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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