Invitation to Albany—a prose poem in twelve parts by Sandra Steingraber
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. —Mahatma Gandhi
I am writing you from an airport in Wisconsin. People here, and across the river in Minnesota, are trying desperately to halt the strip-mining of their communities for frack sand. Trucks are rolling. Silica dust is flying. Hill by hill, bluff by bluff: the land itself is shoveled into railcars and shipped off to the gas fields of America where grains of silica sand are shot into the cracks of fractured bedrock so methane can flow out of it.
What’s left behind in Wisconsin and Minnesota are moonscapes and ruined water.
Citizens write, testify, protest. Mothers contemplate civil disobedience. Some have done it.
I’m calling you, again, to Albany.
Once on Wednesday, January 30th and a second time on Monday, February 4th. And you are not allowed to feel depressed about it.
Okay, you can feel depressed all you want, but you have to show up anyway. And you may have to get up in the middle of the night because we all need to be there by 8:30 a.m.
Three weeks ago, New Yorkers created a chanting, drumming wall of opposition to fracking that stretched a quarter mile down the Empire State Plaza concourse. Every audience member en route to the governor’s speech was compelled to walk by the biggest demonstration on at any State of the State address in the history of New York.
Next we delivered 204,000 comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation, all of them arrows aimed at the arbitrary, incoherent draft regulations on fracking—cynically released by the DEC as a legal maneuver to avoid blowing their own deadline. Given just 30 days over the holidays to read 328 pages of regulations and compose our thoughts, we broke all records for number of public comments submitted on any DEC topic. Ever.
Did you think that alone would be sufficient to stop the most powerful industry on earth from fracking New York State?
The signs coming out of Albany do not say the answer is yes. Sorry.
What should we do? Give up? Or act like the citizen uprising that we are?
Here’s the plan: First, sign The Pledge to Resist Fracking in New York State. Doing so is a solemn commitment to join with others in acts of peaceful, non-violent protest—“as my conscience leads me”—should Governor Cuomo approve fracking in New York State. Invite others to sign. Let’s build a formidable wall of signatures. As of today, 6,500 names are on it. Let’s build it higher.
Next, on Wednesday, January 30, come to the New York State Legislature budget hearing on health. Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah will testify at 9 a.m. Wear lab coats, scrubs, stethoscopes—anything that signifies medicine. Our friends at Frack Action will provide the tape to seal your mouth shut. (Facebook sign-up here.)
So silenced, we’ll protest the secret, hasty, improvisational nature of the state’s “health review” on fracking, which the DOH has prepared with no public input whatsoever, after rebuffing New York’s medical health professionals, and while subjecting the outside reviewers to gag orders. The message being: Halt the sGEIS. Show us the damn review.
Cameras will be rolling. Let’s pack Hearing Room B.
Even more important: Five days later, on Monday, February 4: DEC Commissioner Joe Martens testifies at 9 a.m. Wear blue. Bring signs. Bring jars of water. Be ready to hold jars of water aloft. (Facebook sign up here.)
Cameras will be rolling. Let’s pack Hearing Room B with an overflowing crowd that swirls like a river and astonishes everyone, from the Albany press corps to all the governor’s men.
After Martens’ testimony, the really loud rally—no sgeis! no regs! no fracking!—begins at noon in the Capitol’s elegant Million Dollar Staircase. You know the one—it’s the opening scene in the documentary film, “Dear Governor Cuomo.”
Which they loved, by the way, in Winona, Minnesota.
What the gas industry has: money, political access, paid lobbyists.
What we have: science, love, unrelenting resolve.
What to live up to:
In his second inaugural address, President Obama named three places where human rights were born. Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall.
Two belong to us.
What’s at stake:
Upstate New York’s homegrown resistance to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. . .has continued to faceoff against the energy industry and state government in a way that may set the tone for the rest of the country in the decades ahead. In small hamlets and tiny towns you’ve never heard of, grassroots activists are making a stand in what could be the beginning of a final showdown for Earth’s future.
—Ellen Cantarow, “Frack Fight”
What to say to your friend when you ask her to come with you:
This is our moment. Perhaps you never thought you’d get a chance to play hero. Here it is.
–Audrey Schulman, “How to Be a Climate Hero”
I am writing to you from my own house. I need to find a babysitter. I need to cash a check. I need to shelve a work project. I need to cook ahead. I need to cancel music lessons. I need to find a ride.
I will be with you in Albany. This is not fun. This is not easy.
The water that flows from my kitchen tap is the blood of my children.
I will meet you in Albany, January 30th and again, and even more urgently, on February 4th. This is huge. This is it.