I’ve spent most of my life trying to get people to care about the planet, usually only talking to choir. I have never thought that evangelism worked for me, or guilt trips. I still believe that people are generally good at heart, but are easily appeased and distracted.  That trait is exploited by advertisers which generally are at best ambivalent about our planet. Now I face a different challenge.

Not only am I working with others to create a sustainability center amid cynics and skeptics; but now I have a major energy company literally barreling this way, threatening my farm and the towns around it. My fellow citizens are still primarily ignorant of this threat, but to get them to take productive action is necessary, and fast. The Yankee attitude of “I’m fine. I’ll just protect what’s mine,” is getting in the way. Though it is important that people get involved personally at the local level, to be really successful we need to present a larger barrier, a regional wall of informed resistance.

Though many people in these towns do not know that Tennessee Pipeline Gas is looking to put a transport pipeline through these hill towns, often their first reaction is “Great! I really want gas in my kitchen.”  But this will be a big pipe, 30” we’ve heard, not a service pipeline, so no gas will be available for the little towns that will be harmed.

And I do mean harm. The first reaction for some resistors is “my property values will plummet,” others are saying “Great, give me the money, and I’ll move.”  But selling a house with a pipeline running on the land is difficult, and moving just kills these struggling towns even faster. My town is mourning its sense of community, and trying to find how to rebuild it.  That lack of unity contributes to the ease of running this pipeline through this region.  If people and towns only look out for themselves, it is easy for companies to turn one against the other. 

It’s bad enough that they want to bring a pipeline through, plowing a line through our well established forests.  This company wants to bury this line 20-30 feet down, depending upon what they run into. That may not sound bad for those who live in rich soil of the south or the Midwest, but this is the hills of New England.  In putting in fence lines for my animals I’m lucky if I can drive a fence post in a foot without hitting a rock.  I chose this land because it has so many rocks it’s a great place for goats to play, but it is NOT a great place for a buried utility pipeline. 

To be honest, the pipeline is not set to go through my land, but through my neighbor’s land.  My well is full of iron heavy water, but there is no radon in it.  My neighbor is not so lucky.  They have had to abate the radon under their ground, after their water tested with a heavy presence of this dangerous substance.  My neighbor also lives uphill from the town’s reservoir, so while this won’t affect my well directly, it will affect those people in town who are on town water, and think they are “safe.”  They may be, or they may not. 

Explaining this to people means going back to basic geology and hydrogeology, something most people don’t know about.  Most people live on the planet without ever thinking about the ground below unless they happen to be gardeners.  But the safety of our soil and water is critical, part of our very sustainability, yet bringing this knowledge to light is a struggle.

For some people the reply to “damaging your well,” has been “I’ll just drill another one.”  The problem is that there is no way to know if that new well is in a new aquifer, or the same one, or another one that was contaminated in a different way.  

Why would they potentially ruin these wells? Because they will have to blast to get through the bedrock and ledge that is New England.  There are fortunate people who live in coastal plains or river flats, but this pipeline won’t be going through that land. Those areas are too heavily populated with wealthier people.  The region that they want to cross with their natural gas, which will come from “frackingland” in Pennsylvania, is lightly populated by humans, but heavily inhabited by bear, bobcat, deer, martens, and other wildlife which safely co-exist with us humans here. But they will be chased into the more populated areas of New England if the pipeline comes through.

Our quiet towns will be much less quiet as the “green space” left by the pipeline (their words) are filled with snowmobiles, ATV’s and other recreationists who will use the path as their play space.  But to keep that swath open (50-150’) depending upon which town is tell you, will be kept “open” by aerial spraying an herbicide, which in my town’s case, is directly uphill from the reservoir. How are they going to aerially spray this poison on only their easements, and not the surrounding forests, vernal ponds, lakes, gardens, etc.  The chemical they want to spray is suspected of being a contributor to the loss of honeybees through colony collapse disorder.  Our towns are full of small farms, homesteads and backyard gardens. We love this land, or we wouldn’t live here.

So educating people about this project, and how to fight it, is quite a challenge.  Our sustainability center scheduled a meeting in late April to give us time to gather appropriate speakers including TPG, in order to inform people fully of this project.   But each town is focusing on working alone, and not responding to a regional approach.  It’s the same problem we’ve found with NCSC, our sustainability center.  

But making this sustainability center happen, or this pipeline NOT happen, is going to take a new approach for this area, and for this era.  We need to stand together on the “sustainability knot platform,” (see previous blog) and together we can make a greater impact than we can if we stand alone.  

To learn more about the pipeline for this area, visit either www.northcountrysustain.org/Pipeline or www.nofrackedgasinmass.org.  To learn more about NCSC visit www.northcountrysustain.org. Help us make this center happen, so we can help others.