By Barbara Arrindell
It is a spring day in the year 2015, and I am looking out at the garden and beyond to the creek. The swallows are just returning—a few at a time, joining the ones already here in their songful, joyous swirling flights of greeting. I think back over the last seven years, and am amazed at the distance we have come. To think, in the spring of 2008 I feared for our land. Was it to be destroyed in a terrible apocalypse of industrialization from gas and oil drilling, leaving land, water, man and animal in an unfamiliar, unfriendly, thirsty, starved sickness? How did we make it through that maze of fear, greed, deception, hope, desire and slowly revealed truths to this plateau of calm?
Swimming in time to understand how change takes place is like swimming in water, and below the surface looking up, seeing where the world seems to end, there is the knowing of another place, and your desire for breath drives you to it. So also with change. I knew then that a better way was not only possible, but, like the breath of life, necessary. We were, in 2008, on the edge of a precipice. We could race over the edge to free fall into consuming ourselves, our environment, our children, our future, or, by turning, walk to a new place of respect, adventure, new ways; and why not make that turn? We did have a choice.
A wise man told me once: “The right to own property does not convey with it the privilege of harming people, communities or the environment. Law pretending to uphold property rights while empowering corporations or property-owners to destroy community, the environment on which all life depends, or the enjoyment of community and property by others, is illegitimate law.” He was right. Laws of the state are preempted by higher laws, often recognized as “virtues.” The first and greatest is love—but that’s an awkward word in our culture; better to say respect, honor, hold in reverence and cherish.
Thankfully, in the most lofty statements of legal intent, the documents forming our nation and my state, the Declaration of Independence of the United States and the Pennsylvania Constitution, the place of virtue is recognized. In these documents the intent of the framers is clear, that the purpose of the government is to honor the people who form the nation and to protect their inalienable rights “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and that “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” The latter is from Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution, which continues, “Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
We are so very creative. The response to the need to develop enough renewable and sustainable energy happened so quickly once it was clear that we had to do so or die. The will to live is strong. Creative vitality responded with zero carbon, non contaminating sources and methods unheard of a few years, or even months, earlier. Our rebzap energizers, diagonal wind harvesters and solar freezepoint engines are just a few of the now everyday sources of energy that we would not have today had we continued along the path we were on then. We are also nearing completion of the petrochemical pollutant cleanup started in 2010.
I am very glad we made that turn.
[Barbara Arrindell is an area resident and one of the founders of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability ( www.DamascusCitizens.org ). She has a Degree in BioEngineering from Columbia University, School of Engineering and a life-long interest in sustainable and renewable energy sources and the environmental effects of human activities.]