By Marissa Peck
On Wednesday I went to the rally against fracking and for renewable energies in New York state. There were a surprising number of young people and children. A middle school class on a field trip was walking up and down the protest line, equipped with signs and their backpacks. There were native american drummers and a harmonious group singing "we shall not be fracked" to the tune of "we shall overcome". There were also the gun rights activists and the medical marijuana advocates sprinkled throughout the corridor. But, the majority of the signs were about banning fracking in New York. There were a few people who took the positive side of developing renewable energies, but the overwhelming message was NO. And while this has its place in the hydrofracking debate, I am not sure it is the most productive discourse.
Saying NO is easily dismissed as the unrealistic or idealist demands of the crazy environmentalists. By only saying NO, it appears that the environmental groups do not fully understand, or do not care to understand, the reality of the situation: there is a whole lot of natural gas in New York state, and at our current levels of consumption said gas will be needed as we work to develop more efficient alternative energies.
Saying YES to renewables or YES to strong regulations on fracking in New York is a much more productive dialogue. Cuomo would have to look at these demands as what the people want and therefore ideally he would consider honoring them. But if politicians only hear the people demanding him to not do something, they give up, knowing that they cannot please everyone, and do what they want. This is far riskier because by only saying NO there has been little or no discourse about what the people want if fracking is allowed, and therefore Cuomo and his fellow politicians are left to make their own decisions on fracking.
Instead of saying NO, we should be saying PLEASE DON'T FRACK, BUT IF YOU MUST, DO IT THIS WAY SO THAT MY DRINKING WATER CANNOT BE LIT ON FIRE...
Unfortunately, this does not fit so nicely on a sign. It also requires a group of activists-or protesters-or whatever you would like to call them-who have done their research and who have thought critically about ways to make fracking safer. Fracking is going to happen in New York, it is only a matter of time.
So instead of an overwhelming NO, I would have liked to see a more productive and creative approach to the issue. Perhaps it was not the place nor the time. I understand that. I also understand that many people have lost faith in regulations that are meant to protect the environment, but really just protect business interests. People say NO because they see no other way to ensure safe drinking water because there is no way to ensure that fracking companies will value the health and safety of the local people and environment over maximizing their profits. Hydrofracking has caused serious environmental harm and people have suffered as a direct consequence; there is no denying that. Right now the discourse that dominates is to ban hydrofracking, but as this is not realistically going to happen I believe that alternatives and ways to make hydrofracking safer is the only way environmental groups are going to really see success in their movement.