Destroying it wont save it
By Jeffrey Moore
A cynical comment made during the Vietnam War has always struck me as quite an anomaly. When an U.S. Army officer circa 1968 said, we had to destroy the village in order to save it, how many of us, whether politically for or against the conflict itself, actually took his comment seriously? To destroy something to improve it is a tragic contradiction.
I am also reminded how so many folks living here in the New York/Pennsylvania Delaware River region demand local control over our lives and over our destiny. Our planning boards and our town boards are the vehicles and expression of that local control. They are filled with dedicated, hard-working people who care about where we live.
Putting those two thoughts together, it is a tragic vision to see how money gets into the heart and soul of our destiny, purporting to save what it must ultimately destroy. Big international gas/oil companies might soon be very much in control (and ironically, in some cases, for much smaller cash amounts than I would have imagined.)
Our farming community is struggling. It is pushed too hard and working to the limit, and when offered a little cash, it is all too easy to believe the promise of no disruptiona promise that the experience of other areas, such as Dimock, PA has proven to be false. But the real false promise may be that somehow in the long run they will be saved. And what about the larger hunting lands that are usually owned by groups? Have they been sold on the idea that drill rigs, pipelines and the oncoming disturbance is somehow benign to their interests?
Where are the alternatives to blighting our communities with what will be an incessant intrusion by trucks, crews and the proliferation of small-acreage industrial sites for many years to come?
Do we really understand the hydrology and how fracking will impact our water supplies? No.
Have we truly a vision as to how to protect our rural lifestyle? Emphatically, no.
Have we done the homework and analysis as to how to improve the economics of our farmlands and farming families? No, not really. But we already have many fine folks who understand the trend toward organically grown foods, locally processed products using locally farmed fluid milk and local farm-raised meats. Little has been done to implement working models, let alone larger scaled production. Many other examples abound.
Have we taken a balanced view of our legacy, with an emphasis toward conserving our open spaces using land trusts and motivating them with serious and significant funding ? No.
Have we done the homework in assessing the cumulative impacts of continual home-lot developments plus the industrial sites whose ultimate extent we do not yet truly grasp? No.
Cumulative should be the watchword for our decision making. It wont be the 20-house lot up on a ridge that was once forested. It wont be the first six gas wells drilled, nor the first million gallons of water taken from the protected river. But it will be the cumulative impacts of the hundreds if not thousands of sites and wells that will blight our region.
Rural turns to suburban/industrial one mistaken step at a time. It is an old formula used by those who would forever change this place. However, that formula shows no vision and very little control over our way of lifeand certainly leads to the gradual destruction of our environment.
Some would say they are practical environmentalists. But that is not true. Some give it all away so easily and so cheaply. The ultimate question is whether have we have saved it by letting big oil/gas in? No.
(Jeffrey Moore has been a Sullivan County resident since 1977. He is a long-time member of Bashakill Area Association, a board member Delaware Highlands Conservancy and a member Catkskill Mountaineers and other advocacy groups trying to protect the region.)