September 20, 2012
Franny and Zooey…Beulah, Bambi, and Bonnie…Myrtle, Mimi, and Maybelline…Scout and Scamper. Candy and Brigid. Billy Boy and Pirate. These are just a few names from the roster of 51 goats on my farm for whom I am responsible. These are not just “livestock” to me. These are beautiful creatures of Nature with names that cause them to turn their heads towards me when I call. They have personalities that I recognize. They come running to me from the pasture when I call out ‘”Goats!” I have been there with them on 10-degree February mornings when their slick and steaming kids emerged from their bodies. I have been with them when they got sick and needed help them recover. I have pressed their warm udders with my hands twice a day for six years now as they gave me their milk for my farm’s cheeses and yogurts. These are my goats. I know my goats, and they know me.
Along with my dogs Wyatt and Bella. And a kitten abandoned at our barn, still to be named as we get to know him. And my laying hens and two roosters named NuRoo and Socks.
Living alongside them and me are the fauna and flora of my home place, inclusive of deer, rabbits, foxes, raptors, wrens, red winged blackbirds, swallows, doves, groundhogs, field mice, rats, chipmunks, possums, snakes, frogs, crickets and grasshoppers and earthworms, sugar maples, blueberry bushes, apple and pear trees, alfalfa and clover and timothy and native grasses, Queen Anne’s Lace and wild daisies and many other species of wild flowers.
All these lives, and mine, are sustained by the sweet air that blows across my 50-acre organic farm, and by the pure water running above and below the ground.
It is a beautiful, peaceable farm, except that now its peace and sustainability is threatened because one mile below my farm runs the Marcellus Shale – target of an extreme form of energy extraction that threatens my farm and all its inhabitants, domestic and wild, animal and plant, with sickness and destruction.
How do I know this? How do I know my farm is mortally threatened?
Because I have read the stories of Deborah Rogers in Texas, who suffered the deaths of two kid goats when they were asphyxiated after the flaring of a well. I have read of Tina Antes of Silt, Colorado whose goats suffered spontaneous abortions and stillborn kids after severe air pollution from gas drilling. And Darrel Smitsky of Hickory, PA who had eight healthy goats become paralyzed and die after drilling started. And Brian Beadle of Grandview, TX who lost five goats after his well went bad.
And I have read the veterinary literature that shows that “The most common cause of illness or death following exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons is aspiration pneumonia, which may cause a chronic progressive deterioration of health, with death after several days or weeks.” I have read the critical study by Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald of Cornell University on the “Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health” that provides 24 case studies of livestock and domestic animals who were sickened and killed by drilling activities. More than 100 cows dead at two farms from exposure to tainted water. I have read reports of rural communities fractured and shattered by the arrival of gas drilling, and the drop-off of milk production in Pennsylvania counties where the drilling is heaviest. I have read the studies that show vibrant, diversified rural economies – many now supporting a renaissance of small, sustainable organic farming – are decimated by boom-bust energy extraction industries that take their profits and leave their waste behind.
The evidence is in. The science is clear. The people inside that Convention Center are on the march to destroy my farm and many others in the pursuit of their short-term riches. They have a business model that allows them to get away with this. It goes like this.
Contaminate. Deny contamination. Litigate if the truth might become known. Settle with those who are losing everything. Gag them with court orders. Then deny again by saying the contamination never happened. Then crow about there being no proven cases of water contamination or sickness or deaths among animals and people. Get your bought-and-paid-for politicians like my state senator Joseph Scarlatti to make sure no systematic studies of human or animal health are ever funded or performed.
Well I am here to tell the people in that Convention Center: Not on my farm, not with my goats! If they are going to sicken or kill my goats, they will have to come through me to do it!
Dear friends, let us be clear about this. A crime of global proportions is underway. The water and air of Pennsylvania are under attack. And as bad as that is, it is only part of the criminal enterprise by which these people in that Convention Center are making their living. Because thanks to Bill McKibben who will speak to us shortly, we know this:
Oil and gas interests like those meeting here in Philadelphia already have on their balance sheets five times the fossil fuel assets that that it will take to destroy the planet’s climate and warm it beyond recognition. Their intention is to burn it all and to find even more to burn. We are witnessing the pre-meditated murder of the planet’s climate that sustains life as we know it. We are out of time. The resistance to fossil fuel dependency must begin now!
Iris Marie Bloom of Protecting Our Waters speaks of “full spectrum resistance.” We must battle them in the courts, as Pittsburgh and other communities are doing with drilling bans. For my part I will soon file “The Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez Conservation Easement” to memorialize and protect the legacy of my wife who died last November of lung cancer. Her ashes lie interred at the top of my farm in the roots of a white eastern pine growing in her name. The easement, based on an assertion of certain Rights of Nature, will defend my farm against any who would attack the ecosystems present at the surface and in the earth below.
Beyond bans and other legal protections, we must resist the frackers in the court of public opinion, in the classrooms and community meetings, on the movie screens and TV screens, in the frackers’ offices, in the offices of their bought-and-paid-for public officials, in their planning meetings, and on their well pads. Wherever these climate criminals meet, wherever these masters of war against our environment gather, wherever they act to carry out their crimes against nature, we must be there.
So may I suggest that by next year, instead of speaking and marching in these streets, we organize 100 people, no, 200, however many it takes, to shut down this gas industry conference. They don’t get to meet in Philadelphia to plan the destruction of our state. Let’s let them know that next year they may not come back here.