Rule It Out!

Testimony on PA DEP Regulations
RE: Chapter 78a Regulations for Unconventional Wells
April 29, 2015
Washington and Jefferson College Public Hearing
Washington, PA

J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD
221 East Union Street, Apt 1
Punxsutawney, PA 15767


Good evening, I have formal testimony I am submitting on paper, but let me just hit the highlights of those recommendations for purposes of this hearing.

My first point is a process one.
It concerns the fact that many hundreds of people and dozens of organizations have been working statewide to demand tighter regulations than those that are currently proposed by DEP. My testimony includes those recommendations as they were written by others, in addition to my own original comments. I hope that they will not be discounted as a result. I have read that DEP will judge what it believes to be form letters and aggregate the recommendations contained therein as if they were recommended only once.

I hope that is not true. Many of us work on this part-time and as volunteers, so we rely upon our environmental nonprofits to cull through the regulations that DEP makes so very difficult to read in the first place, and then to focus in on the ones we want many voices to support because we have seen the harm done by current practices that too leniently regulated.

If 1,000 of us tell you 1,000 times to ban open waste impoundments, then count that as 1,000 recommendations even if we all say it the same way.

The irony is that DEP – practicing what some have called “egg-slice permitting” – will disaggregate the toxic emissions coming from 8 or 10 gas compressor stations that, because of their proximity to one another, are emitting within a small geographic area more dangerous gases like Nitrous Oxide than are generated out of 2-3 large steel mills with smokestacks. Yet DEP refuses to count these as a “single source” of pollution so they can escape EPA toxic emissions oversight.

So if you will do that for the industry, please return to the people in these hearings the courtesy of counting us each as separate people with separate comments.

So, that said, here are MY recommendations (priorities).

Number 1: Close immediately all open air frack pits and impoundments, NOW! Not within three years from when these regulations go into effect. We have been waiting 10 years for this ugly groundwater and air-polluting hazard to end. Why do we have to wait three more years?! Why does the industry get more time? Dr. Michel Boufadel at University of Pennyslvania has shown how leaking impoundments can leave a 200-year legacy of groundwater pollution. News reports have said that DEP does not even know how many such impoundments exist or where they are. Simple rule – CLOSE THEM ALL, NOW, and don’t bury them either.

Standards for frack pits and impoundments (Sections 78.56, 78.57, 78.58, and 78.59).
Mounting violations and the potential for water and air pollution have already led some companies to transition away from pits and standardize the use of closed loop systems for the storage and treatment of waste. Issues with frack pits have led to contaminated water and resulted in the largest state fines ever against a driller in Pennsylvania, both over $4 million, to Range Resources and XTO for water contamination due to leaking. DEP should amend the final regulations to:

Prohibit operators from using any open-air pits and tanks, regardless of size or location, for storage and treatment of regulated wastes, including wastewater, drill cuttings, and substances (like gels and cement) that return to the surface after fracking. The new revisions prohibit the use of production pits at shale gas well sites, an important change that should be supported. But the use of huge impoundments to service multiple wells would still be allowed. Waste should be stored and treated only in closed, aboveground systems.

Require all waste impoundments to be properly closed immediately upon the effective date of the regulations. The revisions give operators 3 years to either properly close their existing impoundments or bring them under compliance with the construction requirements in residual waste permits. This is an improvement but still puts nearby residents and the environment at risk.

Require that tanks used for the storage of waste be completely enclosed. The revisions give operators the option of using tanks “without lids” to store waste on well sites—making it more likely that polluting spills and emissions will occur.

Existing pits which contain fracking wastes, including wastewater, drill cuttings, and any other substances that returns to the surface after fracking may not be buried on-site (no “toxic teabags”).

NUMBER 2: Protect the Children. DEP should require, at minimum, a one-mile setback of oil and gas wells, waste storage facilities, and any other infrastructure from the property boundary of any school property.

Definition of public resource (Section 78.15, 78.57, 78a.15, 78.57a)
DEP has added schools to the list of public resources that require additional consideration when permitting oil and gas wells and longer setbacks of waste storage from school buildings, parks, and playgrounds. This is a positive step, but is not sufficiently protective. While there is no scientifically established “safe setback” beyond which there aren’t health risks from oil and gas development, the distances in the regulations (200 feet and 300 yards) are far too little to offer even limited protection.

To improve protection from pollution, noise, and light and safety from traffic, accidents, and explosions, DEP should require, at minimum, a one-mile setback of oil and gas wells, waste storage facilities, and any other infrastructure from the property boundary of any school property. This setback should also be applied to locations where other vulnerable populations reside, including nursing homes, hospitals, day care centers, and communities at a disproportionate risk of health impacts (such as those living in environmental justice areas where exiting pollution is already too high and people do not have the means to move away).

NUMBER 3: Not only make drillers responsible for identifying abandoned gas and oil wells before they drill, but plug them up if needed before drilling. This industry has gone along for too many years passing on its messes to be cleaned up at the cost of the public. If they want to drill, tidy up the site beforehand, at their cost. They can afford it better than the public treasury can.

Identify orphaned and abandoned gas and oil wells (Section 78.52a.)
Operators of unconventional wells are required to identify the location of old wells before drilling new ones, an important change that should be supported. An estimated 200,000 abandoned wells exist statewide. As drilling spreads and intensifies, so does the chance of accidents, blowouts, and pollution from the intersection of new wells with old ones. DEP should expand these changes and require operators to:

Identify existing wells through onsite inspection before site and well construction and drilling so that the location of a new well can be changed if needed.

Plug and seal or otherwise appropriately address abandoned and orphaned wells according to state safety standards prior to new well site construction. The state lacks funding to address the large number of old wells, so drillers should be responsible for preventing water and air pollution when accidents occur.

NUMBER 4: The Huge Waste Issue. This industry has no plan for getting rid of the 1.3 barrels of toxic waste they generate for every foot of each well bore they drill. (Call me if you want documentation on that number.) Some treatment plants not able to handle the waste still receive it because they were “grandfathered in.” Well, grandpa is dead, probably from drinking polluted water, and we must have no more flowback water going into our rivers, period. And disposal wells in the middle of communities that depend on well water are no solution, either. If EPA does not ban those, DEP should.

All waste returned to the surface must be monitored, inspected and documented weekly. Treatment and or transport to an approved waste disposal site must be documented with a paper trail.

DEP must prohibit the use of wastewater (brine) from both conventional and unconventional wells as a de-icer or dust suppressant. The practice has not been proven safe and the cumulative effects are unknown.

NUMBER 5: Transparency and access to information. DEP needs to make sure all electronic filings and reports from operators are posted to the public the same day they are completed. And DEP needs to release all data from any studies it does of radioactivity in drilling waste (fluid and solid), water and air tests, and so forth. The raw data needs to be available to outside reviewers with expertise to analyze it.

DEP proposes to require oil and gas operators to file permit applications and required reports electronically. This change would improve data, efficiency, and enforcement and should be supported. That’s good

DEP should also make sure that all electronic filings and reports made by operators are also available to the public on DEP’s website on the same day they are deemed complete by DEP. Easy and timely access to information by the public is necessary to ensure agency transparency and operator accountability.

LASTLY, a few words about the broader context on these hearings on regulations, because I, like many others here, am uncomfortable being here to suggest improved mitigation strategies that suggest that this highly complex, still experimental, deeply damaging, impossible to regulate, hubris-infused, climate- and public health-destroying industry can be made to operate in a responsible way. Here is how one person once put it, and your Secretary Quigley will recognize these words because they are his from the days you led the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. You once said:

“The cumulative impacts of Marcellus development will dwarf all the impacts on Pennsylvania of timbering and oil and coal combined. I am afraid for the future of this state. It is hanging in the balance.”

If this is still a true statement in the estimation of the DEP Secretary, and if all these new and improved regulations will not prevent this future for Pennsylvania, then this is a futile effort tonight. I would suggest that we need a ban on this dangerous practice, not improved regulations.

The only safe regulation of this industry is to RULE IT OUT!

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God damn the NRA!

Call this one a short “Easy Essay” such as Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, might have called it. Here goes:

“God damn the NRA!” And all of its radical leadership. Hey, Wayne LaPierre, that would include you of course. I’m calling you out by name on this one.

Now I am using the pronoun “God” and the verb “damn” quite precisely here in what I say, out of my belief system that there is one God, a person from whom all our persons are created, who has been known to banish certain persons who did great evil from His presence. (Or Her, or His/Her – you call it, it matters not – it is a weak possessive no matter what you do with it.) These persons then suffer forever such banishment, knowing it was their willful actions that caused it, and it is this knowledge of the evil they chose that makes the banishment feel an though it were an eternal flame. We all know of course that this is a metaphor that does not really approach the anguish one would feel knowing they are to reside forever outside the other metaphor we call “Heaven,” which really just means reunion with the Creator some of us refer to as “God.”

Those clarifications in order, I say again “God damn the NRA!” Not necessarily all of its members, of course, some of whom (I hope) will see eventually that gun safety as the reason for the NRA has been abandoned. These persons need to take back control of their NRA, or else be part of this problem presented right here. In which case, they should just substitute the pronoun by which they are known in this life (i.e., their name) where “NRA” resides in my sentence.

Next time you make it easy to put a gun into the hand of a child, remember this from one who claimed to be God (or Son thereof): “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

There you have it, in plain English Standard version.

Gun deaths children Elizabeath Warren

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NY Bans Fracking – Why Gov. Tom Wolf Should Suspend All New Permits

[Note: a shorter version of this essay appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a letter to the editor on December 29 entitled “Pennsylvania should follow NY’s lead on fracking.”]

New York State moved on December 17, 2014 to ban fracking. After all the reports are tidied up and made available for publication early next year, the debate on the safety of fracking is over in New York. New York will legally ban this practice of shale gas extraction as too great a threat to public health.

New York’s Department of Health Commissioner Dr, Howard Zucker concluded that the public health risks are simply too great, and the state of science too premature, to allow the practice to get underway in their state. NY Governor Cuomo accepted his recommendation. When asked if he would let his child play in a school field near fracking, Commissioner Zucker responded “The answer is no.” In response, Governor Cuomo said, “If you wouldn’t want your children to live near fracking, no one’s children should have to.”

This is a little too close for comfort for all those in Pennsylvania who support fracking. After all the New York counties where the practice will be banned border on several northeast Pennsylvania counties where fracking is going gangbusters. Closer to home here in Pittsburgh, we have Mars Parent Group trying to keep fracking away from their schools and the Protect Our Parks advocates saying that drilling next to and under parks where children play is too risky.

It would appear from the report issued by New York that local advocates to keep fracking away from children have been validated. The report is online here for anyone who cares to check.

The New York decision begs the question, what about Pennsylvanians who live and work near fracking? Do our children’s lungs and hearts and reproductive systems somehow work differently that those of New Yorkers so that they can withstand the air and water and soil pollution that attends fracking?

These are not ideological environmentalists we are talking about here in New York who made this decision. New York has arguably conducted the longest, most complete, most publicly transparent process of analyzing the public health and environmental risks of fracking of any state in the union. The people who conducted this review hold credentials on environmental and public health protection that are beyond challenge. Unlike Pennsylvania, they got their jobs because they know their areas of expertise, not as political appointees doing the bidding of pro-shale gas governors like Rendell (D) and Corbett (R).

Okay, so now Governor Corbett is on the way out, but Governor-elect Tom Wolf has made no secret of the fact that he supports fracking. I have to think, or rather I have the hope that this New York decision makes him very uncomfortable.

Given what New York officials have concluded – that the public health risks are too great to allow fracking – we need a point-by-point response to the New York public health assessment from Pennsylvania’s Gov-elect Tom Wolf. Science is science, from whatever state in which it is done. Mr. Wolf cannot hide from this one. He needs to talk immediately to Dr. Howard Zucker of the NY Department of Health. He should ask him down for a briefing on his report.

It is not good enough now for Governor-elect Wolf to say that he will create a health registry. As many are saying, that just makes Pennsylvanians into sacrificial lab rats whose health will be monitored as it worsens.

I would suggest a reasonable and actionable response to the New York study. On his first day in office, Governor Tom Wolf should suspend the processing of all new permits for fracking until such time that health registries are in place and Pennsylvania epidemiological studies are completed. Of course that means that Pennsylvanians will continue to get sick as permitted fracking proceeds, but at the very least Mr. Wolf needs to respond to the substance of this report. He should say at this juncture that it is only prudent to suspend the granting of new permits. If he wants to turn his attention to stricter regulations, go right ahead. He will have about 8,000 existing wells and another 8,000 or so already permitted that can be regulated more tightly. But given what New York has concluded, why not say that he will suspend all new permits until the results of ongoing health studies in Pennsylvania are completed?

If the public health risks are too great in New York, then why are they not too great in Pennsylvania? We need to know how incoming Gov. Tom Wolf answers this question.

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“The Interview” vs “Selma” – the true cost of freedom

Regarding all the hoopla about Americans going out to see “The Interview” as some sort of expression of their freedom, let me say this. I wish people cared as much about the continuing erosion of voting rights in America, or the dark money in our politics since the Citizens United decision, or the gerrymandering that rigs and destroys the system of proportional representation. That’s where the real assaults on our freedoms are taking place. Sony USA is no champion of freedom, and buying a ticket to this show is a faint expression of freedom at best, but a cheap one and mostly self-satisfying. For myself I am awaiting the release of “Selma,’ a movie about the true cost of freedom.

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To whom and to what do I now owe allegiance?

Today I wrote “my” United States Congressman Glenn Thompson, not to congratulate him on winning his race (I am a bit too blunt and honest to pretend that), but to ask him a question in the hope that maybe he will understand the disenchantment I feel as our political system becomes every more unrepresentative of most Americans. He may not agree with that, but will he answer?

Dear Rep. Thompson:

I send this is all sincerity, not to badger you, but as a son of a career Army man and wounded WWII veteran, and because you are a part of this system I describe here and I am one of your constituents. I would really like an answer in writing to the last question. I doubt you will do that because you do not have to do it. You are in power now. You can do what you like, including ignoring me. But if you really claim to represent me, you will read this and answer my question.

In my view, our representative democracy is no longer representative. The Senate is institutionally unrepresentative since each state gets two senators regardless of population. There are more low population conservative states than liberal states, giving conservatives an advantage.

The House is now unrepresentative and is likely to stay that way until after the 2020 census for reasons given in the above article, and then only if Republicans lose power in state legislatures, which probably won’t happen soon enough.

The presidency is mostly representative since it mainly reflects (for now) each state as a whole, but it is institutionally handicapped by the electoral college scheme that gives two electors to each state regardless of size, thereby giving disproportionate power to smaller, mostly conservative states.

Look for Republican state legislatures to move from winner-take-all-electoral college allocation to allocation based on gerrymandered House districts.

My question: to whom and to what do I now owe allegiance? I hope you at least care enough about my disenchantment with the system you are building to answer me.

Did my father’s sacrifice in WWII to preserve our freedoms go for naught? Can I no longer stand in front of the flag and pledge allegiance “to the republic for which it stands”? Will you give me a sincere answer to these questions? Politics is your career. Surely you have some thoughts on this matter.

Stephen Cleghorn
Reynoldsville, PA

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HELP! The Great March for Climate Action Arrives in Pennsylvania October 10 and They Need Our Support

200 miles and two weeks across PA to spread the word about action on climate change and the fight for climate justice

What is the Great March for Climate Action?
On March 1, 2014, hundreds of everyday Americans set out from Los Angeles, CA, on a 3,000-mile walk to Washington, D.C., with a goal of inspiring others from all walks of life to take action on the climate crisis. The march has delivered to thousands of Americans the message that urgent action is needed on climate change. Dozens of newspaper and television reports have resulted. Thousands have marched for at least a day, with a core group of 25-35 persons who have walked the entire distance. Thousands of one-on-one conversations between Americans concerned about our future have taken place. Songs around the campfire and sermons in church sanctuaries have reverberated across the country.

Take a look at the website to see more about what this march is and what is has accomplished.          

Why does the Great March for Climate Action matter?
Many of us are going to New York on September 21 for the People’s Climate March. That’s great. Putting tens of thousands of our bodies into the streets, even if just for a day, still matters in the sort of social movement that we must build to move off a carbon-based economy that treats Nature as a disposable commodity from which to take profits. But the real deal for building a more sustainable future for our children is rooted not in one-day marches, but in building grass-roots relationships and new structures of power, especially local power. It is not even about changing leaders at the top. It is about movement from below that cannot be ignored.

The real deal for demanding action on climate change will come from the people in a wave of worldwide grass roots democratization across nations, one that bridges racial and ethnic identifications and celebrates cultural differences, one that moves through and easily across economic class and ideological divides, that brings together labor and environmentalists to create a just transition to new jobs and ways of working that preserve and care for the natural world.

As the Climate Justice Alliance has put it:
“It takes roots to weather the storm.”

For those of us in PA fighting fracking and mountaintop removal and dirty coal, we know that building relationships between labor and environmentalists, and creating a movement enriched and empowered by a diversity of cultural expression and experiences, is a major challenge.

The Great March for Climate Action intends to be a catalyst for such local empowerment, bringing to the fore the issues that matter where we live and breathe and drink. Here is how one young marcher describes what they hope to stimulate and to have in Pittsburgh:

“Creating a dynamic symposium that incorporates dialogue with the local community; (being part of) a unique, environmental/social justice alignment as these are some of the most divisive issues regarding the climate movement.”

Can we do that in Pittsburgh?

After we get back from the People’s Climate March, what’s next?

Can we make the Great March for Climate Action an important part of what comes next?

ARRIVAL of the Great March for Climate Action in Pennsylvania

Enters western PA is Oct. 10, 2014
In Pittsburgh October 13-15

Stops along the march route:

Darlington, Freedom, Ben Avon, Pittsburgh, Monroeville, South Greensburg, Ligonier, Boswell, Schellsburg, Everett, Breezewood, McConnelsburg, Greencastle

If your home or your farm is along this route, you can make a real difference to the success of the Great March for Climate Action. Pot luck dinners are always helpful. Fields in which to pitch tents. Church halls in which to come inside if the weather gets bad. Invitations to speak at your churches and community centers. These are just some of the possibilities. Here is what the march organizers have said they need.

1.) A significant march and symposium in Pittsburgh led by local activists, emphasizing local issues re climate change.
2.) Work with Great March logistics coordinator to scope out campsites roughly 15 miles apart on average.
3.) “Marcher in the Home” – hosting marchers in homes to give them a break from tents, meet with you and guests.
4.) Organize house parties to raise funds.
5.) Day marchers welcome!! (See the website for how to sign up).

For now, contact me, but that will not stand. More must come forward. I am doing what I can, but we need a diversity of leaders from anti-fracking organizations, labor (just transition to a green economy), coalfield organizations, faith-based organizations and many others to get together and make this happen, especially the welcoming of the marchers to Pittsburgh and creating an event there. March organizers are looking for local people to step forward and help with needs along the way. I will serve as a connecting point to the extent that I can in these next two crucial weeks.

Stephen Cleghorn
Paradise Gardens and Farm
814-932-6761 (cell)

Who cares about Climate Change? We all do!
(Not endorsements, but just good evidence of a movement in the making)

Service Employees International Union 32bj will be at People’s Climate March:

PowerShift and the Energy Action Coalition remain hard at work to build a youth-led clean energy and climate movement:

The Sierra Student Coalition

Marcellus Outreach Butler

Marcellus Protest

Mountain Watershed Association

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Ten Years Ago in Ireland Trying to Stop War in Iraq

(Thinking now of the chaos unfolding in Iraq, and of our deepening entanglement with the mess for which we are so responsible. Came across this in my files. Much of it still seems current as to the roots of the problem in what Kevin Phillips called the “American Dynasty.” Still hoping to see my people rise up against perpetual war. – Stephen)

Report from Ireland:
MFSO Helps Irish Peace Movement Build for March 20, 2004
J. Stephen Cleghorn, Ph.D.

At the invitation of the Irish Anti-War Movement I recently had the privilege of traveling through both the Republic of Ireland and the “north of Ireland” (part of the United Kingdom for now, but not forever according to my hosts) to meet with peace groups preparing for the worldwide demonstrations on March 20, 2004 – the anniversary of the attack on Iraq. They asked Military Families Speak Out to send a representative to speak for an American peace movement about which they seldom hear in their media and to address the issue of American troops and war materiel passing through their Shannon Airport.

Beginning with a press conference on March 15 that was covered by both the Irish Times, the Republic’s equivalent of the New York Times, and the national RTE television network, I began a trip that took me to venues in Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda, Waterford, Cork and Galway in the Republic, as well as Belfast and Derry in the north of Ireland. Turnout at meetings ranged from about 15 in Drogheda to over 150 in both Dublin and Galway. Radio interviews were done at almost every stop and it is quite likely that, thanks to the great organization of the peace activists, my message to the Irish people was heard by well over half the population.

On the first night we visited a small pub in Dundalk where the February 15 anniversary of worldwide demonstrations was being celebrated as part of a “global village” for peace. The people gathered there were sharing poetry and song and candles – not to mention some Guinness stout – in that paradigmatic way that speaks of the best and truest nature of the human heart.

Another great feature of the trip, which I shall never forget, was sitting at a table in Derry with the legendary civil rights activist Eamon McCann, and then later on in Galway sharing a stage with Denis Halliday , the former UN administrator of the Oil for Food program who resigned his post to protest how UN sanctions were killing thousands of Iraqi civilians. I could only be thankful to have met these two stalwarts for peace in their nation and our world. Who could have known a little over a year ago when I agreed to be a parent plaintiff in the MFSO lawsuit (Doe v. Bush) against George W. Bush (to force a Congressional declaration of war and, hopefully, stop the war through a serious reconsideration of the casus belli) that my life would soon cross paths with such peace heroes?

Wherever I traveled in Ireland I was happy to tell my audiences about a broad-based peace movement in America, one which I have witnessed personally in several demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands. And I was happy to tell them that this peace movement has been supported and amplified by the growth of progressive groups on the Internet like,,,,, and many others. We even talked about the upcoming presidential election that my hosts, as much as any progressives I know in America, are fervently hoping will be the end of George W. Bush and the extreme right wing ideologues that have our government in their grip. We then went deeper and talked soberly of whether a change in Administration will be a fundamental change in how America behaves in the world, a topic I will have more to say about below.

As for Shannon Airport, I quickly realized I had more to learn about the issue than I had to tell the Irish. I arrived in Ireland woefully uninformed about the degree to which the Bush Administration’s thirst for war has enveloped the Republic of Ireland, supposedly a neutral country, in war- and occupation-making. This was not unlike my visit to Japan for MFSO last September in which I learned how the power of the United Sates was corrupting Article 9 of the “peace constitution” of the Japanese people, and that Japan was thus being faced with sending its Self Defense Forces overseas (to Iraq) for the first time since World War II. For a person reasonably familiar with the realities of American power, I had much to learn in both Ireland and Japan about the extent to which the push to war on Iraq was steamrolling other friendly countries into the so-called “coalition of the willing.”

From my new Irish friends I learned that over 125,000 American troops passed through Shannon in the past year along with their weapons and U.S. warplanes. Not surprisingly, the government of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahearn at first denied the use of Shannon for these purposes but had to admit the truth when peace activists like the Pitstop Ploughshares went to Shannon on February 3, 2003 and acted to disarm an American warplane. Twelve days later on February 15, during the largest global expression of anti-war feeling in world history, over 100,000 Irish citizens demonstrated in Dublin against the war. That was an astounding turnout in a country of 3.2 million people, proportionally equivalent to 8.7 million Americans turning out for a single demonstration.
The turnout stunned the Ahearn government, but it has shown that it is not without resources or will to respond. Since the Dublin peace march the Ahearn government has followed suit with George Bush in clamping down on the civil liberties of its citizens in order to suppress anti-war activists. The government no longer allows the posting of placards in public areas to announce public assemblies (they used to be okay if they were removed within three days after the event). More insidiously, it has banned peace activists from entering County Clare where Shannon Airport is located, including one person whose home is in County Clare.

It was a terrific trip for me but also a sobering one. As I traveled I read the new book by Kevin Phillips entitled American Dynasty, which is mainly about the rise and consolidation of the “military-intelligence-industrial complex” over the past 100 years. That “complex” has become a scourge upon our nation and the world, driving us into numerous wars that principally served the business interests of its powerful members, although the American people’s complacency in accepting the spoils of these wars does not go without mention. Phillips carefully unpacks the complicated history that has left us facing precisely the deep peril that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against as he left office in 1961 in what has come to be called his “Cross of Iron” speech. While the book shows how the Bush and Walker families (as in “George Herbert Walker Bush,” the U.S. President from 1989 to 1993) have for over four generations been at the center and the apex of this complex, the deeper lesson of the book is that America as a democracy has been deeply wounded by these sinister powers-that-be, and that these powers persist whether or not we have a Republican or a Democratic Administration. This sadly is also what I was learning from my Irish friends. We had long and deep discussions about the human and ecological ravages of a misdirected globalization led by the United Sates and the multinational corporations that provide the mother’s milk of our politics.

So this is what we talked about in Ireland. I said to them, “The best friend that you can have in the world is the one who tells you what you do not want to hear – so please be a friend to America and stand up firm and strong against this Iraq war and occupation.” I said, “America is precisely the wrong broker for bringing peace and stability to Iraq, and so we need your help to get our troops home now.”
They agreed with me, but then they said back to me, “It is about more than standing up against this or that war that is sponsored by America; it is about joining with an international grassroots opposition to war and the exploitation of the earth that could lead to the demise of our species within this century.” So it has become for them and me a matter of acting to give our grandchildren a chance to have grandchildren of their own.

It has become a matter of standing up to the religious fundamentalists in our nation at the base of the George W. Bush Republican Party who are inclined to look forward to the end of the world, not to work against it. It has become a matter of learning about new movements such as the World Social Forum that brings together grass roots peace and justice activists not only to oppose the worst aspects of globalization but also to discover a way to a sustainable future. At the last World Social Forum they endorsed a worldwide demonstration against war and occupation on March 20, and the Irish peace activists are working hard to hold up their end of that, but they know it goes deeper and further than bringing people into the streets on March 20.

So at the end my trip to Ireland for MFSO was a life-changing experience for me. My conversations with Irish peace activists, layered over by the Phillips book, have led me to a new dedication of effort and time and treasure to saving the planet for future generations. It has become nothing less than that for me.

Shortly after arriving home I heard the very good news that my stepson John had been sent home from Iraq and is out of there for good. Soon he will return to the states and finish out a 20-year military career. The immediate danger for him is over. Yet as much as I rejoice in that news, I cannot help but know after my trip to Ireland that the danger to him and his children still exists. It is not a danger from this particular war, but it is the proclivity to war, one could even say the imperative of war at the heart of our culture, and it is the ruinous exploitation of the earth for profit that threatens the future of his family and the human family. This is where I must next carry the struggle. With the grassroots of this earth, may we prevail in that struggle.

Recently, I had the occasion to go on retreat with my church where at some point we were all asked to provide an image of how we see ourselves. I could not think of anything other than a simple prayer, a few words for the future. Now, after being a part of that lovely evening in Dundalk, Ireland when those present shared song and poetry to encourage one another in their peacemaking, I have become bold enough to share this short reflection with my MFSO family and other friends who may read it.

Let me be a light of peace in this world.
Let me find a way to kindle opposition to war
without taking on the aspects of war.
Call me to a way of peace that calls us back to You.
May I be a light on the path
that lies before my grandchildren.
May they see through me a future of goodness
wherein their lives become a light for generations to come.
Be the Being and the All of all my being.
This I pray in Jesus’ name.

Or in the name of Allah, or in the name of YHWH, or the Buddha, or even just in the name of our poor, fractured and failing humanity. However it is said, however conceived at the heart of our Common Creation, from my journey in Ireland I bring this message of encouragement to light a new way. Blessings to all, and may all the troops come home soon!

With Eamon McCann in Derry, the north of Ireland.


Relaxing in a Belfast pub after a day of working for peace.


Irish Anti-War Movement,; thanks go especially to my host Kieran Allen.
Eamon McCann, see
Denis Halliday, see
The Pitstop Ploughshares, see
National Catholic Reporter carried a good article of the World Social Forum,

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