Every religion I have studied has respect for creation as a fundamental teaching. The Jewish faith, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Jainism – to name a few – all teach the importance of protecting creation. Native Americans and most Indigenous Peoples have lived in harmony with Mother Earth for centuries and have a lot they could teach us.
My Christian faith motivates me and informs my efforts to ban fracking. Regardless of your own spiritual orientation, it behooves our movement to appreciate the widespread power of faith. Faith is a strong, deeply held force that can inspire a diversity of people to action, mobilize communities, and bring to bear the influence and resources of organized religion.
As such, the initiative of New Yorkers Against Fracking to recruit faith leaders is an important part of our movement-building work. Faith-based messages, rich with shared values and appealing virtues, strike a chord in many people. Faith leaders are credible spokespeople who can speak to the immorality of fracking, engage their congregations, and influence public opinion, while houses of worship are vital institutions for organizing and educating in our neighborhoods.
As a human being on this planet, as a citizen, and for me, especially as a Christian, I know it to be my responsibility to do all I can to protect creation – for all of us and for our children. It is my bounden duty to work to protect and save what God has made. This sense of obligation, rooted in my own religion, is one shared by millions of people of many faiths – and it is a sentiment that we have much to gain by tapping into.
A word, then, about my own story. As far back as I can remember, I’ve felt a closeness to God – perhaps because of my Baptism. A closeness to God’s creation was developed during Sunday afternoons and summer vacation time spent on our Grandmother’s or Aunt & Uncle’s farms where a child could climb an apple tree, pick berries for a pie down the lane or collect eggs from the hen house. We went for hikes in the woods. We had gardens at home. My parents planted in me a knowledge of and respect for earth – the seed took.
Christmas Eve 1968, an image of earth was taken from space during the Apollo 8 mission and became the first image of earth we ever saw. This contributed to a growing global awareness of our planet. Two years later – 1970 – we had the first Earth Day. And during the Apollo 17 mission two years after that in 1972, we had the first full image of earth taken with the sun behind the spacecraft – the most reproduced, famous image of earth – the image I use for my earth buttons and on our Environmental Task Force flyers.
By this time, the effects of industrialization, excessive use of fossil fuels and the commodification of resources alerted anyone with an ear to the ground that we were in trouble. I began introducing care for the earth into my teaching of art. Together with my students, we wrote and performed plays for Earth Day. We ceremoniously planted trees.
This path continues and has led me here today – to this fight to protect our water, land and air, people, plants and animals – all our environments – from the destructive forces of fracking. Exploding shale formation 3,000 to 8,000 feet below the surface of the earth causes disruption – some unknown, some known, like earthquakes. Each well that is fracked uses thousands – sometimes millions – of gallons of potable water. Toxic chemicals and sand are added to the water, some of which stays underground, some of which comes back and is now radioactive as radon is present in shale formation – and the Marcellus Shale has an exceptionally high level of radon. Where does one put the frack water that returns to the surface? There is no water treatment process that can remove the chemicals or radon – this water is lost forever.
And to whom does this water belong? Who has the right to use it? Can the individual who sells their land rights or the gas industry that drills claim this water to frack wells, forever removing it from the hydrologic system that has supported life on this planet for millennia? Whether the water is withdrawn from aquifers, rivers or lakes, this is water that is needed for life! Water is a human right! No one person or company can morally claim for themselves that which belongs to all people and for all generations!
And water is just one part of the catastrophe that is fracking. Methane escaping into the atmosphere unburned is estimated to be 40 – 70 times more potent at causing climate change than is CO2. Children are especially vulnerable to the fumes, their lungs being smaller and having to breathe more frequently. The health of all people is negatively impacted by fracking, as shown by medical scientific data, studies and reports prepared by physicians. One could go on and on.
There is a time when every person must act – a time when words are not enough – a time when we are called to stand up for what is right. This is one of those critical times in the course of history. We have only one planet – one body of pure water to drink – one atmosphere to protect us – one layer of topsoil to grow our food. Once these are poisoned, they are gone forever. No amount of money can bring them back.
Scientists from all around the globe who met last year in their report described the 9 planetary boundaries. Of these, 3 are near or at the tipping point: climate change, biodiversity and the nitrogen cycle. To burn more fossil fuel at this point in time given the knowledge we have, is suicide.
We have alternatives – wind, solar, tidal geo, hydro. I believe we have the intelligence, technology and moral stature to act to protect creation – to ban fracking forever. No more mountaintop coal removal, no more gas or oil pipelines, no more offshore drilling – no more exploding our earth! Fossil fuels are pre-historic modes of energy. We’re in the 21st century. Leave it in the ground – HARVEST FRESH SUN!
Catherine Skopic is a Lay Eucharistic Minister. She is Chair of the Environmental Task Force of the Congregation of Saint Saviour at the Cathdral Church of Saint John and Chair of the Committee on the Environment of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. She also serves at Representative for the Anglical Communion Office at the United Nations.