Hydrofracking and Other Personal Politics

Dear Family,

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius--and a lot of courage--to move in the opposite direction.”

—Albert Einstein

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Jemmerisms:

“It's hard to think when you're frustrated.”

“Can you make my pants un-side in?”

“I made the purple one by _squeezing_ [the pipe cleaner]--I wanted to make a tyrannosaurus rex, but then it turned into a snowman, and then it turned into a People-Boat."

After finishing “One Hundred Dresses,” by Eleanor Estes: “I think we should read it again from the start, so it will be long again to read.”

“I'm going to sing a song: 'When the World is Clear and Happy'.”

“Mama, the universe is so BIG!”

Pretending they are Tooth Fairies, Ben and Jem take turns putting gifts under each others' pillows. After a while, this game ends, and I hear Jem saying, “...Now there are no more tooth fairies! They all went to play with their nerf guns.”

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Bennerisms:

“defensive” = offensive (example: “Grandma wouldn't want to hear any defensive songs.”)

At the cash register: “Oh GOOD! Brussels sprouts are the best in the WORLD!”

Trying his darndest to make it through the Perplexus Epic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perplexus , a super-cool 3-D marble maze: “What's the POINT, if it's this close to impossible?!”

“For Christmas, I want an Un-Thinker. It would be a machine, and it would make you stop thinking about things you didn't want to think about.”

“Remember when I couldn't really go anywhere?” Yes, I say, I do. What do you remember about that? In an apparent non sequitur, Ben reveals a bit of his perceptions about the last 1 1/2 years: “Now, all I really need to figger out is eating organ meats _plain_, 'cause that's still hard...”

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Events of Note in November:

--Mom and Dad took Loren and me to see Joan Baez in concert, as a double-birthday present. She was fantastic, and the theater was sold out, and this more than made up for how fairly awful Kris Kristofferson was as the opener.

--For my 32nd Birthday, I decided to buy some of my favorite toys, and wrap them, and leave them for the boys to find when they woke up. They still didn't believe in Santa Claus, though, even though my note was very specific. :) Also, we had a lovely weekend at our NY Home, and I even got a birthday massage from Donna, so this year started off with a bang.

--Ben lost his two bottom front teeth! I can't remember if I mentioned this. We were all quite relieved that they came out on their own (with a lot of wiggling), because the big ones were already halfway in by the time the baby ones finally fell out.

--We had a spontaneous and lucky chance to obtain copious amounts of grassfed Jersey cream again, and this time, I didn't even get lost on the way. Ben and Jem and I took in the sights at the Wayne County Historical Society's museum in Honesdale, PA. And now...we are eating obscene amounts of butter and cultured cream.

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This past Thursday, with monumental effort, we left the house in order for the boys and I to attend Civics 101 – otherwise known as #2 in a series of four public hearings concerning the draft EPA “Environmental Impact Statement” intended to regulate hydraulic fracturing in NY state. Hydrofracking, as it is otherwise know, is a method for extracting natural gas that is a Really Bad Idea, a fact that is essentially agreed-upon by just about everyone except for the folks in the gas and oil industries, and the people who stand to gain a lot of money when the gas companies lease their land for “drilling” (a very euphemistic word to describe what hydrofracking is, and the devastation it has already left behind in Wyoming, Texas, Pennsylvania, and other places).

At the hearing we sat in a large auditorium, surrounded by gung-ho fracking types wearing shirts that said “PASS the GAS”, and hippie protester types with pins that said “NO FRACKING WAY,” and Scary People In Very Fancy Suits Who REALLY Want Fracking to Happen Very Soon, and also a lot of people like us, who didn't have any fancy signs or shirts but who care really a lot about clean water and preserving it for current and future generations.

Many elected officials from all around the state spoke eloquently, most against fracking. Geologists made specifically pointed remarks, about what a dreadful idea it would be to test out this new “technology” that will almost surely contaminate our aquifers, especially if drilling happens (as is currently slated) in valleys that contain fault lines. Some local politicians, especially from smaller southern-tier towns, always using the catchwords “economic” and “jobs” and “dire need for opportunities,” maintained that fracking will bring such prosperity to their municipalities that Really, drilling should have begun yesterday, and that the dSGEIS is a thorough and complete document, and will do a good job regulating the industry, and the only flaw they could think of, offhand, would be those “onorous” setbacks (10 feet from streams!! I mean gosh, can't we get closer to the clean drinking water than that??)...

The really sad part is that pro-industry people are setting up an either-or type fallacy: “It's either hydrofracking, or economic collapse!” (Mom likes to point out that trafficking in heroin and cocaine is also very lucrative, so why don't we push these industries on depressed small towns??)

I don't think there are any easy answers, but there has got to be many more than one option here, and many MANY of these options have got to be better than drilling. And here I say this even as we use natural gas to power our house and our stove...and I wonder what the future holds, when we just cannot use these resources so flippantly.

“BOOOOOOOO!” the rowdy anti-frackers behind us kept yelling, when the industry “SHILLS!!” stepped up to the podium to slickly paraphrase their three minutes' worth of Talk. (Finally, the Large Men in Suits next to us got so annoyed that, with great difficulty, they turned around and said, “Would you SHUT the hell UP?!”)

Ben and Jem did origami for as long as they could stand. Every so often, during each speakers' turn, Ben would test his deductive reasoning powers and turn to me: “Are they FOR it?” “I just KNOW that she doesn't want it!” “I think they definitely don't want it.” What are they saying???”

Jem finally whispered urgently: “I'm READY to GO!” Okay, Sweetie, I know, I told him...it's too long, isn't it? “No,” Jem whispered, still urgent, “it's too BORING!”

Outside the auditorium, in the bathroom, conversation turned to more relevant topics, such as: Why hadn't the security guards allowed us to bring our water bottle in with us??

“It's kind of complicated,” I said. “They don't want you to bring stuff in that might hurt somebody.”

“But,” Ben said, completely mystified,“how could a _water bottle_ hurt someone?!”

“Um, I'm not totally sure,” I hedged.

And then Jem suddenly had a flash of inspiration: “If it fell on your _toe_, _that_ would hurt! Maybe that's why they don't want you to bring it.”

This is a good organization to keep updated on the state of fracking in NY: http://catskillmountainkeeper.org/

And here is a concise list of reasons why the dSGEIS is flawed: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=41_Reasons_to_Reject_the_SGEIS

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Just in case you'd like the play-by-play details on our recent household decluttering (I have spent the past two weeks appreciating our space SO much), and because I am irrationally proud of this recent accomplishment, I have documented the process:

1. I went through every single part of the house systematically, went through every bookshelf and kitchen drawer and corner and Pile of Papers, and I got rid of _everything_ that I possibly could. At the beginning, I was hesitant. I wondered, Maybe I should save this? I thought, There's no way I'll find anything to get rid of in the Drawer-of-Utensils-That-We-Use-Everyday. But I found things to get rid of at EVERY point, in every drawer, on every shelf. It got sort of addictive. I shipped out boxes and boxes of stuff, gave things away and recycled. I spent five days doing this and not much else, and I made a total mess of the house in the process (I didn't worry about cleaning, either).

2. Next, I deep cleaned things that I hadn't touched since we moved into the house: the range hood, the tops of cabinets, under and behind ALL furniture, inside the lampshades that collect dead flies. I spent a full solid rainy day doing this.

3. We looked around the house and tried to pretend we didn't live here, and tried to notice all the strange ergonomic patterns that can just get stuck. Jeff noticed that a tent was taking up some of the most prime space in the hall closet, and we haven't gone camping in two years. I discovered that we could spend $6 on a hanging basket so that each of us can now store our hats and mittens in separate cubbies, and it takes up less space than the annoying laundry basket we collectively used before. I noticed that a beautiful bookcase was currently located in the back of a room where we could never see it, while a bunch of blocks in dusty milk crates that never, ever get used were forming an ugly centerpiece in the living room. Basically, we tried to think about our same old space in new ways, and figure out how best to make the space WORK for us. We moved furniture in every room, and tried things out in multiple ways to see what was best.

4. We got rid of some furniture (like an enormous metal filing cabinet), and replaced it with more useful pieces (a beautiful second-hand mahogany folding desk/bookcase). I realized that we actually had room for a dresser in our bedroom. I tried to make it so that no piles of papers or toys or _anything_ would be "homeless" and accumulating in random locations (now my In Box lives behind a nice sliding wood drawer, rather than on the kitchen counter).

Soo...short story long, our house is gorgeous! :)

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And now my darling husband has returned from CT, where he was helping his family remove incredible amounts of Dead Tree from their backyard, after the ice storm last month left surprising devastation in its wake.

Hope you're all having a great month,
Love,
Sarabeth