Hella Occupy the Utica Shale

On the face of it there’s no good reason for anyone in Oakland to care about natural gas deposits in Ohio. Fracking hasn’t been an issue in the region, and even if your patch of northern California was on a potentially lucrative deposit it probably wouldn’t matter. Fracking has been primarily situated in rural areas, not in urban ones. This kind of drilling is dirty enough and water-intensive enough to only make it viable in places with low population density.

So it’s not happening near you (never say never, though!), and even if it was it wouldn’t be happening in the city. No reason to read any further, right? I’d like to make the case why you should.

The first one is solidarity. Occupy Oakland and the anti-fracking movement in Ohio are geographically distant, but they are neighbors on the activism map. Both are grass roots efforts attempting to grow into effective social and political organizations. Both are challenging – and at times provoking – long established power structures. Both are confronting hostile corporate interests and (at best) indifferent political ones. Both are attempting to build inclusive and open structures from the ground up. We have a lot in common.

The second reason to pay attention to the anti-fracking movement in Ohio is to trade ideas and strategies with like-minded people. Since we’re both trying to create something new and both taking on entrenched interests, there is a lot we can learn from each other if we take the time. None of us are working from a handbook. (As far as I know, anyway. If you’re working from one please send it to me!) There’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of experimentation. Keeping up with what other groups are trying can be a source of new ideas for your own group, and can also help you to avoid the mistakes we make.

Finally, I think it’s important to start getting environmental activists in conversation with each other. One of the reasons Occupy went national so quickly is that the issues it addresses are national in scope. Something like income inequality cuts across pretty much every line out there except income. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, you name it: If you’re not one of the one percent you’ve been feeling the effects.

Environmentalism is a much tougher nut to crack because it’s perhaps the most intensely regional of all the big national issues we debate. The nature of the challenge varies greatly from place to place. Environmentalism to me means fracking. To someone in Nebraska it means Keystone XL. To someone in Oakland it might mean asbestos or lead paint. The vast differences in specific environmental issues from place to place make it easy for us to glance beyond our borders and think, not my problem. I’d like to chip away at that mindset. We all have a stake in a good, clean environment. The things that threaten the environment change from place to place, but I’d like for us to maybe spare a little thought for environmental threats not in our own backyard.

I started posting at HOO because I was excited by the energy I was seeing. I’ve really enjoyed interacting with the community at the site, and there are important aspects of what I’ve started doing that have been directly inspired by the activism here. So I plan to start posting what’s happening in the anti-fracking movement here, and I hope you’ll take an interest. After all, we really are fighting the same fight.