by Arya F. Jenkins
TIME TO STAND UP FOR COMMUNITY
by Arya F. Jenkins
Whenever I happen upon that marvelous quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has,” I think of Mahoning Valley and Trumbull County anti-fracktivists, who are standing up for the place they love that is their home and will not back down--not in the face of bigger foes and moneyed bullies, not for anything.
If you live in Mahoning or Trumbull County, chances are you are familiar with fracking and know people, as I do, who have been negatively impacted by it.
I know folks who have gotten ill as a result of noise, air and water pollution from nearby wells, and who live in a constant state of siege due to fracking on their land, fearing for their health and safety and that of loved ones.
It’s not a good way to live. It’s not the American promise or dream, but the new nightmare that Americans and people worldwide are facing as oil and gas companies attempt to take over communities for corporate gain.
Where I live in McDonald, the flow of fracking trucks is constant, polluting the air, reminding me of what is coming, what is here. There is even a sign, just off Route I-80 welcoming frackers to the area.
When I first saw that sign a few months back, I almost pulled off the road. Who would put it up?—Frustrated activists? I envisioned, a shiny, little diner just off the road, serving frackers free toxic cocktails, a taste of their own medicine.
In truth, fracking is hardly a laughing matter. The hydraulic fracking process involves the injection of fracking fluid--a blend of sand, chemicals and water--thousands of feet into the earth, to loosen shale rock, so that natural gas can be extracted.
While the process yields more gas and oil from drilling sites, it also harms the environment and water supplies as many of the chemicals used in fracking are dangerous to humans and animals--While thousands of gallons of chemicals are used in fracking, not all are removed in the process.
Some of the toxic substances used in fracking include formaldehyde, benzene and lead--even diesel oil, which is illegal, has been found in fracking fluid.
Residents in this and other areas impacted by fracking are not just concerned about the dangers of fracking. They fear their rights are being usurped by gas and oil companies intent on foisting their own agendas on communities. But resistance may win out in Youngstown, where grassroots efforts could model for the rest of the nation how a community, even an economically challenged one, can empower itself while standing up for its rights against corporate entities.
The oil and gas industry has spent thousands of dollars trying to defeat The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights (CBR) Charter Amendment, which has been on the Youngstown ballot three times and has been shot down three times, although it’s steadily gaining momentum. It has picked up 1830 more YES votes in its favor since the May 2013 election, and the margin is closing in the CBR committee’s favor.
The CBR upholds the right of citizens to self governance, “to protect drinking water, homes and air quality—no matter what businesses come to the city of Youngstown.” At least 1,126 signatures are needed for the proposed charter amendment to be certified for the November 4th ballot this year.
As I write this, anti-fracktivists are busy doing what they do-- spreading awareness, educating neighbors, garnering signatures they hope to get to the city county clerk before the September 5 deadline. If you see them, join them, sign up to help preserve this community.
As Susie Beiersdorfer, a geologist and member of CBR said recently, “The truth doesn’t change, and we don’t lose until we quit.”
Self-determination is as American as apple pie. It is the reason we got started as a nation and the reason we are still here.