HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian
In the last two weeks I have been bombarded by sights and sounds, experiences and conversations that have left my head reeling with pain and relief. As a country girl living alone, in a quiet apartment, in a small tree filled city, the hectic pace of group travel through multiple cities was disorienting. It was also exciting, enlightening and encouraging. Since coming home I have tried to digest my experience and integrate it in some logical fashion with images and stories that have come across my computer.
Many of my readers know that I am constantly asking, “why do they want to move us out of the country?”. More and more I think it is because they don’t want people to see what is being done to this beautiful country we call home. And perhaps, so we become inured to concrete and steel and the industrialization of a landscape.
Several images kept returning to my thoughts this week. The view from a winding mountain road of a mountain top removal coal mine in West Virginia. A similar view of a huge landfill in western New York State. An image from the Rachel Maddow show of the web of gas and oil pipelines off the coast of Louisiana. The defacement of Jasper Wyoming by shale gas drilling. These images are kept out of sight of the general public. If we aren’t confronted by them, we either don’t know, or can pretend we don’t know they exist.
Rural NYS is home to many huge landfill sites where garbage from NYC and even Canada is hauled. In a town near to where I live, a battle was lost to stop the disposal of toxic and radioactive shale drill waste from hydrofracking. This waste is being brought in from Pennsylvania. These landfills when seen from the road, often a small two lane highway that wanders through bucolic farm land and forests, seem almost pristine. There are dirt walls that rise smoothly from road level, often grass covered. The road is always just low enough that you can’t see into the site. What gives it away is the circling of thousands of sea gulls, gated entrances and lots of truck traffic.
Similarly when we followed the river valley in West Virginia, on a twisting, narrow, two lane road, what we saw was a clean cut, bulldozer manicured, mountain top. The lagoons and waste piles were out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind? But not leaving the people out of harms way. We could see the coal tram as it wandered directly beside the river. Wendell Berry describes the gut wrenching dismay when he sees the “other side of the mountain top”
Rachel Maddow posted a picture of the intricate web of 25, 000 miles of pipeline and 3600 wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Did you know that was there? Or like me did you envision this monstrous leaking BP oil well as sitting isolated out in the ocean with nothing but pristine ocean surrounding it. How would we know this was there?
Map of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico
from testimony by SkyTruth president John Amos to a Senate panel last year.
The Jonas gas fields in Wyoming and aerial photos of the Allegheny National Forest can inform us of what is in store in the northeastern US when the likes of BP and Cabot Energy get their way.
But I came away with other pictures too. I met a group of people from all over this country, from age 20 to 70+, Pastors and students and teachers and retirees, who care about what is being done to God’s earth and God’s people. I saw folks from all over who are working agriculturally to heal torn cities. To reconnect people with the earth that sustains them, and to heal people through a healing of their landscape.
This wasn’t just city parks with benches to sit on that are dependent on municipal funds to be maintained. These were community food gardens of all kinds, designed to give people a way to reconnect with their food supply, their neighbors, as well as the beauty of the earth. People empowered to tear down the abandoned structures that are emblematic of urban blight, and to use those materials to build a new agrarian, urban landscape that celebrates people and feeds them both nutritionally and mentally.
Folks are growing hope.