Florida has long been a setting for comedic catastrophe, as in the columns of Dave Barry or the novels of Carl Hiaasen. Now catastrophe looms again and while there is plenty of ironic destruction (and more to come), it no longer seems so funny.
A friend who spends time in Florida (the state continues to exert a pull on upstate New Yorkers) recently sent me news of a ridiculous situation near the Everglades: an oil company, Burnett Oil of Texas, wants to search for oil and natural gas next door to the Everglades in Big Cypress Natural Preserve. This would not only be a destructive and foolish thing to do but it flies in the face of Florida’s need to fight the effects of climate change, which it is already experiencing. If you feel fracking next door to the Everglades is selfish and counter-productive, please let the National Park Service know.
Flooding in South Beach. Photo: Miami New Times.
The business-as-usual and damn-the-consequences approach of Burnett Oil is all the more striking in that South Florida is in the vanguard of actually experiencing the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels and massive, violent storms do not bode well for the future of Miami and South Florida. An article by renowned environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) in the current, December 21 issue of the New Yorker outlines the dangers, present and future, in some detail.
Miami and —especially—Miami Beach face environmental challenges so significant that some experts think even the most expensive and elaborately engineered attempts to combat rising sea levels are doomed to failure. In light of this, conducting any harmful environmental activity in South Florida seems downright insane. And yet such activity is still utterly routine, in Florida and throughout the world.
Which may be the great environmental challenge of all.
It’s been a long time coming, but today Gov. Cuomo announced that fracking will be banned in the state of New York, in large part because of the health risks involved (a study of these risks has only recently concluded, after running for years).
At last: New York bans fracking. Photo: inhabitat.com
This isn’t the time to go into the political calculations involved in the decision, though obviously they have been considerable. Let’s take some time instead to celebrate an important move forward, regardless of what it took to get to this point (and much of what it took is a lot of hard work on the part of progressives throughout the state, including Zephyr Teachout’s strong run in this fall’s Democratic primary).
New York is the first state with significant shale deposits to ban fracking, and that’s a great holiday gift for all of us who live here.
I almost decided to ignore this election. Yes, the country is in dire straits and the stakes are indeed high. But it’s likely this election will have almost zero impact on any of our nation’s most important problems. For the first time in my life I’m tempted to skip voting altogether.
Vote Blue 2014 POWER TO THE PEOPLE logo by Jeff Dombrowski.
And yet … there are differences. So you can argue citizens have a duty to choose, so as to minimize destructive outcomes. Chris Gibson is widely viewed as a nice guy, but that is no reason to vote for him, as this editorial makes clear. As for the rest of tomorrow’s choices, progresssive voters would do well to vote the Working Families Party line, with the exception of the choices for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. There, the vote should go for Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong, and tomorrow’s election will somehow make a difference.
A breath of political fresh air rolled into Woodstock last night, as Zephyr Teachout and her Whistleblower Tour bus pulled up around 9 PM to address supporters waiting at the funky/charming Havana Club Bar & Grill at the Woodstock Lodge. She’d been slated to appear at 8:30 but was running late from an address across the river in Columbia County. The Havana Club’s patrons didn’t mind—Zephyr was worth the wait.
Zephyr Teachout at the Havana Club. Photo: Tom Pletcher.
Ms. Teachout was nearing the end of her second full day of the Whistleblower Tour, which kicked off in midtown Manhattan Wednesday at One57, the billionaires’ residence built by Extell. The theme of the tour is endemic corruption in New York State, and the way ordinary people have been ignored in the current political process. Economic inequality and lack of opportunity are among the inevitable results, which Teachout vows to address in her bottom-up underdog campaign.
She was absolutely terrific, despite having spent a long day on the tour: sincere, engaging and compelling. And she’s got some strong momentum going, too: the New York Times declined to endorse her opponent, Cuomo the Lesser, and urged people to vote for Zephyr instead, in order to “send a message.” Yesterday the Times decided to endorse her running mate, Tim Wu, for Lt. Governor. Wu is vastly preferable to the conservative and hypocritical Kathy Hochul, just as Zephyr Teachout would be an enormous improvement over Mario Cuomo’s autocratic, unlikeable son.
Among her ideas to revitalize the upstate economy: big investments in 21st Century energy sources and modernized transportation systems. You’d have to dig deep into Cuomo’s idea bank to find any thoughts on improving things upstate, and what you’d come away with is casinos (a day late and a dollar short, as they say).
Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu deserve the support of every progressive New Yorker, and they need your support now, with only 11 days to go until the Sept. 9 primary. Please volunteer or donate as you can.
You’ve got to give Joel Tyner credit for gall. His campaign has managed to crank out a misleading, pre-primary robocall blast to Democrats throughout NY-19, in which Tyner says:
“Hi, this is Joel Tyner, a populist, progressive Democratic candidate for Congress in the 19th District, currently in my 5th term in the Dutchess County Legislature. I believe in core Democratic values. Unfortunately, my opponent says the jury is still out on fracking; I know it should be banned. I also stand with Maurice Hinchey, unlike my opponent, for Medicare for all and bringing back FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big banks. Vote for me June 26th to be a strong voice for you and not an echo.”
This is blatant overreach (much like Tyner’s entire campaign). In the first place, he is misquoting Julian Schreibman on the fracking issue, by taking a radio interview comment out of context. He has been doing this for quite some time now. Julian Schreibman is against fracking. He knows it threatens our water supplies, and he doesn’t believe it offers economic benefits for New Yorkers. At an event in Catskill this past Sunday, Julian spelled it out: “fracking is bad for New York.”
Tyner is also overreaching by calling for universal Medicare when the health care reform we already have, along with Medicare itself, is under serious attack. And that points out a major distinction between these two candidates.
On the majority of issues, both Tyner and Schreibman are in close agreement. But Tyner is standing on his progressive soapbox as a longtime local legislator, while Schreibman has the organization, the resources, the experience and the political expertise to actually win against Chris Gibson this November.
Julian Schreibman held another “meet & greet” this past Sunday, at the Brik Gallery on Main Street in Catskill. It was an apt setting—Main Street had rebounded and was doing fairly well prior to the financial crisis; now it is a collection of largely empty storefronts where businesses, restaurants and galleries used to be (including Brik). This made Main Street an ideal setting for the recent, innovative “Wall Street to Main Street” exhibition put on by the Greene County Council on the Arts in collaboration with the artistic wing of Occupy Wall Street. Many of the window displays from that recently concluded exhibition remain, as the photo below demonstrates.
The Writing’s on the Wall (or Window)
Photo: John P. O’Grady
Mr. Schreibman spoke movingly, as though inspired by the reduced state of the street outside. He railed against America’s growing economic inequality, and vowed to do everything he could to address it. He also:
- Spoke in favor of the DREAM Act
- Firmly renounced fracking as bad for New York
- Emphatically renounced policies of torture and rendition in America’s endless wars (this, in reply to an inquiry about his CIA background, which had nothing to do with field activities)
- Explained how grateful he was for the help he received in getting a good (Yale) education, and described his belief that every American should be entitled to a chance at the same opportunities he had
- Denounced our current Republican Congressman for voting against the interests of the 19th District
- Announced strong support for new policies to stimulate economic growth in our region, including support for family farms and a strategic rural broadband initiative
It was another strong performance by a candidate whose appeal only continues to grow.
An important report from Working Families:
“This morning, a fracking compressor exploded in Northeast Pennsylvania, just 30 miles south of Binghamton.
As black smoke billows from the site, emergency crews from three counties are on the scene. The most recent reports suggest that workers are still trying to shut off the flow of gas. Luckily, no injuries have been reported so far.
The compressor station takes gas, extracted from the Marcellus Shale by hydrofracking, and pressurizes it for transport. Stations like these would spring up across New York if Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation approve fracking in our state.
Poisoned water, earthquakes, and now explosions. What more evidence do we need that fracking is too dangerous?”
Here is the link to news coverage by the Scranton Times-Tribune.
Governor Cuomo has quietly removed funding for the health assessment of hydrofracking, so that there will be no governmental data to prove that hydrofracking will result in increased levels of toxic chemicals in the air and water, with severe irreversible long-term health consequences for New Yorkers.
I don’t usually listen to the President’s Saturday noontime address. I hardly ever listen to the rebuttal. But I was driving in my car—a captive audience. The things the President said about energy efficiency and becoming less carbon-dependent all made sense. And then, the rebuttal speech by North Dakota’s Republican governor Jack Dalrymple came on the radio. It made me see red—because it was red, as in Red State—and it was wrong.
To listen to him, North Dakota has everything. It’s the place we all want to emulate. The lowest unemployment in the nation; a “reasonable regulatory environment,” and a “friendly business environment,” too. It sounds like paradise—for the corporate scavengers whose reward for raping a state’s natural resources goes straight to their bottom line. In return, the public receives meager short-term results that disappear in a few short years, leaving long-term environmental problems, the full-impact of which is not yet fully understood.
Should NY Be More Like Fargo?
It didn’t take long for Governor Dalrymple to get to his real message, once he finished touting the shining example North Dakota offers our country. He suggested we fling off the “overly burdensome regulations” the rest of the country is shackled by. His message that hydraulic fracturing is no danger—because it occurs 2 miles beneath the surface—ignores the evidence of fracking-related earthquakes and water contamination that point to a sad truth that is becoming all too obvious: what goes underground doesn’t always stay underground.
So, let’s see. If New York becomes North Dakota—then Albany would be Bismark, North Dakota’s capital, and New York City would be Fargo, North Dakota’s largest city. And the New York City Watershed … would be what? An endangered artifact under siege with unknown health and environmental impacts affecting 9 million people.
So Governor, thanks but no thanks. I’d like to propose that New York State pass on the North Dakota model and adopt the French model instead. The French Parliament voted 287-146 in 2011 to ban fracking in France. It makes sense—after all, New York City with a population of nine million has more in common with Paris (metro population 10,354,675) and more to protect than Fargo, ND (metro population 208,777).
Here is the Jewett Town Board’s resolution against using “fracking” brine on local roads:
The Jewett Resolution
The Town Board’s response was made in part because of a post on this site in January, and it’s an important step forward in the fight against environmental damage caused by fracking.