Hi, everyone. First of all, thank you for the outpouring of love, patience, and support following my husband’s unexplained stroke at the end of May and then again after his second stroke at the end of June, which we are still recouping from. The road to recovery is a long one for Jeff, but our feet are joyfully walking down it. Rehab and recovery are two words that are predicated on the beautiful word survival, an outcome we are profoundly grateful for.
In the midst of this catastrophe, our union as married partners has only grew deeper, as we felt ourselves surrounded by the good will and generosity and concern of our neighbors and friends, near and far. Buoyed up by all of you, we’ve learned a lot about community in the last month. It’s a strong and life-giving force.
Our sojourn in Rochester’s Strong Memorial stroke center has also deepened my own resolve to end the madness of fracking across this nation. The air pollution associated with drilling and fracking is the kind, as I know from my work in environmental health, that is linked to increased risk of stroke.
Ozone from smog, along with the ultrafine particles in diesel exhaust, increase inflammation and make blood vessels sticky and lead to blood clotting, which is the most common mechanism behind ischemic stroke.
I knew all that already, but, having watched my best friend and the father of my children struggle with its after-effects, I have a new appreciation for the terror of stroke.
Stroke typically takes away speech, short-term memory, and the ability to use one of our hands or arms. Which is to say, it robs us of language and tool use—two of the hallmarks of being human.
We don’t know why Jeff had a stroke, but we do know that our ongoing dependency on fossil fuels—and all the air pollution their combustion creates—means that many more people will suffer a loss of their human-ness—their ability to talk, write, paint, cook, make music, and remember—all because of our government’s abject failure to redesign our energy system to run on renewables instead of the combustion of fossils. It’s a matter of survival.
We are now at a turning point in both climate change science and climate change awareness. With President Obama’s recent speech on climate, we have the opportunity to make clear that shale gas is dangerous folly and more of the same, not a move in the right direction. In so doing, our aim is to place anti-fracking activism on the national stage as a human rights movement and as a franchise of the larger climate justice movement.
We do this in many ways. One of them, which will be a focus of mine and I now invite you to join me, is via writing comments in which we object to drilling and fracking on public lands—that is, the lands that belong to all of us.
The basic message is: no fracking on the land that we the people own, that is part of our heritage and our birthright as Americans, and for which we have a responsibility to safeguard and pass along unfractured and unspoiled to our children and those who come after them.
All together, these comments will become a metric of citizen opposition to fracking. They are gauntlet thrown down. They set a precedent, and, if we do not receive the response we ask for and so choose to engage in further actions, our collection of comments act as a pressure point. They are something to which we and the media can point.
Last winter, I helped organized Thirty Days of Fracking Regs, a collective comment-writing project here in New York State. In only four weeks, we generated a good chunk of the 204,000 total comments sent to the DEC, which helped to bury the draft regulations on fracking in our state. I intend to recreate such a project now for the national stage, and I hope that you’ll join me in doing that thing with our hands that my husband now spends hours each day trying to relearn: string words together in sentences that tell a powerful human story and use our hands to create written language. All together, we can create a powerful collective message to the President of this nation and make our demand clear: the land that belongs to the public, that land that we are entrusted to protect, the bedrock of this very nation is not for fracturing.