For weeks, I was looking forward to the Albany hydrofracking rally on May 2nd. A friend who works in state government said that rallies were getting more common. “Does that mean that legislators are starting to tune us out?” I asked. No, he answered, but nor are we changing anyone’s mind. People who are against it are against it. And people who are for it are for it. For a moment, I was deflated. But then — there are lots of people for whom this issue isn’t the deal-breaker I think it is. That means that they’re there to be converted. (She thinks, strategically.)
That in mind, I got ready for my road trip. A road-trip buddy was recruited. Clever sign ideas were brainstormed and put onto paper. A proper-for-the-anticipated-68-degree-weather-yet-still-cute outfit was chosen. I told my co-workers where I was going and asked if I’d loose my semi-Federal-employee job if I got arrested, and enjoyed their looks of “oh, I didn’t think Elizabeth would do something like that.”
The rally attendees about half-filled the green we were standing on, which is overlooked by State governmental buildings. Would Governor Cuomo come out, I wondered? (A girl can hope that she’s there the moment he decides that he won’t be able to win the presidency without our 31 electoral votes and will move to protect the whole state’s water supply.) We listened to speakers, we clapped to songs, Food Not Bombs handed out free peanut butter sandwiches and someone in an Elmo costume told us not to frack with kids (right on, Elmo!) My dress proved to be a bad decision (wind + a dress = I can’t hold up those signs I worked so hard on.)
We lined up for the march to a gas company’s office, and when we arrived, with people peering out their windows (I waved, nobody waved back) a representative came out to “talk.” Since I first learned about fracking, the people of towns that have had hydrofracking have been my heros. Their homes are now worthless, their health impacted, their faith in their government and in legal protection shaken… And they take time out from work, endure threats, speak in public (God knows I couldn’t do that last one) to try to prevent it from happening elsewhere, and to maybe get some acknowledgement of their ordeal. So it was an almost holy opportunity when someone from Dimock, Pennsylvania (the wind was against me, I couldn’t hear his name or see him) stood in front of this man with a Mason jar of fracked water and asked for an explanation.
Even as the crowd pressed in on him (a few feet separated him from us and there were no cops nearby that I saw) and I strained to hear the exchange, what struck me was how sad he looked. Maybe it was a feeling of being threatened that I saw in his face, maybe it was concealed disdain – but what I saw at that moment was sadness. I don’t think he wants to leave nothing good behind when he’s done drilling. I don’t think he wants a hundred people chanting “more lies, no surprise!” like got started after a few moments of him talking. If he’s sad, he has good reason to be. If he’s not, why the heck isn’t he? An 80-some-odd-years-old woman was in the middle of everything, her “stop fracking!” sign in her lap as she was pushed in a wheelchair by a fabulously awesome assistant. She could have slapped some sense into him. But he didn’t listen to us, and we didn’t listen to him. This isn’t something I’m happy about, but it is what it is.
I’ll link here to the best part of the day- a reminder that hydrofracking is a reflection of a perverted relationship to the earth and with each other, that there are safe solutions to the energy crisis that already exist, and that there are more people who realize this than who don’t. Take a look. And next time there’s a rally and you’re my road-trip buddy, remind me not to wear a dress.