But Fracking Is Banned In New York, Right?

But Fracking Is Banned In New York, Right?

A glimpse into the bigger picture of shale gas development.

On January 21, 2015, scientists, doctors, homeowners, documentarians and activists alike swarmed the New York State Capitol to deliver a message to Governor Andrew Cuomo at his State of the State Address. That message was, surprisingly enough, one of gratitude. Hours later, this same swarm migrated into the Albany Hilton for a victory party. The occasion? A statewide prohibition of hydraulic fracturing--"fracking"--the controversial fossil fuel extraction process--because of a 184-page report from the Department of Health declaring the risk of public health harm was too high to ignore.

A triumph of science and people power, was it not?

Call me cynical, but more importantly, call me Pennsylvanian. I come from a poor family living on a small farm on a dirt road in a minuscule rural town called Dimock, located in the northeastern corner of the state in Susquehanna County. If the name Dimock rings a bell, you may have seen films such as Gasland and Gasland II, which documented families across the country who have experienced the fear, deception, and (literally and figuratively) toxic changes to their communities, bodies, water, soil, and air that arrived with the shale gas development industry.

Our town is in a prime location for this development for more than one reason. The most obvious reason is that Dimock is located on the Marcellus Shale formation, which has been called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas for the amount it could bear. Another especially significant yet often overlooked factor is the poverty plaguing Dimock and the surrounding area. This played a key role in the rapid and massive hold the industry was able to take on the local population: the jobs were needed, the money was promised, and there were so few other options being offered. A decade later, fracking has yet to be halted in Pennsylvania, and as of today a federal jury trial is taking place, in which two Dimock families continue to name Cabot Oil and Gas (the company responsible for fracking and related activities in the area) as the culprits behind their water sources being contaminated irreparably--though numerous other families in the same circumstances were unable to continue the fight and settled in 2012.

Tap water from the Ely household photographed in January 2016. Photo courtesy of Vera Scroggins.

The Marcellus Shale extends into New York State as well, but New York has more money than Pennsylvania. While some parts of New York State remain interested in bringing fracking jobs into their communities, many people prefer to invite less hazardous industries into the state. In fact, the jobs themselves are not only full of health dangers, they are shrouded by industry secrets that make getting adequate medical help potentially impossible. The wealthier citizens of New York were more able to protect their state from fracking--especially when armed with alarming reports of water contamination, air pollution, and health hazards in areas where fracking occurred.

In other words, New York State residents looked across the border at our state of emergency and said "yikes, sure wouldn't want that to happen up here."

And yet?

If I have learned one thing from this ordeal, it's that people like to say the word "fracking." I have seen campaign after cutesy campaign with slogans like "frack you," "frack the frackers," "go frack yourselves," etc. And while hydraulic fracturing itself is linked to myriad problems, it's just one step in the shale gas development process--and the problems that come with every other step are blamed on the fracturing process alone.

This is where New York messed up. Banning fracking alone did not keep fracking out of the state. The ban did not address storage of pressurized fracked gas in salt caverns, despite the risks. Pipelines such as the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline and the Constitution Pipeline carrying fracked gas through New York are being built, which is not only an environmentally destructive process in itself, but it draws New York into the fracking cycle.

Tree clearings for the Constitution Pipeline and a sign in protest of the development at a sugar maple farm along the pipeline's route. Photos courtesy of Vera Scroggins.

So the next time you hear someone say how glad they are that fracking is banned in New York, remind them that the gas doesn't magically vanish after its extraction from the ground. For New York to be a truly frack-free state, it needs a ban that includes compressor stations pumping the gas through the pipelines, which are not exactly something most people want in their neighborhoods as it is, and every other piece of the shale gas development puzzle.

As a Dimock girl living in the capital of New York State, I feel a connection between our states that is stronger than a pipeline. If we work together across our shared political border, maybe we can find the solution we have wanted all along.

Cover Image Credit: Vera Scroggins

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Fast News Doesn't Mean Better News

In a progressing society, the way we digest news has gone backwards.

Bam. A shocking event, bordering on scandalous, happens. Mere minutes later, your lock screen in your smartphone starts lighting up with adrenalized headlines that pop up one after another. Or you check social media and the lines between what is real and opinion start to blur as your naïve mind tries to stitch together what happened, but nothing seems wholly truthful, but nothing seems quite like a lie.

In a world where almost all the commodities of the modern era, such as social media, online shopping, and flying, are made to fit the accelerated lifestyle of the average American, speed is always favored. This is especially true when it comes to the whirlwind that is the world of online news.

For example, moments later after the Parkland school shooting in Florida, eye-catching headlines started to appear, each one more unsound than the next. In some news outlets, the shooter was an extreme leftist. In others, he was a violent anarchist. Finally, some pinpointed him as a member of the terrorist group, ISIS. This all became visible to the public before Nikolas Cruz's name was released as the culprit.

In another occurrence, during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, social media conspiracy theories filled the landscape, many users believing that they were true. For example, in one, the Boston Globe, a newspaper based in (you guessed it) Boston, was presumed t tweet about the explosions before it happened. However, in a debunking, the tweet times always match the time zone in which the account is reading in, offering an explanation for the discrepancy. In another outlandish theory, memorial pages for the bombings were created too soon. But it just so happens that in Facebook, users can choose the date in which their page was founded

Though this is only two events, they are part of a vast collection, almost endless, as the majority of the new sources are unable to get rid of the bias that is and will probably be ever-present. Especially in the modern 21st century where the promptness is prized far more favorably than accuracy, as seen throughout various posts of miscellaneous events, so take a step back and try to analyze the whole affair with impartial eyes.

Now, I'm not asking you to go off the grid and become one with nature. Rather, I'm asking you, as a reader, to be aware of the role you play in the flawed internet-based world of news. This digitization has ruined the way the world processes news, allowing us to find ourselves trapped in a door-less chamber where the bias of the news outlets is inescapable. Or our vision is warped, much like the way a funhouse mirror does, letting us be poisoned by the point of view in each news outlet like the liberal New York Times or the conservative Fox News. Not to mention that in a social media each event comes from someone else's viewpoint, blinding you from your own.

Though this is scary, there are ways to avoid artifice of the online news outlets, like making sure you don't read incidents the moment they happen. This will make life easier for you in the long-run, allowing the detection of the bias and actual fake news easier than it would have been if you had read it right away as many news sources would have corrected mistakes that might have gotten published. Despite the fact that you might see news a day old, you will be better informed as the amount of misinformation you receive will be minimalized.

So, please stop checking news the moment they come out, that way diminishing false information that is seen and read. Aside from that, another way would be to stop believing everything read on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as this will lower your stress levels by making the world more manageable by lowerung the amount of information you're getting and will make you better informed, permitting you to form your own opinions, free of the bias found in news.

Cover Image Credit: Max Pixel

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The Public Opinion Isn't Always The Informed One

Political affiliation: popular opinion

If you have a political opinion, have an informed one.

Political affiliation: popular opinion.

You know those people that base their beliefs on whatever is ~trending~ in the political sphere instead of actually researching their information and arguing fully informed points?



OK. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about that for a minute. Let’s talk about how some millennials climb ranks among social media armies that push an agenda based upon assumptions rather than facts. With that bandwagon game, comes a bunch of ill-advised keyboard warriors fighting for causes they know nothing about.

People see a tweet that is trending or a movement that they think should be supported when, in reality, it is watered down and based on lies. How can you build an argument with “facts” when you are never given the full story and are constantly tossed “fake news” in the first place?

This applies to Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and the like. A single side can't assume the blame when it falls on everyone involved in the political circle and those who refrain... but that’s another story for another day.

Those people who only share, like, and send messages they think will boost their followers or their likability are like the cockroaches compared to those who actually do their research and make informed decisions.

Now, I keep saying that a lot -- "informed." But how, exactly, do you weed the right information from the wrong?

Simple, usually you have to do some deeper digging. Listen to podcasts, search the internet outside of social media, and find people and sites that contain verifiable, reliable information. Follow your heart...or in this case, follow the truth.

Get familiar, and get involved. Change starts with informed voters.

Cover Image Credit: Nick Guyon

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