Our guest blogger is Shadia Fayne Wood, the founder of Project Survival Media.
On Thursday, July 7th, 2011, I joined 200 other New Yorkers from all over the state in an emergency rally to express our outrage to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) decision to overturn the statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing.
I first heard about hydro-fracking or fracking at the Reel Power Film Screening. They showed trailers or five minute clips of documentaries that addressed issues relating to climate change. Within 5 min of watching Gasland, I was pretty convinced that I needed to move back to New York and work on a fracking moratorium in the state.
To me, New York with its rolling hills, humid summers, leaves changing, creek swimming, sarcastic bluntness, is home. In those five minutes, I learned that natural gas wells are causing people’s tap water to light on fire and that over-exposure to this water causes permanent brain damage and cancer. In those five minutes, I felt like the natural gas industry and our government that subsidizes this industry was taking away my home.
I didn’t end up moving back to New York (yet) because I live and work in Berkeley on a project I founded called Project Survival Media. But, I did decide to go to New York for two months – work remotely and lend a hand in the fight against hydro-fracking.
I was only a little surprised when the call to action came so quickly after returning home.
It was amazing. The rally had been organized in two days and all around me were mothers and fathers, children, young people, and elders. It was a beautiful site to see so many people united and working together and yet so frustrating to know that with something so toxic and detrimental that there shouldn’t even be a fight at all.
Under the new plan, drilling would cease in watersheds for Syracuse and New York City. In light of this, it was so heartening to see downstate New Yorkers continuing to demand for a statewide ban. We heard speeches from those most active in organizing around the issue and then marched through the state legislature building chanting. Our voices resounded through the halls as we climbed the stairs to the Governor’s office.
The children led the way, holding signs and a stack of our petition signatures. It was only ten years ago that I was in their very place (though just a tad bit older) advocating for our right to clean water. It seemed surreal to see another generation of children carrying that same weight.
But things are different now. When I was little, I was working on statewide Superfund legislation. It took eight years, nearly half my life at the time, but we won. We have huge victories in New York that have set precedents for the whole county. We have more ways to organize than ever before. And, with visual media, impacted communities like mine have a voice to share our stories and viscerally motivate others to champion the cause.
Fracking destroys water. You can’t have life without water. You can’t have New York without water. We will fight this and we will win. This time it won’t take eight years because we have grown and the lessons we have learned cannot be unlearned. Governor Cuomo would be wise to choose life for the citizens of his great state over the profits and destruction wreaked by the natural gas industry.
Photographs by Shadia Fayne Wood.