Today is November 21st. We Can’t Go Home Again.
Today is November 21st. The day that I was dreading for so many months. It’s here and I have no fear.
Why? Because so many of you called, signed up, emailed, and threatened to protest that you averted the coming crisis before it happened.
For nearly four years now I haven’t been able to go home. For nearly four years now, I have been plagued by nightmares, visions of destruction and the horrible unsettling feeling that the ground that has always been my home might be taken away from me forever.
Of course, we are far from safe from fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The gas drilling machine will rev its gears up again, most likely even more fiercely than before to try once again to frack the Delaware. But all of your actions defeated one of the most powerful and destructive industries on the planet for the time being and you should all be proud of that. As Tracy Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper has said to me so many times, “every day without gas drilling in the river basin is a victory.”
Do I feel settled? Do I feel like I can finally feel safe and secure at home again? Honestly, I have to say no. For two reasons. 1) This fight is not yet over in the Delaware River Basin. We have bought ourselves some time but we’re not out of the woods (or back into them, as it were) yet. And 2) the past three years of campaigning in 200 cities all over the country and on five continents against fracking has taught me that I can’t go home until everyone can. That this nightmare is being wrought on so many in their waking lives all over the world and that it must be stopped. Today we will rally in Trenton to reinforce our victory, yes, and it is victory that we have fought for and needed with such energy and passion that it almost seems unreal. But more importantly today we will rally for the rest of the country that is currently being fracked to hell.
I think we are all just trying to become human again. We are in a system that has gone out of control.
At today’s non-violence training in New York city, we were listing the costs and benefits of direct action. The responses from the audience were stirring. Among the costs people listed risk of physical injury, risk of arrest, risk of humiliation in the media, and financial and institutional costs of direct action. But these seemed to pale in comparison to the benefits of direct action– the ability to stand with history, the satisfaction of acting on one’s beliefs, the power to change something wrong, and something rather surprising. Someone said that doing direct action was a feeling of oneness with the universe and with community. That self sacrifice was in fact, a benefit.
The person went on to say that the ability to act meaningfully is a necessity to humanity.
Is our very humanness on the line? Is it affirmed by what we are doing when we decide to engage in peaceful protest against an obvious wrong?
My good friend Mark Ruffalo once said “thank god for gas drilling” because it brought him closer to so many people in his community. I understand why he said that, and although I have to say that I’m not quite there yet, I do believe that tomorrow and all the rest of the days ahead, it would perhaps be beneficial and meaningful to always think of ourselves as campaigning for another person’s home. That we are campaigning for a larger community that we strive to be good enough to live in. And that there is a fundamental kind of generosity at work here. We are enriched far more by giving our voices to help others survive or defeat this nightmare than we ever would be by destroying our beautiful country so that we could get some cheap gas to market.
So tomorrow I think we have to look forward. And realize that we can’t go home again until we have built the community that we would like to live in for all of us across the globe fighting extreme energy. That if the folks in Dimock, PA or in Ft. Worth or in Wyoming or Queensland, Australia are getting fracked. Then we are all getting fracked. And that we can’t go home until they can too.
And this is true in more than just metaphor.
Matt Sanchez and I interviewed Dr. James Hansen last week. It was a life changing experience. Dr. Hansen discovered climate change while working for NASA in the 1970s. He was examining the surface temperature of Venus and looking at the atmosphere there and he discovered that the atmosphere of Venus had so much methane and CO2 in it that it trapped an enormous amount of heat, bringing the surface temperature to 700 degrees, hot enough to melt lead. He noticed that we on Earth were adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere and he saw that if we weren’t careful, we would end up like Venus. The present day climate justice movement stems from those discoveries.
He told us that scientists are no good at defending themsevles, nor do they have the means. They are not good at sound bites, they don’t have the funds for PR firms the way oil and gas companies do and even though they are scientifically right, their voices are often less powerful in the media than those with the money to shout them down. That we have to defend the truth, that our voices have to fight for the real science.
But the most important thing he said was that our global move to extreme energy and to unconventional fossil fuels such as fracked gas, spells big big trouble for the planet. He told us that if we burned all of the conventional oil and gas and coal on the planet, the easily obtainable stuff, we would be in trouble as far as the climate goes but that if we worked really hard we could probably find a way to stabilize the planet with slowly decreasing use of those conventional fossil fuel reserves. But he warned, over and over during the interview, that if we develop and burn all of the unconventional oil, gas and coal–those obtained by fracking, Mountaintop Removal, Tar Sands development and Deepwater Drilling, that there is really no way out for us. The development of unconventional fossil fuels is a highway straight to runaway climate change.
We may win in the Delaware River basin, we may avoid fracking there. But we may lose the entire eco-system of the river in a short time thereafter due to destruction from climate change. If fracking reigns supreme from PA to the UK, our goose is cooked. Which is why, beyond all metaphor, we can’t go home again. Even if we were to unequivocally ban fracking in the river basin or in New York state or in one or another region. It has to be stopped all over the planet.
So what do we have to do? We have to stop fracking the Delaware River basin AND in New York AND in Texas AND in the UK and everywhere else. We have to reach out, as a global movement to make bold partnerships across the world and as we rack up wins, we have to redouble our efforts to spread those victories around.
When we win, we can fight with a lighter sense of being and purpose. We when win we can keep fighting with just a fraction less tension. When we win, we can ride a wave forward.
So I hope tomorrow we are just a bit lighter, but we fight with the same enthusiasm and passion, because we are truly fighting for us all.
I hope to see you there.