When Even Symbolic Action Is Too Much

Go read Dan and listen to the embedded recording at the link. Frack this:

A group of citizens concerned about fracking spent the summer drumming up support for more local control. This was an effort of grassroots activists who weren’t paid a dime and who gathered signatures on their own time. We went door to door in the time that was left over after work, family and other obligations were taken care of. We ended up with hundreds of signatures.

Earlier this month we took the signatures to the trustees, along with a nonbinding resolution expressing our concerns about fracking and our disapproval of Columbus for usurping the sovereignty of local communities. The key word is “nonbinding.” It was a purely symbolic resolution, and it was presented as such. Nothing in it required any action, conflicted with the state or put the trustees in legal jeopardy with the oil and gas industry. We emphasized that this was about being representatives: literally representing the views of many of their constituents, even if they themselves disagreed with the sentiments.

One of their refrains over the past few months has been that they would love to help, but their hands are tied. This nonbinding resolution gave them the chance to do something with their hands untied, even if it was just a purely symbolic gesture.

What a bunch of chickenasses. I think my favorite part of the recording, besides where the board is all WE WILL ARREST YOU FOR ANNOYING US WITH YOUR BEING RIGHT, is how people keep repeating, “our hands are tied.”

Because, um, no they’re not. We do ourselves no favors when we pretend that what we’re doing is not what we’re doing, when we take away our own power under the guise of letting ourselves off the hook. Because it’s one thing to make what you consider a legitimate choice, out of expediency or financial concern, and another to kid yourself and everyone around you about what you are and what you want.

Lying about powerlessness is the thing that drives me craziest. Your hands aren’t tied. You may not have anything you want to do or anything that’s easy to do or anything that won’t bring ten tons of hell down on your head, but your hands aren’t tied. There’s a vast difference between that and this.

A.

4 thoughts on “When Even Symbolic Action Is Too Much

  1. iceblue2 says:

    And when their township disappears because, oh I dunno, the water is polluted and can’t be used anymore, they will say their hands were tied and they worked thru the system and everyone is gonna have to move now. That mayor sounds like a tyrant. She could have called the counsel as easily as she called the sheriff.

  2. MapleStreet says:

    From my experience of working on the regulatory side of Superfund sites – you want to blow-up the geologic features which govern the flow of groundwater?
    To begin with, I don’t get the cavalier attitude of fracking at all. In the state I worked in, the major sources of continuing public health hazards at almost any site was the combination of groundwater contamination and the uncertainty of future spread due to any local variances in the geology. (And the only way to learn about the geology is to drill in various locations and try to match up the dots and hope that there is nothing in-between; this is a very long, complex, and expensive procedure with plenty of room for error due to missing data.
    Air pollution can be really bad in the short term but in most cases it dissipates. Soil can be covered up and the site can be fenced off (although soil contamination can continue to leach into the groundwater). Although there are methods for halting the flow of contaminated groundwater, they are far from perfect and only work in certain cases.

  3. MapleStreet says:

    RE: the link
    The exchange sounds to me like:
    Why not?
    The lawyer didn’t like it.
    What didn’t he like?
    I don’t know. And I ain’t gonna tell you. (I’m such an idiot I didn’t bother to ask?)
    Could we have a meeting with the lawyer present? (Maybe we could make some changes to address his concerns? Maybe you could draft your own resolution that has the same effect?)
    No. We’ve alreaady discussed it. (And we’re not going to give you a chance to alter your document to something which would pass muster.)
    I’m not that familiar with Ohio’s system of trustees, but i do know public meetings which are run by the local governing bodies. In general, they are interested in twisting the events to CYA. Strictly retro-minded. No pro-active stance.
    Living in a small town and in the past been present on environmental issues at town meetings, I’d have to say the small Town Council includes a couple of good natured folk who want good for the town down to some members that didn’t make the head of the flower club so they were looking for something else to do. Included in the mix are those who have an axe to grind about a single issue (my town had a question on what landlords owed their tenants and the real estate sector of the town got several people elected. Oddly enough, the ones backed by the real estate sector got the addition to the municipal code overturned and then resigned – they didn’t even finish their term!) Unfortunately, even the good ones rarely have any sort of background that helps them in their term.
    Add to this that many problems cross jurisdictional borders. Often they DO need to be taken up at a higher level. But even in those cases, a locality taking the initiative is often the pressure that is needed.

  4. Interrobang says:

    Fracking really worries me. I live on the Great Lakes watershed; my drinking water comes from Lake Huron. If the oil and gas companies blow up the Marcellus Shale to get at the gas they say is there, they will contaminate a significant fraction of the available fresh water on the planet.
    Also, having spent two years working with Material Safety Data Sheets, the BS the companies are putting out about how they can’t tell anyone what’s in their fracking liquid strikes me as some of the most transparent lies I’ve heard out of industry since the tobacco thing broke big. Normally, even where a formulation is proprietary, on an MSDS, the constituents are listed, even if the exact percentages (ie. what percentage of the whole is, say, toluene) aren’t. That way, if someone gets exposed to it, someone else knows at least something about how to treat them, or if there’s a spill, the people in the hazmat suits know at least somewhat how to deal with it.
    The fact that governments are just letting them get away with this crap and claiming they can’t do anything because their hands are tied is disgraceful.

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