Intro to With Their Own Hands


Working together to get the job done

On Wednesday I posted the first in my occasional series “With Their Own Hands.” Today is Friday and that means it’s time for another post.

I recently realized something. One of my themes is individuals or small groups working to make something happen so their world, and everyone else’s world, will be at least a little better.

The 2008 slogan, “We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for” was galvanizing. Obama’s groundswell was fueled by a latent energy called forth by the realization that things had gone far enough and something had to be done. It doesn’t matter if it the slogan was part of a cynical marketing initiative or not. The energy is still there and, for those not derailed by disappointment, it’s just been getting stronger.

There are dangerous, criminal and unjust things going on in our country and in the world. Many of us are horrified and depressed. There’s an ever-present temptation to be stymied by feeling that we’re overmatched, the clampdown is essentially complete and unassailable. People not giving into that temptation are stepping into the sweep of history and getting busy.

My intention is to tell some of these stories. I want to inspire my readers to say “Hey, I can pitch in,” or even “I’ve waited long enough. Now I’m ready to get started.”

I’ve been going around this week. Wednesday I went to a documentary at the Ossining Library. A couple individuals thought people would respond to a documentary series. They made it happen and people responded. A lot of people showed up and there was a sense in the room that they were hungry for a coherent glimpse of real life. Thursday morning, I drove to a meeting in Middletown, NY between citizens and experts organized by the Minisink people and some of their friends. The meeting was about the health risks of living near a natural gas compressor station. Thursday night I went to Mahopac where many of the experts from the morning made a second appearance to talk about the health risks of the enormous expansion of natural gas infrastructure starting in Pennsylvania and aimed at Rhode Island and New England, passing through Minisink, under the Hudson River and through Westchester. The answer to “what could possibly go wrong,” is, a large number of things, a lot of them really serious.

These people got something done

The organized opposition to the Minisink compressor station keeps getting stronger. Now they’re supporting other natural gas extraction and transmission opposition. They have to do more now than speak out and organize rallies. It’s time to wade hip deep into technical information and regulatory alphabet soup, and they’re doing it. It’s not as exciting, it’s hard work, but it’s part of what it takes to have a chance at victory.

There’s a fundamental outrage that one of basic provisions of our contract with government, that we the people be protected from harm, has been (nearly completely) abandoned. It’s not right that we have to do this ourselves, take our time and spend our money to make the case that leukemia, nervous system injuries and kidney failure and a wealth of other harms aren’t acceptable prices to pay for natural gas company shareholders earning dividends from the sale of Pennsylvania’s fracked shale gas to the global natural gas market.

That outrage is good and true and right, and people who take matters into their own hands don’t have too much time to spend being outraged. They’re busy trying to make sure public comments get submitted to FERC’s (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) pre-filing scoping process and documenting their health defects and using special cameras to show ominous plumes of Volatile Organic Compounds roiling out of the compressor station across the street from their houses.

I’m going to be learning and writing about people taking matters into their hands. I’ll be working to publish some of these stories. I’ve got a backlog of people to write about. And I want you, my valued reader, to clue me in to stories about people getting it done themselves. And if that’s what you yourself are doing I want to hear from you.

Earlier today in Kiev

Earlier today in Kiev

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