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Good Riddance to the Inconvenient Activist | Letter to the Editor


Yellow Scene welcomes Letters to the Editor and is happy to publish your thoughts, within limit. Please send all love letters, hate mail, curious thoughts, and open letters to De La Vaca at [email protected]


Letter to the Editor by Lauren Swain (In response to Racism in the Environmental Movement, by Sara Loflin)

How inconvenient, annoying, and uncompromising those trying to prevent more drilling from reducing the length and quality of our lives on the Front Range have been over the past decade! Good thing they have listened to Sara Loflin and her “League of Oil and Gas Impacted Citizens” (LOGIC) and have thereby moved away from “banning fracking” to “health and safety first” and a discussion of “impacted communities”, as Sara so eloquently put it. Yes, it’s far more copacetic to stop trying to prevent local and state governments from issuing permits to the oil and gas industry, and, instead, to hold a years-long conversation about how we might become “healthy and safe” while we let our favorite elected officials continue allowing the industry to jeopardize our health, safety, and climate with more fracking.

Yes, it is too bad human physiology and the climate of humanity’s only planet don’t understand political reality. Too bad that – even as we come to accept the violation of our own right to breathe clean air – our children’s bodies, and all humans yet to be born, are likely to suffer irreparable harm without even one chance to cast a vote on the matter. We just can’t afford to worry about these things because… “other priorities.” So when a child or elderly person is hospitalized with asthma or killed by leukemia because they inhaled one too many breaths of benzene emanating from thousands too many oil and gas wells far too close to their homes, and when thousands too many hurricanes, fires, droughts, and floods kill and make refugees of millions more people each year as global coastlines are eroded by rising, dying seas, we’ll just sigh wistfully and move on. After all, it wasn’t we who had to pay that price, was it? What’s more important is for us to get along with the nice people we know who say they are helpless to relieve themselves from dependence on the oil and gas industry’s paychecks. And I think I heard someone somewhere say the law won’t let us stop the industry anyway. I bet you heard someone somewhere say that, too, didn’t you?

To those who don’t know me, I have devoted my activist career to fighting toxic waste and neighborhood fracking in the 1980s and the 2010s because I felt obligated to actively oppose polluters who profit by endangering, sickening, and killing the vulnerable populations that find themselves in the way.

I have also actively advocated for the right of refugees and immigrants to find a safe home in our country and against the use of violence and physical intimidation to achieve even the noblest goals (like saving the planet), because I believe that protecting human rights is the highest value in politics and life in general. I believe every human has the right to be free from unacceptable danger and harm imposed by those with an economic or political incentive to benefit from that harm, despite arguments about what the law says on the matter.

The politically expedient approach to the climate crisis differs by nature from the activist approach. Activists seek to stop fossil fuel operations where the pollution, spills, explosions, and fires they generate do the most harm, while pursuing an end to all production as soon as possible, in order to protect the climate. The result of success in our efforts would be a reduction in the supply of GHG-generating fossil fuels, which would lower availability, raise the price, and ultimately reduce demand, by incentivizing adoption of the solutions that the expedient side champions – i.e. wide scale adoption of renewable energy technologies and efficiency strategies. We have identified the fossil fuel industry as the enemy of the people and the planet.

The expedient side bypasses this “ugly rhetoric” by focusing its energies on promoting those alternative technologies to the public and through policy, rather than directly confronting the industry and its puppets in government who have caused the problem in the first place.

Has anyone noticed that adding solar panels to a roof or building a “green home” hasn’t yet protected even one person from having another well drilled in their backyard, or from dangerous benzene levels and ozone levels in our air, or from the next wave of fossil-fueled forest fires? Although it’s noble and essential that everyone who can afford to convert to renewable energy do so, it won’t protect the people breathing fracking fumes now or prevent new wells from endangering more people, and it won’t for years at best. Only cutting the production of hydrocarbons will do that. We need to phase out production now, DESPITE demand, because those in the line of fire can’t afford to wait for reduced demand to work. We need to produce AND use less now – period. And we need to cut production where it causes the greatest harm – near neighborhoods, water sources, and vulnerable ecosystems – or they will be harmed unacceptably and unjustifiably.

One of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced is climate compromisers attempting to place the blame for our dilemma on the backs of the general public – willfully including ourselves as the culprits, when the evidence points to the fossil fuel lobbygarchy as the obstructors of change. While the lobbying and PR apparatus of the industry successfully uses their leverage to make it nearly impossible to suppress production or reduce demand for the GHG-emitting fossil fuels, they are also hoodwinking our friends into voluntarily serving as mouthpieces for their messaging.

A more frustrating thing to me is that “mainstream” groups and individuals have chosen to focus the resources provided to them by both well-meaning and intentionally-undermining individuals and entities on making the intrinsically unsafe and unhealthy production of fossil fuels “safer and healthier” for those living in the fracklands or on incremental demand-side strategies that won’t alleviate the harm done by fossil-fuel polluters for decades.

Compromisers accept that communities impacted by oil and gas production are lambs to be sacrificed on the altar of “peace” between the industry and nice politicians who think they can advance their careers by avoiding pissing off their friends or enemies in the industry too much. Even more frustrating is seeing concerned residents in the fracklands listening to the “reasonable” voice of experts hired by mainstream groups who tell them they can’t reasonably hope to keep the industry away from their doorsteps. Good thing we have experts we can trust explaining with confidence why the interests of the weakest among us, i.e. the children who are more subject to asthma, leukemia, and the end of a livable climate, must be ignored in favor of the “political realities” and “positive solutions” that reasonable, peace-loving organizations opt to push and pass through incremental legislative and administrative initiatives.

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