Fighting Fracking

On Wednesday, Jan. 9., four busloads of people from the Ithaca area traveled to Albany to join in a protest against hydrofracking at Governor Andrew Cuomo's annual State of the State speech. GreenStar, which has taken an official anti-fracking position, contributed funding to offset the ticket prices for the buses. We invited some of those who went to tell us about what they saw, heard, and felt while they were there.

Inspired Youth Lift Their Voices 

By Anna Kucher, 

Ithaca High School student

One of the four buses that traveled from Ithaca to Albany was filled with over 40 youth, traveling to rally for a ban on fracking, move toward clean energy, and create a better future for themselves. While the sun rose on the horizon, some students slept while others chatted excitedly about what the day would hold. For some, it was their first time going to a rally, while for others it was their first time in the state capital.

The bus captain Ren Ostry, along with Ariana Shapiro, began leading chants, and then asked the youth to create their own. The entire bus practiced the chants together, and eventually started them later that day among the 1,000+ crowd.

Once in Albany, we had a large presence. Both the New Roots and LACS students held banners representing Ithaca and their coalitions of young people, such as the group started by LACS students, "NY Youth Against Fracking." Many people approaching the State of the State address were forced to walk past our banners, while in the capitol building, many also wrote comments to the DEC that were delivered by Ren Ostry alongside Sandra Steingraber and Yoko Ono on Jan. 11.

For me, the trip to Albany was extremely inspiring. The rally gave me a new appreciation for how the work that I am doing in our community is connected to the work of so many others throughout New York State. It provided me with a vision of how far-
reaching our movement has become. Seeing thousands of others who care just as much as I do, and who are just as committed to the fight as I am was reaffirming. It gave me trust that the people of New York will always find a way to make their voices heard.

I came away from the experience with the belief that we can reach farther yet to protect not only our state of New York, but the planet under our feet.

Beyond Demonstrations: Switch to Clean Energy

By Marie McRae

A group of excited people in Caroline, Dryden, and Danby — many of whom rode the bus to Albany on Jan. 9 — are joining together in the planning of a project that aims to decrease the need for fossil fuels by increasing the installation and use of solar energy. Their goal in those towns is a considerable margin of increase — perhaps as much as quintupling the 2012 installations — by the end of 2013. Using the model of "Solarize NY" (solarizenewyork.org) the group will select a qualified installer(s), bring the cost down through volume purchase/installations, and educate the communities through public meetings. Look for more information and a local website soon.

At Rally, Criticisms of Anti-Fracking 
Movement Ring False

By Felix Teitelbaum

A recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece concluded that, regarding fracking in New York, "For now the Governor's political read looks to be that New York's upstate economy can sit hostage to the antigrowth energy agenda of wealthy downstate environmentalists."

At the same time, others critical of the anti-fracking movement have accused it of NIMBY-ism — anti-frackers are accused of wanting their natural gas but being unwilling to have it extracted from their own back yards.

Although neither of these characterizations rang true to me, I decided to talk to as many fracking opponents as I could and let them speak for themselves. The protest in Albany on Wednesday, Jan. 9 was a perfect opportunity.

Of the more than 1,500 anti-frackers who found time on a Wednesday morning to travel to the capital and rally outside the doors of the governor's State of the State speech, I spoke to more than 70. I spoke to New Yorkers from Homer, Seneca County, Long Island, Ithaca, Highland, High Falls, Ulster County, Sullivan County, Nunda, Summit, Gilbertsville, Schoharie County, Westchester, Rochester, Caroline, Albany, New Paltz, Rensselaer County, Erieville, Oneonta, Stone Ridge, Wilson, East Meadow, East Meredith, Cobleskill, Schodack, Woodstock, and, yes, a few from New York City. I also met people there from elsewhere: Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Germany, even Japan.

It was clear to me that regardless of the Wall Street Journal claims, opposition to fracking comes from every corner of this state and beyond.

Indeed, fracking has far more support downstate than it has upstate. The most recent Siena College poll shows that fracking has more support downstate and that a majority (51 percent) of upstaters oppose fracking (compared to only 38 percent in favor).

Were the protestors wealthy downstaters, as the Wall Street Journal indicated, or "well-funded and organized activists masquerading as environmentalists, who often do not need to make a living in our communities," as they were described by one pro-fracking demonstrator? Apparently not. They were viticulturists, tourism industry workers, farmers, nurses, bakers, students, beekeepers, maple sugar makers, teachers, landscapers, and more. Many of them were there representing others who could not attend the protest.

In fact, the more than 200 anti-frackers who traveled from the Ithaca area each paid their own way (with some help from GreenStar's 7,000-plus members — thank you!). On the other hand, the less than 100 (total) pro-frackers present were likely bussed in and fed by oil industry front-groups as they were to a pro-fracking rally in October of 2012.

Were these folks NIMBYs? On the contrary, not one person suggested that we continue to use natural gas but get it from elsewhere. People overwhelmingly expressed support for renewable energy development and the transition from fossil fuels. They said over and over that they don't just want it banned in New York, they don't want to see it anywhere.

As Wendy Lee points out in her post Comments on the NIMBY Argument, "The NIMBY argument is a strategy to divide communities by making it seem as if those opposed to fracking are really just opposed where it concerns their properties, water, air. This is absurd. There's no such thing as 'their/our' water or air."

Gas can be burned once, but water cycles through our environment and our bodies over and over — moving from my backyard to yours. The protestors expressed this sense of our shared environment over and over and that, in the words of Chris Martelli of Ithaca, "our water is far more valuable than our natural gas."

Even if the industry were to deliver on its claims of jobs and paydays for leaseholders, these are short-term gains. As individuals, we are only on this land for a short time. Our children, our children's children, and our neighbors' children will need clean water to live healthy lives.

This is What Democracy Looked Like

By Sara Culotta

13-1 farmers_against_fracking-sm

On Wednesday, Jan. 9, I traveled with 200 folks on four buses from Ithaca to meet up with close to 2,000 others from NYC, the Southern Tier, the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes, western NY, and beyond. There were babies, kids, teens, college students, business people, retirees, farmers, artists — a broad array of engaged, active, loving, committed people. We talked with lawmakers, left notes and postcards with informed, heartfelt messages, shook hands, made heart connections, and chanted and drummed.

It was an extraordinary day, and the empowerment was palpable. Lawmakers working for a ban on fracking were so happy to see us — they need our visible, vocal support to keep doing the nitty-gritty legislative work — and they smiled and gave us thumbs-ups and chanted along.

Even those legislators who are opposed to a ban were accessible. I met with Peter Ellis, Chief of Staff to Ithaca's Senator Thomas O'Mara, whose position at the moment is that the DEC will do its job and make sure fracking is done safely. Even though I strongly disagree that it's possible to frack safely, Peter and I listened to each other respectfully, and he was open to learning that the current proposed DEC regulations need a lot more work.

Thanks to Sandra Steingraber's ThirtyDaysofFrackingRegs.com website initiative, I was very informed and able to give Peter specific examples of how the regulations require fewer environmental safeguards from drillers than they do from ordinary citizens and businesses in New York. It was a constructive conversation, and he said he would visit the ThirtyDays website to learn more. I told him I would keep in touch with him via email, and I've already sent a thank-you note. (Visit www.thenextthirtydays.org to see what you can do today. -ed)

This is what democracy looks like — engaged people, interacting, figuring out our future together, being respectful and committed to what matters most. It was an awesome day! And thank you to everyone who supported those of us who traveled, and all who were with us in spirit!

A Few Comments From Those Who Were There

"GreenStar's generous donation for the full cost of one bus to the Albany Ban Fracking rally gave a huge boost of energy to our whole anti-fracking movement. We've never had a donation this big before from a local business. That started the snowball rolling that led to 1) cheaper than usual tickets ($20/person instead of $30/person), 2) more scholarships for low-income and younger activists, 3) more people joining the rally bandwagon and, eventually, 4) 4 full buses carrying over 200 citizens to a great demonstration. Many, many thanks to the hard-working employees that made this happen!"

— Sara Hess

"A special highlight for me was seeing Pete Seeger one more time, as the surrounding crowd sang with him, "This land is your land, this land is my land."

— Elizabeth Salon

"I was greatly impressed with the diversity of the people who came to demand a ban on fracking, especially the wide range of ages. Among this huge, well-behaved crowd were families with young children, teens, and adults, including gray-haired seniors like myself. Seeing these dedicated and noisy demonstrators gave me hope. I couldn't help but notice the contrast with the small group of pro-drilling activists, who were predominately men 45 to 50 years old or older."

— John Mead

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