I am Sandra Steingraber of the Finger Lakes. I carry with me today ferocious opposition to the traveling horror show called fracking from the people of New York.
And to all my fellow Quakers in the crowd, I bring warm greetings from the Ithaca Monthly Meeting of Friends.
For Quakers, bearing witness and speaking truth to power are articles of faith. Never has there been a need for such testimony more than now, and no one does it better than the people of Pennsylvania.
In the face of gag orders, you have raised your voices.
In the face of non-disclosure agreements, you have disclosed.
In the face of bought-off political leaders, a defeatist environmental movement, and silence-of-the-lambs journalism, you have researched, investigated, and reported. You have inquired, objected, warned, and demanded. You have told your stories in the halls of power, and in the basements of churches, and in the streets.
You have lit your taps on fire and let the water speak.
I am here to say thank you.
I am here to say that it matters.
I know this because it was the story of Craig and Julie Sautner of Dimock, PA that first opened my eyes to effects of fracking on people’s lives.
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So, let me tell you my story. In this jar is the bedrock of my childhood home along the banks of the Illinois River—or, more accurately, the blown-apart remnants of that bedrock.
It’s silica sand—the Samson of sand grains—and it came from a 10-acre wide, 10-story deep pit that, before the fracking boom, was a sandy meadow on the outskirts of my favorite state park.
That whole riverside region—along with all the sand counties of Wisconsin and Minnesota—are being turned inside out for the strip-mining of silica sand.
Inside this jar is the agent of fracking. The water you hear so much about is just the delivery system to blast these sand grains into the shards of shattered shale, propping open the fractures so the gas bubbles can flow out—along with the benzene, the radon, the toluene, and a thousand other bats out of Pandora’s box.
Inside of this OTHER jar is the same sand—after it’s been washed and treated at a facility located a half-hour from my home in New York so that it can be transported to Pennsylvania and used for fracking.
Thus, the beloved landscape of my childhood home is being dismantled and carted off for storage in my children’s childhood home en route to destroy the bedrock and the landscape of Pennsylvania’s children.
Inside both of these jars is a known carcinogen: silica dust. Silica dust causes lung cancer—just like asbestos. That’s one reason that fracking jobs are killing jobs.
I know about carcinogens. I grew up drinking them in my tap water. I was diagnosed with bladder cancer at the age of 20. At last count, I have undergone 93 cystoscopes, and I am only one data point in a cluster of cancers in my sandy hometown.
It is my job to make sure that my own two children do not become cancer data points in their hometown. That’s every parent’s job: to keep our children safe. That is why I founded New Yorkers Against Fracking, and that is why I will never surrender in the fight to keep fracking out of the state that borders you to the north.
* * *
Now let me tell you the story we are going to write together.
It’s about the people of the Midwestern sand hills standing up to say, “We do not consent to the transformation of our land into weapon of mass destruction to be turned against the people living on top of the Marcellus Shale.”
This story is about the people of New York saying NO to an industry that turns our land into a staging ground for the destruction of yours.
This story is about the people of Pennsylvania rising up, like the partisans of the French Resistance, under terrible circumstances and exposing the atrocity of extreme fossil fuel extraction.
This story is about all of us together writing the future of our nation in which light bulbs and tea kettles do not require lighting toxic fossils on fire, and energy independence doesn’t require poisoning air, water, or workers.
It’s about creating together an unfractured future for our children, and I am honored to be an author of that story with all of you.