When I saw those green signs marketing Repower Dunkirk and I read about the debates, I was confused by the vague technical wizardry.
I wondered why it didn't seem to be articulated clearly and simply. I learn the issue involves getting at our natural gas via fracking - a very controversial issue (in the news all over the country for the flammable tap water).
To stick with coal power, we have a blow to the economy and still help destroy Appalachian Mountaintops into lifeless rubble sliding into depopulating ghost-town valleys. Gone forever. Loyal to their mountain heritage, people young and old, assemble at government offices to demand answers of their representatives about the leaching toxic sludge ponds stationed right beside their children's schools - byproduct of fracking. A thick tier of armed authorities shield the politicians, and while the politicians slip out the back door, the officers with stony-face go through the demoralizing motions of arresting peaceful citizens, day after day.] On the other hand: repowering for "energy independence" based on blasting our own land, comes with assurances that solar and wind will come along eventually (too late). What passes for "choice" is either this planet killing coal and revenue loss versus a short-term boost in money by way of blasphemy to the Creator known as fracking of the ancient organic matter formed over millenia, known as shale.
Yet I know the urgency of our immediate needs; the limitations on ethics when one is desperate, as when a hungry parent robs a store to feed a baby. Speaking of mothers, my own was terminated recently in a mass layoff, just after she returned from fulfilling a transfer position that required years of sacrifice away from our family.
She did her part, but is back to square one late in her career. I write this in grief and with respect for the intelligence of our adults, not needing to be coddled or manipulated with phony narratives of prosperity; and I think it is important to be honest, that grief is an appropriate emotion when faced with these riddles. What we face in our towns is not a separate tragedy from the ones happening all over America. It is important to see how we fit in the trajectory of America through time.
I've dug into our history, eager to learn of the pioneers who mostly subsistence farmed, hunted, and supplemented with practical trades. Then came the mills, so prosperous, the forests were cleared to the downfall of the mills. New conservation methods were devised - farmland that was abandoned in the struggle was reforested, even at times by school children and teachers, to fund their education while repairing the county. Grape farmers had to be convinced of new methods of carving the vineyards to hug the contours of the land to prevent erosion and conserve soil. Soil, remember, has been described as our external metabolism - this humble substance is crucial to all life. We had a strong agricultural tradition of co-ops and county fairs which were the centers of community merriment, conversation, and learning. Through this effective method, our ancestors were able to tailor their livestock to create some of the most superior dairy products, fetching the best prices in America at the time - revered for the incomparable quality and excellence. And then the race for the railroad. Farming is hard work. It seems a human urge to make life more leisurely, cosmopolitan, secure. The railroad brought both positive and negative effects, and it is only honest to realize, that our community's relationship to power production is a parallel crossroad in history to the railroad that will determine the course of our region's future, and it would be tragic folly to treat it as if shouting about wanting money and jobs is the only thing to focus on, as if it were that simple. As if anyone who isn't enthusiastic about this paradox is just some eco-radical who cares more about frogs than people and being sensible! Is it sensible to cut off your nose to spite your face?
I scroll through the Department of Labor job listings regularly. I know we need heat in the cold, to pay the rent, to feed the kids - stuff that can't be negotiated. When people say we should do anything risky as long as we have jobs, I wonder if they mean that their expectations do not even see farm labor on the radar. I wonder if migrant workers would see our job panic the same way it is being talked about?
Driving down the road you see migrants in the blazing sun, with farmers that work almost super-human hours, and they always seem to be in need of more hands. Those who are comfortable and educated bear more of a responsibility than working class people without the luxury of dabbling in political theory. It is a dishonor to the country to drape oneself in country heritage yet reject it in practice, in favor of whatever poison blasted through the substrate will keep their expectations of upward mobility met.
The dramatics of the power controversy rely on a basic illusion of choice. Like the global, national, and local trend, it is a frenzy to kick-the-can down the road, in hopes that future technology will solve the ills of the former. When the inevitable rationing of power (which is tied to food and everything else) comes here as it already has elsewhere, the expectations of easy happiness ingrained in the cultural psyche will be so divorced from the seriousness of reality, psychological thresholds will snap if one has not developed a transcendent spiritual core.
Industrialists seduced men with the promise of ample secure employment, for this they worked hard to build machines, which replaced them. The gold window was shut and capital is no longer backed by tangible resources, but digital formulas meaningful only to stock traders. We were told global business trade would make us wealthy and the protesters were lazy deviants, but modern employers have us fight like dogs to stay more lucrative than sweatshops. We have children that can identify more brand logos than trees in the yard.
Our personalities and emotions were studied, to be sold back to us as merchandise. We were divided by false distractions of differences in rival sports teams, talk-radio-venom-preference, prestige, sins of ego. Come what may, I pledge my allegiance to our county and will always stay. I would like to hear from anyone interested in Transition Town discussions (an informal network to focus on small scale, local approaches to realistically meeting needs both material and psychological).
The best survival method is to be flexible and diverse in your craft, to self-educate in construction, permaculture gardening, masonry, butchers, etc. We can learn from the regrets of other towns, and we can discuss how to innovate to best help each other in profound, practical, noble ways.
Lindsay Morrison is a Forestville resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org