Frack-Free Headwaters, Please

Governor Andrew Cuomo and assorted bigwigs from the New York State Democratic Party were scheduled to meet at the Corning Radisson Hotel for an elaborate powwow on the evening of April 27. Many people of western New York were interested in letting Cuomo know that they were not pleased by his apparent willingness to bow before the corporate Gods of Gas eager to start hydrofracking in the state. Hundreds of protestors representing 34 interest groups and private citizens from New York and Pennsylvia converged on Corning’s Radisson for a planned march, for speeches and impromptu theater. It had been a cold, overcast day but the spirited gathering along Denison Avenue and Market Street quickly heated the determination of young and old alike to keep the fracking industry from disemboweling New York, the way it has in many parts of Pennsylvania and in western states like Wyoming. Many peaceful protestors made their statements of disdain (while supporting and encouraging renewable energy systems) despite the fact that, early on, we learned that Governor Cuomo had decided not to attend the grand convention.

From the square on Market Street we marched to busy Denison and paraded before the multi-star hotel while cars drove by and honked their horns, giving a thumbs up in support. The driver of one small car drove by and yelled “Go home!” to which one of my fellow troublemakers responded curtly, “We are home!” This was my first public protest since the late 1990s. Prior to that time I had been involved with numerous environmental gatherings, peaceful protests, some of them involving civil disobedience and planned arrest. So I felt a little old and rusty out there today, but it was fun to march productively along Market Street, to carry signs, chant and sing off-key, to embarrass my daughter a bit and, hopefully, to make her realize that the spirit of the message was the key. We marched through the heart of the city and turned a lot of heads without inconveniencing a soul. If we irritated a few folks and made them think, all the better. I wasn’t doing this for nostalgia’s sake or to make some stupid fashion statement. This was not the long-haired days of flower power and political revolution, nor was it knee-jerk NIMBYism (“not in my back yard”). From my perspective it was good to see young people with some fire in their hearts, to see the older folks rise and make a stand, even if from the stillness of their wheelchairs.

Dear Governor,

You missed it but we hope you get the update. Bottom line: please don’t disregard the health and safety and sustainability of our state. The fracking industry hoodwinked our neighboring state of Pennsylvania. It bought off the politicians and it steamrolled the citizens with unscrupulous deals and promises of wealth. This fracking business undercuts our efforts to build renewable systems of energy use. Its methane adds significantly to the threat of global warming. Damn if it doesn’t look and sound like what the coal and timber industries accomplished in their boom and bust crusades of a century ago! Talk about an impact on the land and waters! Take another look at what’s happening to the wild and rural districts of northern Pennsylvania. And you speak about jobs. You mean the ones filled mostly by out-of-staters? The ones that’ll grab at the remainder of our natural resources, the ones that will actually eat away at the ground rock of our physical, spiritual and economic well-being? And you say the gas could pave the road to energy independence? How so, if most of what we suck from the Marcellus teat would be shipped to India and China where the corporate chiefs will get a lot more “mileage” out of it. Are you still there, Governor? Stand up to those bastard corporations and their lobbyists. Be the first kid on your block, the first governor of this nation, to do it for America. We’ll all feel better for the backbone and honesty, and we’ll see you on reelection day.

Sincerely, Rivertop Rambles.

After the disbanding of the masses, I caught up to my daughter Alyssa and her friend Scout. They’d go visit the bathrooms of the Radisson, near the schmoozing center. I’d go visit the bathroom of the first saloon on the left of Market. Alyssa could meet me there when she was ready. I bought a beer and hastened to my retreat. Graffiti on the wall echoed the words of guitar maestro, Frank Zappa: “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline– it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”

At the very least you need a beer. Good advice for a serious event. Ben Franklin might’ve said the same in his own way. Ah yes, a real country… Maybe we could start one here… We could start with a beer, with a baseball team in spring, with an airline (optional), and a spirited people willing to stand up and be counted, to chant for the health of the land and waters, to shout for the good of all.

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About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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