Battling the “Green Elites” (With Help from Our City Friends?)
A very successful attorney from New York State I know recently sent me a note after reading a story on natural gas in his local newspaper. It’s a bit of a rant, but well worth reading because he articulates the difficulty we face in addressing some aspects of the natural gas debate:
The class divide issue is still here. We often have folks who have made their money on Wall Street and in investment banking selling “investment products” that not only don’t I understand but most often they can’t even explain to a reasonably intelligent person (like me I hope) They spew out these monetary “toxins” into the financial ecosystem, nearly poisoning a generation of people’s ability to secure a good job, provide for their family, own a house and hope to help provide a good education for their children. How long this “poisoned” financial ecosystem will suffer remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the first to “recover” have been the banks and the folks with the big money – while the vast majority are left to hope.
And, it’s these very people who have the arrogance to come into communities and tell people with multi-generational roots what’s best for them.
Let the small Villages and Town’s continue to decay so long at they can motor to their weekend homes and not be bothered by the activity and, yes, noise and hustle and bustle of economic activity that will come from responsible natural gas development.
Let the farmers and the average workers struggle with the uncertainty of whether they will make it through another season.
Let their kids graduate from high school – maybe go to college – and not return to their hometowns because there are insufficient career opportunities.
Let the inevitable deterioration of communities and schools systems continue – I don’t socialize with these folks. My kids don’t go to these community schools. I don’t man the volunteer fire departments, coach in Little League, attend the church potlucks or help with the local volunteer groups who engage in many supportive activities for the benefit of the whole community. I just drive through and enjoy the “quaintness” that is the facade of the decay. Besides, I’ll be heading back to the City on Sunday night or Monday morning anyway.
Some days this stuff really gets to me. Natural gas development can be pursued with sound environmental controls and with significant positive economic results, but the rich, unconcerned “green” elite will fight it without any regard to the socio-economic realities of what presently exists in the many depressed counties in our region.
This is, sad to say, a pretty accurate perspective on the cultural divide that exists between local residents in some parts of our region and many of those who choose it as a second home vacation area, retirement community or playground. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the many, many city residents who have moved into the region and advocated for natural gas development as a necessary step in revitalizing the communities where they now reside.
There are numerous leaders among landowner associations, for example, who have moved to our area from the city and, because of their activist experiences, have become movers and shakers in these organizations. The key difference between them and the folks described by my friend in his note is that the former have become part of the community while the hearts and heads of the latter are still somewhere east of the Hudson River.
We need to reach out to our city friends, engage them in discussions of the natural gas issue and enroll them in our efforts. Most do not have hard opinions on that matter and can be convinced of the importance of natural gas development if the facts are put out before them. The recent Marist poll on the subject of hydraulic fracturing demonstrates that even in New York State, where the vast bulk of the population resides in cities outside areas of natural gas drilling, “39% in New York City oppose the process while 35% favor it.” A 4% margin on one of the most hyped issues of the day in a city where much the opposition to natural gas development arises (the NRDC, big daddy to the Catskill Mountainkeeper, is headquartered there after all) indicates a city population with an open mind despite everything that’s been said against natural gas by the “green elite” who reside there. So let’s recruit ’em!