I’ve tuned my ear to stories about changes in the environmental movement. In the three decades I’ve been doing this work, things have changed significantly and stayed the same, all at the same time.
What has changed is that we are now in a state of emergency over climate change, even as new extreme energy extraction like deep sea drilling, fracking, tar sands and mountain top removal are shredding the Earth.
And yet the arguments for environmentally damaging technologies and practices stay the same. There are three main arguments proponents use for any polluting, disease-inflicting technology: 1) the sick or starving baby, 2) the economy and jobs and 3) patriotism.
Proponents of the pesticide DDT, genetic engineering of seeds, or fracking, make the very same arguments. If we don’t have _____(name your technology) then babies will die and there won’t be any jobs. But energy issues get the extra argument that you are not being patriotic if you don’t let them frack or drill or run a pipeline through your backyard.
They used the same argument during the Manhattan Project when they mined uranium and destroyed the homeland of the Navajo Nation in the desert southwest of the United States. That old tarnished argument is being used in the demands to increase fracking and natural gas exportation to keep Russia in its place.
But we know these dirty technologies end up harming communities, especially those that are rural, indigenous, poor or communities of color. We have learned the hard way that every community deserves justice. Every community deserves health. Every community has the right to give or deny consent to actions that alter their future. Does it make sense to poison children in Pennsylvania or Wyoming or Texas to teach Putin a lesson?
I am heartened by the fact that young people are fully engaged in the struggle for environmental justice and a healthy Earth. They are getting arrested at the White House to protest climate change, demanding that their schools divest from polluting fossil fuels, and educating themselves and others on environmental justice.
This issue of the Networker marks some of the changes in the environmental landscape, including emerging science documenting the health effects of fracking, and students examining environmental racism and arguing for the precautionary principle. Stay tuned for future issues of the Networker laying out practical tools for communities to use in defending their health and well-being, and in so doing defending the whole Earth. This, in my book, is true patriotism.
All the best, Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director, Science & Environmental Health Network
P.S. Please see a recent ProPublica survey of recent research on potential health implications of fracking. http://www.propublica.org/article/drilling-for-certainty-the-latest-in-fracking-health-studies