by Tara Zrinski
In the years that I have been part of the active opposition to the PennEast Pipeline and fracking in Pennsylvania as local organizer for Food and Water Watch and through Pennsylvania Voters Against Fracking, I have seen a dynamic and exciting rise to action from people of all ages from all different backgrounds—socio-economic, racial, political, philosophical and religious—brought together through social media and grass roots campaigns.
In an August 2014 meeting called by Karen Feridun, we started as a few organizers along the route, sitting at a table at the Unitarian Universalist Church, deciding how to disseminate information to landowners and get them active. According to the original timeline, the PennEast Pipeline should have been operational in 2017 and, yet, because of the power of this movement, communities along the route from Pennsylvania to New Jersey have united in opposition, not always for the same reason but with the same goal: Stop the PennEast Pipeline.
Even with a common goal, there is no denying that some in the group would be just as satisfied with having the pipeline in someone else’s backyard, or receive a hefty compensation from PennEast rather than spend hours and dollars fighting the threat of eminent domain. Yet, they marched alongside those who believe that the rights of nature have been violated by fracking, that pipelines desecrate the Earth Mother and that climate science cannot be ignored. Whether intentional of not, both sides found compassion for the experience of the other. In the process, individuals were transformed in just as many ways as the broken system they wished to transform.
This is the beauty and power of grassroots organization, bringing together diverse groups of people who would normally have no other reason to interact but the goal in front of them. In the process, they inevitably find that they are more similar than different, that their concerns for the environment are wrapped up in similar fears of having their life’s work, their farms, their family’s health compromised and put at risk for the sake of corporate profit and the final play of a dying fossil fuel industry.
The spirit of this movement, cultivated by necessity, is not limited to local battles either but gave rise to a conscious awareness of and solidarity with other pipeline opposition like Keystone XL Pipeline, Dakota Access Pipeline, not to mention the other pipelines racing for FERC approval in PA. Our battle is their battle. Water is Life. No more pipelines. Keep it in the ground. These are shared mantras for the movement.
Along the way, communities have formed their own groups—Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline, Save Carbon County, and Homeowners Against Land Taking, to name a few. These groups share information, resources and energy as they unite to form a critical mass against the policies that enable profiteers to exploit the middle class.
As the spirit of opposition and resistance inspire those to challenge the status quo of business as usual and the myths propagated by an industry inclined to spin the media to convincing the public of the necessity and benefit of such pipelines, a flame has ignited this spirit to transform the systems and conditions that allow these corporate profiteers to succeed. This grass roots effort is guided by transformation and it will not stop with opposition to the PennEast Pipeline.
There is a call for clean, renewable energy—more solar, more wind, geothermal and hydro power –to displace and disrupt the fossil fuel industry. There is a call to divest from the banks that finance these projects. This call is being answered by the choices of the consumers who are reinvesting in renewable energy, divesting from those who support the fossil fuel industry and seeking positions in local offices to transform the system from within. Transition is now and transformation is coming. It starts with a few people but the proliferation of this spirit plays an integral part in bringing together the critical mass necessary to bring about change.
This is what democracy looks like.
by Tara Zrinski
Tara is Area Sales Manager for SolarCity and former adjunct professor of Philosophy at NCC and LCCC as well as a freelance writer. She has written for many local and national publications. Tara also volunteers as the local organizer for Food & Water Watch.
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)