The exciting news just announced that Governor Cuomo will ban fracking in New York State is proof positive that galvanizing the public about the health dangers inherent to fossil fuels can move the needle and influence public leaders.
The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and as I learned when I wrote about Lois Gibbs, mothers (and fathers) concerned about their children’s well being will not be intimidated by the powers that be.
One of the biggest takeaways from the People’s Climate March was that it was not a one-off. Individuals from all walks of life, who were concerned about the future of their children and the planet, self-organized within like-minded communities.
Several of the groups that represented New York City’s boroughs have moved beyond their initial mobilization for the Manhattan event. They demonstrated the importance of grassroots activity and became involved local activists.
This month, I attended a general meeting for Bronx Climate Justice North, which has been gathering steam since its inception on October 29. The first hour of the proceedings included a presentation by Clare Donohue, founding member of the Sane Energy Project. She spoke about energy issues throughout New York State, illustrated by a continually evolving map called, “You Are Here!” The goal of the project is, “To put a human face on the places at risk or already devastated by fracking infrastructure in New York.” Donohue outlined how residents were changing the dialogue, while helping others to “connect the dots.”
I reached out to her via e-mail, to get her take on the importance of granular involvement. She responded with the following insights:
“Local action is important because it is often where citizens have the most access and chance of successfully influencing an outcome. But it is also a window to larger action.
In the same way that, ‘All politics is local,’ (but depends on and is interdependent with larger issues), all energy issues turn out to be as well. It’s the local violation and the threat closest to one’s home that gets our attention, and draws us in to fight the immediate threat. But inevitably, the local fight explains the bigger picture and eventually demonstrates how interconnected we all are.
For instance, there were relatively few people activated against fracking in Westchester before the Spectra AIM pipeline became a local threat. Now, suburbanites are much more engaged, not just on that local fight but on the larger infrastructure and energy issues as well.
Here in Marble Hill, the immediate threat is the liquefied petroleum gas trains outside our windows. With very little digging, it became apparent how connected we are to the bigger picture. That includes LPG storage at Seneca Lake, and the current trend to reverse the flow of pipelines and export domestic fuel supplies.
Local action is important both for its direct effect, and for its secondary effect of engaging people in their democracy—which is the best shot we have at creating system change. It is important because it is often where citizens have the most access and chance of successfully influencing an outcome. But it is also a window to larger action.”
This week, Donohue will be giving a primer to Bronx Community Board No. 8 about safety and neighborhood concerns resulting from propane delivery and transportation in the neighborhood.
Everybody wants quality of life for their families. On the agenda for the “Bronx Climate Justice Platform,” which is being framed to support all residents of the borough, are the concerns of environmental justice, the use of pesticides in parks, creating more opportunities for “green jobs,” supporting renewable energy, and preserving green space.
Looking back on the hard work of this year, it’s time for all those singular voices to congratulate themselves for making New York a healthier place for their children.