September 17, 2010

Care About the Environment? You Might Be an Enemy of the State.

Friday morning. Drinking coffee. Scrolling through the Twitter feed. Excited about friends that are coming in for the weekend and tracking down chantrelles at farmers market tomorrow morning. Thinking about going on an afternoon autumn bike ride. You know, the usual pre-weekend bliss. And all is good until I see this:

To put it in Twitter terms: WTF?

So I click on the link and proceed to watch this video.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Forget tranquil Friday morning, this is the kind of thing that makes me livid. In fact it makes me physically ill.

Scroll back three and a half months ago when I was at Mountainfilm and saw a screening of Gasland, the subject of this news clip. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary that looks at communities in the United States negatively affected by natural gas drilling. We’re talking tap water that lights on fire, severe health problems, inability to live a normal lifestyle. By the end of the film, I was crying. This was the first time that I had ever gotten seriously emotional about an environmental issue; something had ignited.

The following day I ran into Gasland director Josh Fox and one of the women that was featured in the film. I thanked them for their work, and highlighting an issue that until the night before, I hadn’t known anything about. I asked the woman what she could do moving forward.

“I can’t do anything. My life will never be the same. But other communities need to know about this. They need to protect themselves.”

Again: tears.

A couple months later I find myself on a bear witness project in the Gulf of Mexico; 10 days on the ground to see the effects of the BP oil spill first hand. I get that feeling that I had at the Gasland screening, a mixture of being overwhelmed, frustrated, livid and depressed. A lot of tears are shed and in their midst I have this year’s most important epiphany: I’ve turned into an environmentalist. Not that I believe in definitions. But somewhere in the last few months I went from loving the outdoors and caring about the environment to making damned sure that I do everything in my power that I can to work on issues that respect the world that we live in, and in turn the cultures and people that call it home. Because at the end of the day, all of that is intertwined.

And it’s with that thought that I watch this video, reporting that the Pennsylvania office of Homeland Security has been tracking environmental protest groups and events as enemies of the state. What were some of the events? A screening of Gasland. Demonstrations against BP.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, put an immediate stop to it, which is commendable. But the issue at hand is that this even happens at all. Because if voicing our opinions over operations that put our environment and health at severe risk makes us enemies of the state, we have to start seriously questioning what kind of a society we have created.

We’re all culpable. We all vote. And we all have to start thinking about what kind of a world that we want to live in.

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