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How You and I Inadvertently Support Fracking

As the legislative session begins, and lobbyists pony up to legislators, it’s time to reflect upon activism at its deepest level.

SAFE and many other dedicated activists from across the state have spent a great deal of energy educating the public and legislators about the dangers of fracking. Yet despite long hours and ceaseless rallying, our work has barely scratched the surface…

That we are fully aware of how fracking kills just about everything it comes into contact with, including human dignity and compassion, does not change a painful reality: you and I still engage in and inadvertently support the very system we are trying to stop.

Rather than become hopeless, or worse, complacent, there is an important light at the end of the tunnel. This light is, in fact, our strongest method for permanently ending the fracking frenzy. Dare I admit this light shines brighter in the long run than any other form of activism. This light is called personal choice and responsibility.

We live in a culture and a time that thrives and survives on fossil fuel and nuclear energy use. Most of us were born dependent on this system. When we consider the implications of this system, i.e., Chernobyl, Fukishima, the Exxon Valdez and BP Gulf Spills, and of course, the laundry list of ills already caused by just a few years of high-volume horizontal fracking, we realize we live in a real-life scary science fiction film.

The way our world works, even if we don’t overtly purchase natural gas or petroleum products, we are nonetheless still interdependent on them in their infinite forms, not the least of which is the energy to send and read this message. How do we live in the existing world, while simultaneously working toward a new and better world, and not just pay lip service to it?

To effectively cut the taproot of the fracking frenzy requires identifying the choices we make on a daily basis that inadvertently supports that system.

It is time SAFE’s infrequent behind-the-scenes conversations about “promoting alternatives” become an active reality. The actions that come forth will be what makes our movement a truly progressive and genuinely revolutionary movement.

The first thing we must “alternate” is our own mindset. Changing our own mindset and choices is as crucial and as difficult as trying to change the mindset and choices of industry or government. If we aren’t willing to do the former, how can we expect the latter?

Globalization and all its luxuries and conveniences has made us dependent upon it: emotionally, mentally, physically, politically, environmentally and financially.  We are now slaves to this system.

To reclaim our freedom, we have to decide in every moment, will we choose to patronize local business, or succumb to the enculturated desire for the corporate goods we “prefer” from the big box store?  Will we remember the bigger picture that every dollar we spend votes for the system from which that commodity came? Or will we continue to buy imported cheap goods from the dollar store to save a few cents in our own  pocket, mimicking the selfish rationale of the industry? Can we humble ourselves to do without an item, or can we make that item ourselves, or find it locally, or get one used or recycled or wait until we find it at a yard sale or thrift shop? These are just tiny examples within a much bigger solution.

This is where the rubber meets the road: Together we must begin to identify simple, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible (SMART) choices we can make on a daily basis that begins to disengage ourselves, our families and our communities from the globalized systems that, unbeknownst to most, are rooted in colonialism, oppression, slavery and war. This system has always robbed small communities of their unique culture, means of trade, and systems of independence and sustainability. And so it continues today. When will we take the red pill and stop living blindly in the Matrix?

If we really want to stop fracking, then we must think outside the corporate box, and more importantly, we must act outside that box. This means centering all our energy and focus and love and money on our own communities and families. This is why community theater, community centers, grassroots movements, local markets and fairs are all important systems to support and cultivate.

Early on, SAFE members discussed promoting Food Works, which can help local conventional farmers, who are signing leases for the promise of needed income. Food Works provides training that can help a commodities agriculture farmer transition to organic and sustainable farming methods. How can this help the local farmer and the local economy?

Virginia Farmer Joel Salatin spells it out nicely in the documentary FRESH. Like SAFE, FRESH began as a grassroots effort for a grassroots movement. Joel raises organic beef, chicken, eggs and pork. He makes $3,000 an acre. Compare that to his neighbor, who is also featured in the film, who makes only $750 an acre growing conventional commodities crops, which doesn’t supply food to the local community and depends further upon the global industrial system for pesticides, herbicides, and a subsidized system that diverts growers away from local food production and toward global commodities markets.

Then we also spoke with Dennis Connolly, who is a local solar installer in Carbondale (Affordable Solar). We thought we should promote businesses like his, to jumpstart this trend of offering alternatives.

Local resources such as these are just examples of a wide array of needed solutions. Just like SAFE tries to fight fracking from every angle we can think of, we also need to start creating local community sustenence from every angle we can think of.  We need to understand how our existing choices have a systemic connection to fracking, and the global market for fossil fuel.

In our last newsletter, we drew attention to Food and Water Watch’s latest report that the US has 19 new contracts to export gas. “The threat is that the fossil fuel industry — empowered by its deep pockets, armed with increasingly intensive extraction methods and bolstered by entrenched infrastructure and demand for its product — will succeed in delaying the necessary transformation for decades, just to protect its bottom line…

…Of course, the true solutions to America’s energy challenges — conservation, efficiency and renewables — run counter to the profit motives of the fossil fuel industry. What is their false solution? Develop increasingly intensive methods to extract fossil fuels, deny or dismiss the ways in which extracting and burning these fuels is negatively impacting public health and the environment and continue to rake in extraordinary profits.”

Never before has sustainable living become a “must do” rather than an exciting and innovative “wouldn’t that be cool?” idea. Our society is in dire straits (extreme or desperate distress). We need to start using and promoting local community based resources as our first, and most relied upon means of sustenance.

A choice that supports fracking is a choice toward global reliance for goods and services, a choice most often based on the rationale  “it’s what I’m used to,” entrenched in our addiction to convenience at any cost.

A choice that fights fracking is a choice that supports reaching out for resources in your own home, family, neighborhood, place of worship, community or region.

Let’s begin by offering a simple, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible (SMART) choice you can make right now to jumpstart this movement toward a lifestyle of sustainable living. Purchase and read a copy of the Sustainable Living Guide for Southern Illinois.

The mission of this annual booklet is to encourage personal and social responsibility. It serves as a guide to build awareness and to support sustainable living in Southern Illinois.

The Sustainable Living Guide for Southern Illinois not only provides a vision for sustainable living, but it also offers practical information, educational resources and a directory of local businesses, services and products that are in alignment with these values.

The link provided will allow you to purchase The Sustainable Living Guide for Southern Illinois via mail order from a local bookseller in Carbondale. In Carbondale, you can also find it at the Carbondale Public Libary, Town Square Market, Longbranch Coffeehouse, Fat Patties, In Sync Mind Body Therapy Center, Bookworm, and Dayemi Health Center.

So when you ask yourself “What can I do to stop fracking?”  The answer is not only in signing a petition, calling your legislator or watching a documentary. It is also examining your personal choices and the consequences of those choices on a daily basis. Real change happens one step at a time. It comes down to how we live moment to moment.

Staff Editorial By Lynn Waters, SAFE

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