Opinion: DRBC Postpones Debacle. What’s A Conservationist to Do?


I say to you  as I’ve said  regularly  to my long-suffering  children,  if you never listen to another word I say,  listen to me now:

The Delaware River Basin is threatened by the natural gas industry and hydraulic fracturing.  If you love the  river and its environs,  now is the time to act.  There won’t  be another moment.  In years to come, when  your water is spoiled and your land is worthless,  this is the moment you will remember and you  will ask yourself,  “What was so important that I didn’t protect the River Valley when I had the chance?”

The Delaware River Basin Commission  (DRBC) is under pressure from  the natural gas drilling industry, politicians, property holders and farmers dying on the vine.  The Commission’s decision to extend the public comment period on Chesapeake’s application was a gift to Conservationists but also provides drilling proponents with  additional time to concentrate their forces.

What can conservationists  do with the two months we’ve been given?

First rule of organizing:  identify your resources  and bring them to bear.  I’ll start with mine and those sent in by others. You add your own. (Three rules govern  community brainstorming:   think big,  fluidly  and don’t turn your nose up at any idea. It might not stand on its own but with others to bolster it,  the fabric becomes more whole.)

RESOURCES I see  that can be brought to bear in saving the Delaware River Basin:

The indescribable beauty of the area, the  thousands of people who started visiting as children and who now bring their grandchildren,  Robert Kennedy, Jr.,  Alan and Sandra Gerry, Jimmy Carter (flyfishing, flyfishing, flyfishing),  River and Mountainkeepers, WJFF,  The River Reporter, Sullivan Transition, Pete Seeger, The Sloop Clearwater, Upper Delaware Networkers,  Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Wayne and Sullivan Peace Groups, Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development,  the many new groups springing up the length of the Delaware Basin in its defense, Thich Nhat Hanh,  the internet and its viral capacity, our kids,  Josh Fox, musicians, artists, writers, photographers, Maurice Hinchey, Hello Honesdale!, private lands where people can camp when they come for the day, Lawrence Rockefeller, Dan Rather, Amanda Burden, Charlie Rose, the New York City Council,  Wayne County Audobon Society, citizen journalists and commentators like Leni Santoro (Catskill Chronicle), Breathing is Political and Zest of Orange…

Of course, once we have our resources “on board,”  we have to give them something to do.

Imagine a   Delaware River Basin  Conservation Day (or some other snazzier name!) that stretches the entire 330 miles of the Basin.  Each river community will go  down to the river and each person will pour a single cup of water into it.  Conservation NOT exploitation.

Sounds silly,  doesn’t it?  Remember  when Gandhi led the Indian people to the sea to make salt?  The British Empire laughed.  They smirked.  They made fun of the “little brown man”  (as the newsreels described the Mahatma).  But then, the images of thousands and thousands of people making salt  hit the international  teletypes  and  in that moment,  the sun began to set on the British Empire.

On the Conservation Day I imagine,   each community will organize whatever ancillary celebrations they want — a festival,  show movies, sell locally-produced goods, play baseball, sleep, camp out  —  so long as they do it on the banks of the River.  And that  night,  when orbiting  satellites can see it,  a candlelight vigil  will stretch 330 miles.   Dream on,  right?   But that image and the power in it  are  far more imaginable to me than what the drillers have planned for our Valley.

And if “too few people show up?”

I’m reminded of the political candidate who suggested during the last election cycle that certain members of Congress  should be investigated for Un-American activities.  Within 24 hours, the viral capacity of the internet had dumped $1 million dollars into her opponent’s campaign coffers.  (The poor man was absolutely flummoxed by  the unexpected bounty!)  We have the rest of July and all of August to organize  before Labor Day (if that’s the weekend we choose).   We have nothing to lose by thinking as large and inclusively as we can.   By the end of September,  the DRBC will most likely have made its decision on Chesapeake’s application to begin their surface water  withdrawals.  (For a detailed explanation of what the withdrawals will look like, please see James Barth’s lucid explanation in the “comments”  section following my last post, “Delaware River Basin Commission: Postpones 30,000,000 Gallon Withdrawal from Delaware River.”)

CottageWorks and Breathing Is Political will each donate $200 for the purpose of promoting the Day of Conservation. Whatever consortium of groups is willing to help organize the event, the money is theirs.

Finally,  I want to address the issue of language.  We who protect are often in defensive mode. Whether we stand in defense of the Constitution or our world’s ecology,   our position is often a response to a perceived threat.  In consequence,  we’re portrayed as the “antis”:  anti-war, anti-frakking, anti-nuclear, anti-business, anti-farmers.  I no longer submit to that characterization.  I am not “an anti-frakker.”  Besides being a nasty assortment of consonants,  I’m  not “anti-” anything.  I am a Conservationist.  I am  a walking, talking, thinking, loving,  nurse, construction worker, paralegal, writer and former farmworker.  And I’m pro-water, baby!

Many thanks to Karl Rove for the instruction.

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8 thoughts on “Opinion: DRBC Postpones Debacle. What’s A Conservationist to Do?

  1. Nancy Eos

    I agree. I AM a conservationist – neither an ‘anti-‘ nor a ‘pro-‘. I like the idea of adding a cup of water to the Delaware. I will bring it from another stream or filter it from the water supply. If we have a million people add a cup a DAY… will we be even close to the amount being taken out at the same time by the frakkers?
    In fact, I think I will just occasionally, silently, begin to bring a cup to the Delaware and look to see if anyone else is joining me… just so silently… and maybe then there will be a big Conservation Day of doing what we have already been doing… building momentum… Ahhhh, the power of positive thought.

  2. lizbucar Post author

    The response has been 100% positive. Many people understand instinctively (or as a matter of survival) that drilling is ill-conceived; that its power for destruction is unimaginable. I think one reason it hasn’t been on the radar of many NY residents is because that when we heard about the drilling plans, we simply couldn’t believe it could happen. And now it’s imminent. “Eternal vigilance.” Thanks so much for writing. Please encourage people you know to do likewise. It raises the visibility of the issue/plan and can potentially involve folks from outside the Basin. It is a national concern. It has to be.

  3. eileen cear

    I have been reading many responses lately on the issue of drilling for natural gas in NY. Wow though, the first comment about children visiting the area over the years.
    What about the poor people living here for generations. We NYC people(I’m actually on Long island), but own property in the watershed, take such advantage of this area, and take away all future developement for people how have been here first. Remember what we all did to the Indians. We need to do something for upstate, no only take-and direct ALL future activites in the name of being our Playground.

  4. lizbucar Post author

    Your comment underscores one of the most devastating impacts on our communities: neighborhoods, friends and families have been divided by the arrival of drillers in the Basin. And with that has come the language of division. Old-timers vs. second-home buyers; farmers vs. white collar workers. It’s the same old “divide and conquer” mentality that has destroyed communities time after time to the benefit of corporations. And in the old days, that divide was exacerbated by “city folk” who came and took. But these days, people are coming to the mountains because they want to preserve our farms and old ways. I’d ask that you read an earlier article, “Drawing A Line in the Sand” which asks Conservationists to consider what our counter-offer should be to a farmer watching his seeds rot in the ground or students like our columnist, Ashley, who wonders if there’s a future for her anywhere. One of our residents who is pro-drilling, called Delaware River Basin conservationists “dilettantes.” As a three decade resident in these mountains who supported my family working in construction, milking cows, hospital nursing and mowing lawns, I understand that without strong communities, our future here is in grave doubt. I certainly don’t foresee an old age here with my family around me. More largely, if our farmers weren’t being driven out by mega-corporate farms or if there were other viable sources of income in the mountains, natural gas drilling companies would never have gained a stronghold. On the other hand, perhaps we should ask the folks in Dimock, PA whether their poisoned wells have improved the life of their community.

  5. tim shera

    Hi Liz,

    The possibility of injuring the earth in the Delaware Basin/Catskill area hurts me deeply. Of all the environmental destruction or potential destruction going from this potential drilling and that mountaintop removal in West Virginia hurt the most. Such a plan is so arrogant. Since when is it OK to injure the earth in any way? I am noticing this is more than a mental thing with me. It actually causes pain in my gut and heart to imagine it.

    I want to join you in that celebration along the Delaware and whatever else I can do to support the prevention of drilling.

    Love, Tim

  6. lizbucar Post author

    It feels the same to me which is part and parcel of why it’s so hard to understand. On the other hand, if I had property with rights to lease, would I turn down the opportunity if I could use that money to help my son pay off his quarter of a million dollars in education debt? If my corn was rotting in the field, would I refuse to sell the rights? I can’t answer that honestly. I don’t know the answer. Would I make a choice that served my child’s short term interest to the potential detriment of the Basin’s long-term future? I don’t know. But that’s why we have laws: so the greater good is not upended by individual interests. So, as a world and a society, we have a chance of evolving intelligently and compassionately. As it is, I will do all I can to stop the drilling because my heart is just too sore to do otherwise. We’ve gone through the ugly divisiveness before: when the NPS came to town and when Sullivan West was consolidated. Our communities need desperately to organize around sustainability so we have a future and this other road we’re preparing to travel is too horrible to allow.

  7. lizbucar Post author

    Editor’s comment: I’ve received numerous responses to the idea of a Delaware River Basin party. Unfortunately, the “comments” link here is sometimes hard to see so I’m hand-posting some of them. Here’s this from “Joe”:

    Hey Liz,
    I’m not a blogger but feel free to use any thoughts of mine on your sites. I like the idea of a basin wide picnic/celebration and remember the older slogan “we all live downstream” noting that the drilling will take place in the headwaters which are the most vulnerable areas of OUR “Special Protections” River. Special protection is something any letters to the DRBC should include since it suppose to provide more protection and not less this is why we have regulations and should not put this on fast pace permitting. The further away you live from the Marcellus Shale the less people know about it. I’m really surprised how many people I talk to in the Milford area haven’t even heard about the gas drilling, so as you go on your quest don’t forget the mid and lower regions of the Delaware who actually get their drinking water from the River. I keep hearing from the proponents that this is the largest gas deposit in the US and there’s 40-50 years of gas there and that’s “IF” you can get to all of it…then what happens to our children when we contaminate OUR River and use up all the gas…now as a country we are really depend on foreign supplies!!
    Keep me in the loop, I’ll do what I can.
    Joe

  8. Tanyette Colon

    Hi Liz:

    The idea of a candlelight vigil is absolutely brilliant! Everyone peacefully lined up on all 330 miles of this amazing water source for a common cause. What do we have to do to get this started:>)?? I also wanted to mention that although I am a part-time resident I take great pride in buying everything from local vendors…in this world of mass production it’s nice to have access to items/foods that are made in the community.

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