I went for a long, hot, humid run today. Not my favorite weather in which to hit the roads, but I have been a bit of an anxious mess lately, and running indoors would only have exacerbated that sensation. You see, my neighborhood, and many others near ours and like ours (some of which I’ve resided in in the past) is under assault by the big bully energy company who is supposed to be providing ‘service’ to our community.
Last Wednesday I skipped the churchlike regularity of my weekly Irish music session to attend a community forum…
At this meeting, light was shed upon the whispers of a tragic injustice potentially headed our way, courtesy of the fracking movement and spearheaded by the very company which is supposed to bring us ‘service’, Duke Energy.
I sat at this meeting, horrified, filled with dread, my ears fairly bursting with the news of this plan to bring an industrial strength, highly pressurized ‘natural’ gas pipeline straight through our back yards. I’ll fess up that I thought I was headed to this meeting for a bit of ‘not in my back yard’ tete-a-tete, and just to see what was up. This isn’t about my back yard. This is about all of our back yards.
For the first time, a pipeline of this magnitude is being considered for a path straight through the middle of a densely populated neighborhood area. A path that navigates it’s way not only through quiet suburban backyards with mature trees and woodlands such as ours, but also through neighborhoods with houses whose closer fence lines provide much more day to day contact. And right by schools where our neighborhood kids learn and play and live their little lives. And just near nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals and houses of worship.
This is no ordinary pipeline, I learned at last week’s forum. This is not about service to us from our local energy provider. This pipeline is a highway. A 30″ transmission pipe headed south to make money for Duke Energy. This pipeline has nothing to do with us, if I understood the information I gleaned from the meeting. Sure, it might be part of the overall ‘system’ ‘needed’ to be in place for us to get the natural gas we use so thoughtlessly utilize on a regular basis. I do not know. I am still in the process of researching it all. But I am no Erin Brockovich . I am just a quiet artist, trying to lead a good life. Trying to stay one step ahead of my anxieties about the world.
And so we went to our local forum. We sat riveted and horrified. And we came home to think about it all for a day or so. And now, we have written heartfelt letters to our local politicians, and to our local utility company (which feels laughable, considering their confidence in making this pipeline a reality). And today, I knit socks in my little patch of paradise while no one else was up besides me and the dogs and our last, lone chicken. And I pondered the kids and older folks by whom this pipeline would pass. And I thought about how vulnerable they all are. How vulnerable we all are.
When something goes wrong on one of these lines, there is no warning. No evacuation. Folks are just in the blast line. Or they are not. Currently, for at least one path this line is considering, we are in a fairly direct path of a potential blast. I don’t want anyone to be in this blast line. A line of this caliber belongs in industrial areas and along interstate routes. For in the long run, what is traffic and re-routing, if countless lives are potentially saved?
I sat in a state of endless anxiety for a good while. And then I went on that run. Due to the heat and humidity, I had to stop here and there. I chatted with a dear neighbor who has a new (to me) dog named Rocket. I wandered my streets filled with love for this place. This isn’t necessarily my perfect place. That might be nearer to the ocean perhaps. But for now, this is our place. And I am fiercely committed to it. I ran and ran and ran. Just one step ahead of the elephant that loves to take up residence upon my chest so often.
and then I saw it.
A little wild rabbit.
The morning sunshine was slanted just so that the creature’s ears were lit up like little rose petals. I stopped. Caught my breath. And got an idea.
I almost can’t handle the idea of older folks, school children, and my own home being in an explosion caused by a highly pressurized natural gas pipeline in a densely populated area. But I can escape to my imaginary sphere. And wonder what the animals might think of it all.
After all, regardless of property values potentially falling due to this pipeline, or dangerous safety concerns for our most vulnerable citizens, the environmental issues surrounding this project are absolutely staggering. Changes to storm run-off patterns in place for generations, construction run-off into the millcreek watershed, mature trees and woodlands decimated. I could go on and on.
But here was this rabbit. And here was myself, in a state of agitated anxiety. So for the afternoon I escaped into my imagination. Where the woodland animals were banding together with their own social media campaign.
And I made a little drawing.
Because besides chatting up my neighbors on both sides of the party line, and sending letters to my governmental representatives, this is all I know to do. I mustn’t cave to endless fear and anxiety over this notion. I must act. And today I acted. And I will continue to do so when I can. There have been stories of communities able to stand in the face of these environmental atrocities and make change. And lord knows there are others with a less happy ending.
But we are at the beginning of this struggle. There is a core group of citizens comprised of a variety of affected communities who have banded together to make some trouble and spread the word of this project so very inappropriate for this area. It seems the energy corporations are getting more and more desperate to make a dollar (or billions) and they are putting the very communities they are supposed to be ‘serving’ at risk. I really expected better community stewardship and responsibility from a company I, until now, trusted.
NOPE Cincy is a group online providing the latest updates on this tragic idea in the hope that we can get things rerouted. At the rally they put on which I attended, many local representatives were on hand ready to speak for their constituents. (shout out to Todd Portune whom I last heard speak at my friend Tina’s mural opening last fall. He is a politician who shows up. I find that tremendously admirable). In the current political climate so often filled with vitriolic mayhem, this all feels like a breath of grass-rooted fresh air, in spite of the horrific issue at hand. And it is just this notion of neighbors working together from ‘both sides of the podium’ as they say that gives me some real hope for where we are headed.
I made this little drawing today. This is all I know how to do besides writing letters and talking to my neighbors. It is putting my head in the sand where I feel safe, while not truly doing so. It is my form of activism.