Governor Cuomo, Thousands of us have arrived at your doorstep. We know that you can see us.
Governor Cuomo, the whole world can see us. I know that’s true because my own inbox is full of messages of solidarity from all over the nation. Illinois, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, California. Yesterday, I received an inquiry from a Member of Parliament in the European Union asking about our plans for fracking in New York.
Governor Cuomo, how I respond to my email depends on your sense of direction.
We are here to say that have come to a fork in the road. In one direction lies the superhighway of fracking, which would allow us to keep the fossil fuel party going for a few more years. The route offers temporary prosperity for a few, but requires us to cash out the bedrock of our state. We can easily see where this road leads—shattered communities, poisoned water, ravaged landscapes, spiraling healthcare costs, and more seawater sloshing through the subways of Manhattan.
This road is well marked. Its signposts are fracking’s infrastructure—the pipelines and compressor stations and power plants, and storage depots—that are already under construction, as if you had already decided to steer New York’s destiny down this terrible highway.
These infrastructure projects and their makers may bear happy, patriotic names—Constitution, Millenium, Spectra, Inergy, Fortis—but we know they pose unacceptable threats to our health and safety. Near my own home in the Finger Lakes, fracked gases are being stored under a lake that is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.
Blockading the compressor station that readies those gases for storage under Seneca Lake is why, this year, I delivered my annual Earth Day lecture from cell block 5-D of the Chemung County jail.
I would rather wear an orange jumpsuit than watch one of my children wear a blue hospital gown.
Governor Cuomo, this same resolve you hear in my voice is matched in Minisink where mothers and fathers are fighting a compressor station and the CPV power plant. This same resolve is found in Hudson Valley where citizens are mobilizing against the purchase of Central Hudson, which powers 375,000 homes and business, by a global company whose financial future is tied to fracking.
Governor Cuomo, the road that leads in the other direction is one that few political leaders have ventured down. It’s the one that leaves our bedrock intact and our water unpoisoned. It’s the one that requires that we stop lighting things on fire in order to turn on the lights. It’s the one that requires true innovation.
Although this road is the one less traveled, we have brought you a GPS navigation system in the form of the Jacobson report—a roadmap for how to become 100 percent carbon free by 2030—and we have brought ourselves in the form of a massive human rights movement.
We have come to say that we are already blazing the trail for you, to say that our feet are already marching, that our children already running ahead of us. Our destination is climate justice, an unfractured New York, and an economy powered by wind, water, and sunlight. The route that takes us there is, for my generation and yours Governor Cuomo, the road to Birmingham, Alabama. The unfractured shale beneath our feet is our lunch counter in Greensboro. We are on a journey of survival, and, in our travels, we will not desist.
Governor Cuomo, we know you see us. But there are three people who are not among us today and whom you cannot see, but I want you to know their names.
The first is Richard Bell, a World War II vet and the former tax commissioner for the city of Corning. Richard Bell died last September at age 88. This is what he asked his son Gregory to write in his obituary:
With his background as a tax assessor, and his love of the region, he was appalled by proposals to allow high volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas there. He knew that such failure prone industrial activity would immediate reduce property values and tourism. As a result, an memorial gifts are requested to be sent to. . . New Yorkers Against Fracking.
Chris Dennis is also not here with us today. Chris was a talented videographer who documented our August rally here in Albany. Chris died, at age 22, last month in an accidental drowning. But in his place is Chris’ father, John Dennis, who is documenting our rally and marching today with his son’s camera.
My husband, Jeff de Castro, is not here with us today. Happily, he lives, but on May 31, he suffered a serious stroke. I have left his side for the first time because, like Chris Dennis’ father and like Richard Bell’s son, I know—and all the people gathered here today know—that the work we must do to ban fracking once and for all is bigger than any one of our individual tragedies. Because we are fighting for everyone’s sons and fathers and husbands and families. We are fighting for life itself. And so, we pick up the cameras of the dead and carry on. Governor Cuomo, we are on the road. We are not stopping until we get there. Here is the map. Join us.