than two days before I taught my very first class. 

Carley Aurora
Lee-Lampshire, 2 yrs old
That first teaching day, however, was one of the most insightful of my life. I was so tired. She’d been the first I had delivered without a cesarean section, and she was still at the hospital awaiting a potential transfusion—but 10 minutes into that class I knew two things: first, that if I could weather that day this “academia thing” would likely never get any harder, and second, that being up in front of a room full of fresh faces—just like yours—was a blast. I don’t know that I have ever had a day better or harder than that.

However clichéd it may sound, what education has given me are choices I would never have had, a chance to be a role model to my kids, my students, my nieces and nephews that might never have come my way, and the opportunity to act for the public good that we should all have—but of which too few take advantage. 

Coming to Bloomsburg University in 1992—another truck drive—was both a real risk and a new adventure. But by then, I was up for it, and by the time I had taught and written and worked my ass off for tenure—and my first tattoo--I knew something about risk, namely, that failure really just is an opportunity to try something different, and that success isn’t an event—it’s a state of mind that gets you up on the good days and the bad ones.
Carley and Wendy, 2008

Although my administration might be happier were I a little less vocal, a little less demanding, the truth is that the more protected are our jobs, the more responsibility we have to speak out on issues that matter. 

Among those closest to my heart are issues that affect women, children, and nonhuman animals—those most vulnerable in our society whose voices are the least heard. Taking a stand on some of these is not necessarily a prescription for popularity, and as I have spoken out strongly for gay rights, women’s reproductive rights, animal welfare, and environmental integrity, I am sometimes the target of harassment and hate mail. 

Jack and Wendy, 1967
But the thing is that, once you’re equipped with the critical thinking skills a humanities education offers—once you can think and you come to see even just a little of what all there is to think about—you can’t go back.  

You won’t want to. 

Education is the most valuable and dangerous thing in the world. It equips you to see through the Bull Shit and the beautiful, the hype and the reality, the fleeting and the stuff that’s worth fighting for.  

But with that education comes the responsibility to be better, to do more, to contribute. 

No better example prepared me for this than Socrates’ “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and Marx’ “The purpose of philosophy is not merely to know the world but to change it for the better.”

These two ideas—that critical self-reflection is essential to actions we can live with, and that we have some duty to contribute—inform virtually everything I do. The most obvious of these, I suppose, is teaching—not a job as much as a privilege—no matter with what challenges my students present me. Every day, I get to “corrupt youth.” 

I get to introduce dangerous ideas to young folks, and I get to challenge their assumptions. I also get to write about all the things that matter to me, a few of which even matter to other people. 

If I have any single message for you as you move forward in your own precious lives, it’s this: listen to yourselves. 

Listen to the very best, foresightful versions of yourselves. Then read—everything you can. The world is messy, frustrating, contradictory—but it is never dull.  Then think. Hard.  What is your contribution? 

What do you have to say?

Thank you sincerely for having me today. I have given many speeches—but to date, this is surely the most important.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Selling Out a Movement to Guarantee a Seat at the Sacred Table of the Status Quo: Pennsylvanians Against Fracking

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee, State Gamelands 75, PA

What follows are two items--intimately connected. 

First is an email exchange between myself and a representative from Food & Water Watch --an organization that claims to be anti-fracking but, in advocating for a moratorium that has no chance of becoming a reality, and in supporting the Democrat candidate for governor Tom Wolf who is avowedly pro-drilling, cannot make that claim with any force or consistency. 

The significance of Food and Water Watch here, however, is two-fold:

(1) FWW is one of the organizational conveners of a new coalition--Pennsylvanians Against Fracking (PAF, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking)--which cannot claim with any force to be against fracking. Indeed, they cannot coherently claim to support any position other than that conciliatory to the will of the Democratic Party--a party that, despite its hollow insistence to the contrary is as comfortable as the Republicans with 

(a) the ongoing liquidation of the state's ecological assets,
(b) the destruction and basic human rights violations of communities, and
(c) the surveillance of the Commonwealth's citizens

It's also interesting to note that there appears to be no website for PAF other than a Facebook page whose single post links to a Marcellus Drilling News story applauding the cooperation between the gas industry and anti-fracking activists (The One Issue on Which Anti- and Pro-Drillers Agree | Marcellus Drilling News). Indeed, the article presumably approved by PAF is a cheerlead for Breathe Easy Susquehanna County--a group which advocates sitting down with the gas companies to work out "best practices" for continued drilling.

(2) FWW--Colorado recently sold out Coloradans who they'd led to believe were in good hands because FWW had promised to champion a "statewide ballot initiative to bolster the authority of communities to ban oil and gas extraction." FWW not only caved to pressure intended to protect the seats of Democrats, but like Congressman Jared Polis, they were willing to settle for "feel good" measures like convening a stakeholder group that includes gas company representatives as if they were community members toward regulating--but not empowering communities towards self-determination.  What the Colorado case shows is that FWW is not about banning fracking--but about whatever pretense to regulation will insure it stays in the good graces of a two party system that is really a no party system (How Congressman Jared Polis and Food and Water Watch sold out Colorado | Colorado Statesman).

Indeed, if FWW were interested in achieving a ban--if this were PAF's goal--they'd join Shale Justice--the PA coalition and 5013c that vets applicant organizations for mission statements consistent with its mission. The fact, however, is that aspirant Big Greens (little greens) like PAF and its faux-coalition members cannot take this principled stand and keep their place at a table at which compromise is routinely served up along with deals--just like the one Polis agreed to.

The email exchange below is important in that it illustrates the emergence from within the anti-fracking movement of a new breed of appeaser/collaborator, really an old breed of opportunist who sees in the ongoing crisis the opportunity to cash in on the momentum this movement has generated over the last six years. But what makes this exchange particularly significant is that no one in this new faux-coalition could possibly believe that a moratorium on drilling is even remotely possible--and so we are left to wonder what are its real objectives. 

Here's the correspondence:


Hey Wendy-

I just left you a voicemail to this effect and am writing this email to follow up. It seems like you have a bunch of concerns and I wanted to try to address them over the phone, but without that route right now I'll start things off with this email.

I don't know where your information on this coalition is coming from but there are a bunch of things you've assumed that are just not true.

1.  Pennsylvanians Against Fracking will allow any group to join- anyone can fill out our online form, but we make follow up calls to any entity that signs on to verify who they are, and we also regularly
look over the list to make sure member organizations are appropriate. We will be creating a website, and we'll be listing members on that website, and there is no way you'll see CSSD [The Center for Sustainable Shale Development] or anything like that signed on. I don't know where that assumption comes from.

2.  Pennsylvanians Against Fracking is working to get Democrats elected and get a seat at their table- This is a coalition of 501c3 nonprofits that will not do any electoral activity, period. After the election, we'll be working to put pressure on whoever is elected to put a moratorium on fracking. I don't understand where the assumption that this coalition is in the pocket of Democrats comes from.

3.  The CELDF OpEd attacking Food & Water Watch- if you can explain to me how Food & Water Watch can be implicated in the backstabbing deal cut by Rep Polis, go for it, but the piece is just flat out baseless. Please explain to me how any of the article referenced is relevant to this situation. You write that you "have much more to say about this latest attempt to co-opt the anti-fracking movement." I'd appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me- we can disagree, but I'd like you to at least have your assumptions straight before making public statements.. There's no reason why a vibrant, robust anti-fracking movement can't have multiple coalitions pushing for different viewpoints.

Wendy Lynne Lee:

Let me address your points:

1. The sign on does not stipulate any vetting process whatsoever, so there is no way of knowing whether or what this is. Moreover, in so far as the principle conveners include both Food and Water Watch and Berks Gas Truth, there is no reason to believe that this coalition stands exclusively for a ban on fracking or its infrastructure. Indeed, if THAT were its goal, there already exists a coalition representing that position--Shale Justice. Why not simply join an already existing 5013c with grant backing?  Also, a follow up call is not a vetting process in any meaningful sense. At Shale Justice they ask for a mission statement, and it must affirm their commitment to the primary message. You make no
claim whatsoever about criteria for the sign-on, so you have no principled way of excluding CCSC, COGENT, BESC--or any other faux anti-cracking organization.

2. Working to get Democrats elected is precisely what we should NOT be doing, Sam. Tom Wolf is PRO-FRACKING. There are virtually NO Democrats who are anti-cracking, and this notion that electing Democrats will make some difference towards the end os a nightmare that many of us LIVE is fool-hardy at best. I appreciate you clarifying that point for me--but it is on that point precisely that you will receive the most criticism from folks like me. The argument made out by the Dems for a severance tax is ABSURD and it will HARM people. By leveling a tax upon which funding for education and other social programs will be based INSTITUTIONALIZES the gas industry. They will become part of the funding infrastructure of the state--there could be no better gift to them--and that is what YOUR
candidates support.

3. Thank you for making it clear that the real aim of this coalition is to get a seat at the table. That is a prescription perhaps for advancing the career aspirations of coalition members, but it is not a principled
stand to end fracking. And it will NOT achieve a moratorium. I voted with the Dems when it was still rational to think that achieving it could make a difference. That time is LONG past. The move to gain a seat at the table is nothing but conciliatory--and it will harm us all.

4. The CELDF article is very relevant because it demonstrates how clearly FWW is NOT about empowering communities, NOT about achieving a ban, and NOT about the defense of civil liberty--but, as you say, its about getting seats at the table for its own functionaries--and that's it.

5. The Civil Rights Movement could not brook BOTH a movement to end segregation and find some middle ground where African Americans could, say, go in the front door of the diner--but not vote. Ending segragation was all or none--either you were on board with that objective or you weren't. It would never have been remotely morally defensible to liberate some of the concentration camps during WWII--but sacrifice some others to the NAZIS. We will either come together as an international community to stem the tide of climate change--or we will all suffer, some far more than others, from the failure. The anti-fracking movement cannot brook BOTH the demand a BAN on the gas companies and simultaneously negotiate the terms of our surrender to them through regulation. So, no--there is room for many differing strategies, but there is NOT room for different objectives when those objectives stand directly contrary to each other. If you're for a ban, you cannot settle for regulation. If you're comfortable with the regulation required for getting a seat at the table, you have wholly jettisoned the struggle for a ban.

Perhaps you will label this "purist," but what it is is clear-headed and principled. I have no other agenda than to end fracking. Folks who are angling for a seat at the Democratic Party table do.


"Wow I can't believe I didn't include the 'NOT'- we are NOT working to get democrats elected" 


And we are NOT working to get a seat at the table.

Wendy Lynne Lee:

[L]et me make this simple: if your sign-on orgs were interested in achieving a BAN, you'd have all requested admission to Shale Justice. You didn't. Ergo, your objectives must be something else, and THAT can be derived from other actions and inactions. Just to trouble shoot--I am no longer in Shale Justice--I rotated off the executive board months ago to pursue other scholarly projects. So, I have no vested interest here either. I do have an interest in the truth and in insuring that people are not misled. Hence, my FB post.


This isn't about picking teams. There are many reasons why this coalition needed to be created. No coalition was working exclusively on a statewide level to stop fracking in Pennsylvania. My sense is Shale Justice has a much more expansive mission than that (local, state, national, international)- and that's Great. But what Shale Justice Coalition is and has been is not what Pennsylvanians Against Fracking aims to be.

As far as the other items-

1. Do we need to stipulate a vetting process? Once we have a list of members posted, you can tear it apart. But to insinuate we're designing this coalition to let the CSSDs of the world in is absurd.

2. We agree here. We want to stop fracking.

3. This coalition is about building power to stop fracking, period.

4. My question was more specific- I asked if you could explain to me how we can be implicated in the Polis deal. We fought hard for that ballot measure, and for several bans across the state. And we fought hard to keep Polis from stabbing us in the back. Can you explain to me how we "sold out Colorado?"

5. This is a straw man. We're not arguing for regulation. We're arguing for a halt to fracking as a means to get to a permanent ban. As far as the comparison with the civil rights movement, we must have studied different civil rights movements because the one I'm familiar with was chock full of diversity of strategies, tactics, and yes- objectives.

Wendy Lynne Lee:

This IS about picking teams--you can either be on the team that takes a principled stand against fracking OR you can be on the team that's willing to settle for regulation--but you CAN'T be on both teams; they're mutually exclusive.

Shale Justice is BOTH a statewide organization AND works in other states as well--indeed, we MUST seek to be expansive--otherwise we're not only acting merely parochially, we're broadcasting the message that we'd be comfortable with drilling elsewhere--just not here.

You're correct the PAF's aims are not those of SJ's--but that is what I find both troubling and misrepresented. PAF is not exclusively against fracking--that is a misrepresentation of its mission and the participatory orgs--including FWW.

1. Yes--you do need a vetting process. Otherwise any org CAN and will sign on--without it you represent nothing and no one. My suggestion of CSSD is not absurd--what prevents them from becoming a sign on? Where DO you draw the line?

2-3. I have no reason to think you want to stop fracking; indeed, supporting Democrat candidates--which is clearly where BGT stands--will not only not stop fracking--it will institutionalize it in the form of a tax base. If PAF wanted to stop fracking, it could not include FWW or BGT--neither of which have taken any such no compromise stand consistently.

4. I am going to leave Polis for now--but will return to this question tomorrow.

5.  Not a straw argument at all--my point is that the only objective worth defending in, for example, the civil rights movement was the one that ended segregation.

This really is pretty simple. If PAF's objective was to end fracking, its orgs would not have sought to reinvent the wheel, but would have joined SJ. Perhaps there are reasons of which I am not aware why its members opted against this obvious choice--but none of these can have anything to do with objectives.


As far as FWW's mission, clearly we can represent ourselves as against fracking because we apparently made it through SJC's vetting process.

1. I didn't say we don't need a vetting process, I said we don't need to share one [Emphasis--WLL]. I'm much more concerned with getting stuff done than worrying about who we're going to have to keep out of this coalition.

2-3. Who are the democratic candidates anyone is supporting?

4. Okay, eager to hear your response. I respect your opinion but this specific point is unquestionably a baseless attack on our organization.5. In retrospect sure. But there were all sorts of more radical and more moderate objectives within the movement. It oversimplifies the movement to say there was only one objective, or one worth fighting for. That diversity allows movements to thrive, and if we tear each other down we're really not going to get anywhere. There are ways to constructively criticize our movement from within.

Wendy Lynne Lee: 

It's irrelevant whether you made it through SJ's vetting process in the past. You would not now, and you did not decide to join. I can only assume that this is because you do not really stand for a ban--otherwise you would have signed on. This argument is hurting you, not helping you.

1. So--you think PAF can have a vetting process that is SECRET? WOW! So PAF is really a secret society with a public face? And the ends--whatever they are--justify these nefarious means? WOW!

2. BGT is clearly on the side of trying to persuade Tom Wolf on the moratorium. Or, let me rephrase that, BGT is clearly on the side of using the argument for the moratorium as a ploy to get invites to Tom Wolf functions. Moreover, if PAF is not about getting DEMS elected, what is its reason for being--the elections are just around the corner. Don't you think it obvious what this timing implies? And AGAIN--if PAF is about gaining a ban, THAT is Shale Justice.

5. No--you are simply wrong here. Just as there could be only one morally defensible objective for the civil rights movement--ending segregation. there is only one here--ending fracking. PAF does not and cannot stand for that. You confuse "objectivrs" with "objectives worth defending" and with "inconsistent objectives." To promote regulation is to promote fracking.

SO Pennsylvanians Against Fracking is essentially a SECRET SOCIETY--like Skull and Bones--that has no publicly accessible vetting process--but chooses its members according to private criteria (or none at all). And this really says it ALL: PAF exists to advance its objective of insuring its own people have a seat at the table in a Tom Wolf administration. And THAT isn't about fracking at ALL even if PAF claims otherwise. THAT is a psuedo-coalition that's merely using fracking as a hot-button issue to gain cache at that table. If any of its organizations were serious about seeing fracking banned, they would have joined Shale Justice. They didn't--so we can only conclude that they have other objectives--Ones that we will be no more privy to than their secret selection process--might as well just call that FRIENDS OF SOME FOLKS LOOKING TO ADVANCE THEIR POLITICAL CAREERS. This is dishonest, and it hurts people.


I don't see a moratorium as a means to regulation. I see it as a means to stop fracking, and a step towards banning fracking. I believe we state that in the coalition letter.

As far as why this coalition serves a unique purpose, I'd argue that it's practically unfeasible to run campaigns at every level of decision-making, and that to accomplish any goal, ban/moratorium/regs/whatever, you need to focus resources on one of those levels. That's what PAF is doing. That may be parochial, but the levers through which we make change happen are parochial.

Wendy Lynne Lee:

There was a time--now long past, as I have said already--when a moratorium might have had some positive effect. I VOTED with the Dems for that moratorium. I was at that Democratic Committee meeting with Karen Feridun speaking to the resolution. But that time is past for several reasons:

1. Tremendously much more damage since that time has been caused by this industry. We simply do not NEED a moratorium to "study" the damage. It's right in front of us every day. Hence THAT argument for a moratorium now sounds absurd.

2. If any sufficiently substantial number of Democrats were going to sign onto a moratorium--they would have already. They've had plenty of time. They didn't. They're not going to now (a) be) See (1), and (b) they do NOT want one.

3. The fact is that "the moratorium argument" is nothing more at this point than a device for leveraging this "coalition." None of you can seriously believe it stands a whisper of a chance--so I cannot take it seriously as anything other than a device for getting yourselves invited to Tom Wolf events, and subsequently getting yourselves seats at the Democrat administration tables. I think, in other words, this use of the moratorium argument simply a cynical ploy.

As for "practically unfeasible to run campaigns at every level of
decision-making...," that you string out goals "ban/moratorium/regs/whatever" is telling. It suggests you really don't get the Grand Canyon of difference between these utterly incompatible goals. Moreover, at least for one of them--the BAN--you had a coalition. If THAT was what you were after in PAF, you would have joined Shale Justice. That you continue to return to this theme only implies all the more that there are other reasons FWW didn't join Shale Justice--and that you don't want to lay these out for public inspection. I can only assume that this is because your objectives are NOT a ban.

The "levers through which we make change happen" are not necessarily parochial. we will not stem the tide of climate instability with any such approach. Moreover, what you really mean--as is clear from the context--is that you think change must be made through legislative/regulatory/within the laid out channels of law. But that law--as CELDF shows so clearly--is crafted FOR the corporations--not for either communities or private persons. It is a prescription for more of the same--fracking, CAFOs, Walmarts, etc. And I am sure you know that.

So, again, PAF is a cynical ploy to make sure its people get their seats at the tables of that legislation--but that will yield no moratorium--much less a ban--and you cannot NOT know it.


I'm not going to engage in any discussion with you while you post my emails, out of context and misconstrued, publicly. In the midst of our ongoing conversation to boot. Good luck, Wendy.

I hope CELDF gives you an answer to my question on that OpEd that's satisfactory for you.

Wendy Lynne Lee:

[T]his is a PUBLIC media. None of us have any reason or right to assume otherwise. Moreover, I have nothing to hide, and I assume you don't either. I posted your missive ver batim--no misrepresentation, no deletions, no additions. And then I posted my response. If you weren't worried about the strength of your arguments, there'd be no problem here.


You posted my comment without my immediate correction that there should be
a NOT in the second point, and you posted your comment knowing that my
intention was to communicate the opposite of what you responded to. That
is misleading, and out of context of where our conversation was at that
point in time.

I have nothing to hide, but I do generally assume that email
communications will not be shared publicly. I have nothing to hide, but
I'm not okay with 1 on 1 email conversations being shared without my
consent. Someone said something about civil liberties?

I think we're done here, but if you decide you actually want to know what
happened in Colorado you can call me. And please contact me by phone for
any future communications I don't feel comfortable communicating with you
by email.

Wendy Lynne Lee:

First, the fact is that you spoke the truth in the first post. I am more than happy to post the entire exchange--and let people judge for themselves. None of us have any justification in assuming that email is private. And none of us gets to demand consent. No civil liberties are violated in any fashion here--that is absurd--because you haven't the right to assume privacy, the right to consent--nope.


And there you have it. I think this exchange fairly epitomizes the implosion in the Pennsylvania anti-fracking movement--an implosion ignited not by any ideological divide, but by the hi-jacking of its momentum by those who aspire to be the sponsors of, as Chris Hedges likely rightly puts it, "the last gasp of the climate change liberals." "There will be no speeches. There is no list of demands. It will be a climate-themed street fair," where those more interested in advancing their own fame and fortune replaces substance--at the cost of us all  (Chris Hedges: The Last Gasp of Climate Change Liberals - Chris Hedges - Truthdig).

Just like Pennsylvanians Against Fracking--anyone can join the People's Climate March.

Not just anyone can join the real resistance. For that--you have to have some guts.  I'll be there with a camera--on the look out for actions that might actually matter-- PopularResistance.Org, for example:
“The march is symbolic,” said Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance when I reached him by phone, “but we are past the time of symbolism. What we need is direct action against the United Nations during the meeting. This should include blockades and disruption of the meeting itself. We need to highlight the fact that the United Nations has sold out to corporate interests.
A bit too scary for folks who are looking forward to that cup-o-joe with Tom Wolf. But then again, why should the United nations be the only faux-representative of the people to sell out?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fractured Shakespeare (Or Hamlets Under Gas-Sault), David Ira Kagan

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
Conrad Weiser State Forest

It's a pleasure to be able to post David Ira Kagan's very creative version of a speech from Shakespeare's Hamlet--one we might also title "To Frack or Not to Frack."

The writer is a friend and ally whose vigilance in the preservation of the ecologies and wildlife--especially snakes--liquidated by this invading army of an industry exemplifies the sort of action to which we should all be committed. 

A modern-day-world version of  “Hamlet,” Act 3 
To frack, or not to frack: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis better in the ground to leave the gas
Within the shale offering vast fortune,
Or to frack risking a sea of troubles,
And by fracking endure them. To drill, too deep—
Drill more—and by our wells’ wealth to say we end
Our heartaches, but bring on the earthquakes
That ground is prone to! ‘Tis a consummation
Demonically to be wished. To drill, too deep—
Too deep—perchance pollute our streams: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that pollution what screams may come
When we have fouled our waters, air and soil,
Must give us pause. There’s the consideration
That makes calamity of so much fracking:
For who would bear the salt and toxins of brine,
The fracker’s wrong, the gas-man’s arrogance,
The pangs of fragmented forests, the law’s delay,
The insolence of corporate officers, and the spurns
That citizen faith in the unworthy gas industry takes,
When he himself might a fight make
With a drawn dagger? Who would frackers bear,
To wince and weep under a withered life,
But that the dread of imprisonment after defiance
(The gloomy jailhouse, in whose cells
The sentenced rot) paralyzes the will,
And makes us rather bear the fracker’s ills we have,
Than chance others that we know not of?
Thus corporations’ powers can make cowards of us all;
And thus the anti-fracker’s resolution
Must be strengthened with the well-padded cast of thought,
And resistance to great greed and graft,
With this regard should soar and swell
And burst bravely into action.
David Ira Kagan


Monday, September 1, 2014

Fracking in the Chihuahuan Desert: A Letter Requesting Support from Anti-Fracking Activists in Mexico

Photo David Lauer

According to the American National Park Service, the Chihuahuan Desert is among the most important ecosystems in the world for determining the effects of climate instability. With respect to what the Chihuahuan Desert Network refers to as vital signs--seeps and springs, groundwater, rivers, upland vegetation and soils, invasive exotic plants, and landbirds--the fact is that desert ecosystems are the canaries in the coal mines of climate change:

The Chihuahuan Desert Network is currently developing protocols to monitor several vital signs that may reflect current and future impacts of climate change. This brief offers a summary of how Chihuahuan Desert Network monitoring will detect future change. (Climate Change and the Chihuahuan Desert). 
Besides being essential to monitoring climate instability, the Chihuahuan Desert is simply a magnificent ecosystem:

[It is] bordered on the west by the extensive Sierra Madre Occidental range, along with overlaying northern portions of the Sierra Madre Oriental. On the U.S. side it occupies central and southernNew Mexico, the portion of Texas west of the Pecos River, and southeastern Arizona; on the Mexican side, it covers the northern half of the state of Chihuahua, along with the majority of Coahuila, north-eastern Durango, the extreme northern part of Zacatecas, and small western portions of Nuevo León. With an area of about 362,000 km2 (139,769 sq mi), it is the third largest desert of the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in North America, after the Great Basin Desert.[1] (Chihuahuan Desert - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Photo David Lauer

It's thus particularly insane that any company would  imagine fracking it. Yet, here we are--from the El Paso Times:

Mexico energy officials said Chihuahua and three other northern border states are ripe for fracking, a controversial and widespread method that is used to extract shale gas and oil from the ground. 
Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos), the state-owned oil company, previously identified Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon, in addition to Chihuahua, as the states where fracking could be used to obtain new energy sources. The other Mexican states that officials identified are Puebla, Oaxaca and Veracruz.
Mexican officials said Pemex has drilled nearly 30 exploratory wells along the border with Texas, near Ojinaga and Presidio. In Texas, fracking is taking place in the Eagle Ford oil field that straddles the border with Mexico. 
According to the Texas Railroad Commission, the oil and shale gas field is about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long and has an average thickness of 250 feet. Eagle Ford is a rich energy source that is responsible for creating new jobs in Texas...
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Mexican government approved constitutional reforms last year that ended the 75-year monopoly of the Pemex state-owned oil company.
The reforms will allow foreign companies to invest in oil and gas production and development at a profit, and petroleum giants such as Exxon, Shell and Chevron are lining up to offer their services and expertise.
(Fracking may be coming to the Chihuahua border, Mexican officials say - The Daily Planet).
Photo David Lauer

It's hard to know even where to begin here--and I will have more to say later. But for right now, it is very clear that there is resistance to this potential for ecological holocaust among the Mexican people: 

Foes of fracking came together in Mexico with the Mexican Alliance Against Fracking (, an organization that compiled more than 10,000 signatures against fracking. The petition failed to persuade Mexican federal legislators last month from forbidding this method of obtaining oil and gas under Mexico’s energy reforms. The group noted that Germany and France have banned fracking.  (Fracking may be coming to the Chihuahua border, Mexican officials say - The Daily Planet)

I am also honored to be able to bring you a letter from my friend and fellow activist David Lauer of Chihuahua Vs. Fracking--who also took these gorgeous pictures of the Chihuahuan Desert. 

David has a specific request: If you represent a group, coalition, or organization that can send your own brief letter of support for Chihuahua VS. Fracking, that would be exceptionally helpful.

Please send those letters to David Lauer:

Alternately, you can post your letter to the Chuhuahua VS. Fracking Facebook page (and make sure to "like" it):

This is a fantastic opportunity to do something in support of our friends internationally, and to defend one of the most beautiful, fragile, and important ecosystems on the planet.

Photo David Lauer

Here's David's letter:

Chihuahua vs. Fracking To all U.S. anti-fracking organizations: We send you greetings and solidarity from Chihuahua, Mexico´s largest state, bordering on New Mexico and Texas, home to a vast array of endemic desert flora and fauna.  The Chihuahuan Desert is number three in biodiversity in the world, and is now firmly in the sights of the fracking industry. The Mexican Constitution was recently “reformed,” though many of us would say that it was deformed, to allow foreign oil corporations to “invest” in what has been a national industry until now.  One provision allows all types of land to be effectively expropriated in order to encourage the production of hydrocarbons.
Photo David Lauer
 Faced with the depletion and contamination of our scarce water resources, the long-term threats to our sources of clean, safe drinking water, the threats to agricultural production and to the water the desert needs to survive ecologically, we became convinced that any possible benefits fracking may offer in the short term, are grossly outweighed by the environmental, social, health and economic costs it implies over time. 
 As citizens, it is our duty to ensure that we, our children, our children’s children, and all future generations will have access to clean water and a healthy environment.   For these reasons and others, we came together and formed a citizens collective in order to educate our fellow citizens about what fracking is, why it is being imposed on us and what its implications are for future life along the border region; for example, few studies have addressed how environmental degradation drives emigration. Our organization, Chihuahua vs. Fracking, is part of the National Mexican Anti-fracking Alliance, and has also entered into contact with organizations in Argentina and other parts of the world.  Our collective is made up of several local and national organizations and concerned individuals who are committed to breaking the barrier of media silence by taking the information directly to the people through workshops and other activities.  We wish to be considered as members of your movements and invite you to become part of our struggle, because together will become much stronger.  In this war of public opinion, laws, information and counter-information we all need to be interconnected just like the water that flows through us and into the clouds.
Photo David Lauer
 In the near future we hope to organize important events and would like to be able to invite people with direct experience with fracking and its consequences to come and share what they know and understand with the public at large.  We also have a constant need for the latest information on the subject so that we can integrate it into our workshops.  Our movement is in its early stages and has already created a reaction in the media and in government circles.   We need to be efficient, intelligent and relentless if we are to stop this tragedy before it ever gets started.  
 Our next action will be to make a courteous, public presentation of information regarding fracking to César Duarte, the Governor of the State of Chihuahua, because his press declarations demonstrate that he is blissfully unaware.  Other members of the Alliance will repeat our initiative all over the country on the very same day. If you agree with our request for membership, please send us a copy of your logo, the name of your organization, contact information and anything else you would wish to ask us or share with us, then copy our logo from this letter and we will be bound in solidarity. I was commissioned by the organization to enter into contact with US groups.  You can write back to me directly and I will relay your messages in Spanish to members of our collective. 
 We also want you to know that other organizations exist who deeply appreciate the sacrifices you have already made, the information you have gathered and everything you have done to stop fracking.  Together we will prevail. 
In solidarity,  
David Lauer