“There’s No Time Left”: Day of Action Against Fracking speech & video, Shavertown Bridge, Delaware County, NY, 6/25/11

Thank you all for coming to help preserve life in this peaceful spot in the universe. But please keep in mind: There’s no time left.

There’s plenty of time left for the earth. But there’s no time left for us. What does that mean in this beautiful setting where everything appears so calm, where we stand beside the still waters. Will they continue to restore our souls in five years? In three? Up to now they’ve been protected very carefully so that millions can drink knowing these waters are safe.

But are they safe?

Democracy is an alien concept to corporations whose only interest is profit. We’ve reached a point in this world where their influence is so pervasive — they get to decide our fate. Unless WE do something about it. There are more of us than there are of them.

Until we do, we’ll continue to have the bank bailouts, reductions in nuclear safety standards after Fukushima, more drilling in the oceans for gas and oil, we’ll continue to live with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case that gives corporations unlimited license to “donate” to political campaigns and thus determine national policy.

The national policy the US government is pushing directly threatens the safety of the water in this reservoir, which feeds millions in NYC and surrounding areas. That same national policy actually threatens the entire world. In April 2010, the United States Department of State established GSGI — the Global Shale Gas Initiative — to promote hydraulic fracturing around the world, especially to China and India, to make money selling American technology.

So the clean waters all around us are what we have and what we stand to lose if hydrofracking seriously escalates in this state.

While we appreciate these waters, let’s not forget how this reservoir came to be. Frank & Margaret Martin were the grandparents of Nancy Martin, who sold us our farm in East Meredith in northern Delaware County.

Frank and Margaret had a dairy farm that now lies somewhere below these very waters. Farms, homesteads and villages were taken by eminent domain to make way for this reservoir. She was so attached to her farm and so angry, Margaret Martin chained herself to the porch when the sheriff came.

At least the destruction of those farms and villages, where folks built their lives, resulted in something reasonably healthy that NYC tries very hard to maintain that way. But all this is threatened by fracking.

Just look at the shortlist of the destruction fracking will bring:
• aquifer poisoning from underground migration of toxic plumes
• forest fragmentation
• spills onto farmland and into fishing streams
• air pollution that spreads as much as 200 miles, with the toxins — heavy metals, non-biodegradable chemicals and radioactive substances — settling on our lakes, streams, rivers, ponds — and farm fields that pasture our animals and grow our food.
• billions of gallons of fresh water squandered and permanently contaminated, in addition to the further billions squandered by mining for sand to be used in fracking. One mine in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, would use 3,700 gallons of water per minute, 24 / 7, year round = 1,944,720,000 gallons per year. Not to mention the silica dust that people living around the mine would be forced to breathe.

All of which leads to terrible health consequences: liver, kidney, respiratory and skin disorders, brain lesions, birth defects, cancers.

Despite all this actual experience of people in states from Colorado and Wyoming to West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, there are folks who sign leases. Who doesn’t want free money? Especially if you’ve been living near the edge for years, which is true for many in this region.

Now, sadly, there’s a growing number of people who’ve signed leases, many of them farmers, who wish they could take it back.

Three years ago, Dave Weed, a farmer in East Smithfield, Bradford County, PA, signed a five-year lease. Now he wishes he could get out of it. He said, “Everyone thought they’d be driving a Rolls-Royce, wearing pajamas and flip flops. Now most of us feel like we’d be just as happy driving our pick-up trucks, with our duct-taped work boots.”

While the folks in East Smithfield have learned a hard lesson, as have so many in other states, including our own New York, the industry promotes the few myths it can trot out:
• fracking is perfectly safe
• there’s never been a proven case of water contamination
• NY’s regulations are the best in the country
• it’ll bring thousands of jobs
• natural gas — methane — is a clean fuel that should be the transition to renewables (sometime in the distant future)
• developing our gas reserves will lead us to energy independence
These are all myths. Take just one notion — that fracking for gas will bring lots of jobs. A group called Headwaters Economics is out of Bozeman, Montana, where the extractive industries have held sway for many years. Headwaters Economics did a thorough analysis of the economics of drilling compared with places that didn’t have oil & gas extraction. One conclusion of this report: “counties that focused on [varied] development choices are better off, with higher rates of growth, more diverse economies, better-educated populations, a smaller gap between high and low income households, and more retirement and investment income.”

A similar Columbia University study of Hancock NY came to a similar conclusion. While some may temporarily benefit, the entire community loses in the end. And that’s just the economics of it.

There is no time left. It’s no exaggeration to say that our very survival is at stake. The London Guardian published an article just last Monday describing a new scientific study that says our seas are in a shocking state from overfishing and pollution. Fish, sharks, whales and other marine species are in imminent danger of an “unprecedented” and catastrophic extinction at the hands of humankind, and are disappearing at a far faster rate than anyone has predicted up to now.

The American West has been in increasing drought for decades. The Colorado River has so much removed from it for agriculture as well as Phoenix golf courses and extravagant Las Vegas fountains, that the Colorado River no longer empties into the ocean. Remember, it was the Colorado River that made the Grand Canyon.

Another recent study shows that sea levels are rising at the fastest rate in 2,000 years.

Across the top of the northern hemisphere, permafrost is melting, sending ever-growing amounts of methane directly into the atmosphere. Remember, methane is 107 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.

There’s no time left.  But we can — and must — turn this around. A report issued in 2000 was entitled “A Sustainable Energy Future Is Possible Now.” The opening line of the summary reads, “Today’s world energy systems, relying on fossil and nuclear fuels, endanger the very existence of humanity.” This report, now 10 years old, describes how we can remake our world into a place that is livable and sustainable:
• Sustainable energy is inexhaustible and can ultimately satisfy 100% of the world’s energy needs.
• The technology is available now.
• Sustainable energy offers enormous economic advantages in terms of job creation and continuous economic growth.
• Sustainable energy is cost-competitive if we level the playing field by eliminating direct and indirect government subsidies for fossil fuels, including nuclear.
• Conservation, efficiency and renewables give us the only path to true energy security.
Further development of fossil fuels is irrational to the point of — to be perfectly precise — insanity.

Maude Barlow is head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization. One of her 16 books is Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water.  She says that by 2030 the demand in our world for water will be 40 percent greater than the supply!

What can we do? First, we must continue to grow the ban fracking movement so that this scourge is stopped dead on our doorstep. If enough of us become mobilized, we can bring enough pressure on officials and politicians so that Senator Avella and Assemblymember Colton’s Ban Bill will get passed in Albany. Then we must change our way of looking at the world, our way of being in the world.

The CEOs of the powerful corporations — the Monsantos, the Exxons, the GEs, the Rio Tintos and Anadarkos, Peabody Coal or Massey Energy — these power brokers don’t realize that they’re suicidal. They don’t realize that they’re committing suicide for all of us. They’re not going to change. We must change the way we look at the world, at agriculture, at society, at water, air and soil — the very fundamentals that allow us to live — to exist.

Two South American countries have set an example that is both lofty and down-to-earth. They asked the simple question, Does Mother Nature deserve the same protection as your own mother?

In 2008, Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly approved new articles for their constitution that recognize the rights of Mother Earth.

Bolivia passed a law that grants nature equal rights with humans. Known as the Law of Mother Earth, the legislation created 11 distinct rights for the environment, including the right to
• life and to exist
• continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration
• pure water and clean air
• be free of pollution
The General Assembly of the United Nations approved a resolution presented by Bolivia called “Harmony with Nature.” It recognizes that “human beings are an inseparable part of nature, and that they cannot damage it without severely damaging themselves.”

At the UN two months ago, the ambassador from Botswana spoke as Acting President of the General Assembly. “We should all recognize that we are part of nature. We should create a society in balance with nature if we want to survive.”

What can we do?

The Keystone XL pipeline is set to be approved by the Obama administration to bring yet more tar sands oil down to the US. Most observers agree that the Alberta tar sands exploitation is the most polluting form of extraction on the planet. If this administration has its way, a brand-new tar sands deposit — in Utah — will soon be exploited.

So what can we do? This action today is one of many taking place across the State of New York. More are planned.

What can we do? Some fairly well-known folks are calling for a Tar Sands campaign this August: Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, author Wendell Berry, Danny Glover the actor, Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, Bill McKibben, who started 350.org and several others, including James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Inst for Space Studies at Columbia Univ, who has said, “. . . if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.”

This call is for non-violent direct action this summer in Washington, DC, probably during the last two weeks of August. Watch for the announcements.

Soon after that, in Philadelphia, there will be a national anti-gas-drilling demonstration on Sept 7 & 8. Again, watch for the announcements.

It’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces. Because there’s no time left.

The NYS Dep’t of Environmental Conservation will be in charge if drilling goes ahead. This agency has already shown that it’s completely incapable of coming up with regulations that can realistically ensure the health and safety of New Yorkers. This agency has already shown that it’s completely incapable of enforcing whatever regulations it may dream up.

Yet on the DEC website there’s a surprisingly exact comment on the larger meaning of a watershed. And I quote: “Everyone lives in a watershed. It might be large or small. All watersheds are part of the bigger environment. What you do at your house affects everyone downstream and around you. You can set a good example for your family, friends and neighbors. Simple actions you take make big differences.”

We must stop hydraulic fracturing. We must ban it. We must stop mountaintop removal and the tar sands. We must end nuclear power — before all of these end us. As a society, we must embrace conservation, efficiency and renewable sources of energy as a way to live decently and sustainably — and as a way to continue to live.

Remember, Mother Nature bats last. We must change our way of looking at the world. We must change our way of being in the world. We must stop seeing nature as something to be conquered and recognize that we are nature, nature is us, and nature is our sustenance. We must collaborate with her and cherish her.

There’s no time left! What’s at stake is our very survival. We are all connected.

— Carl Arnold