Listening for the Path to Justice
Hello everyone! It has been a busy month and a half since our last update, and everyone at the project is excited to share with you all some updates about our progress.
Our First Interview:
On Wednesday, November thirteenth we were invited into the home of residents from outside of Dushore, PA for our first interview. Their home is surrounded with picturesque woodlands as well as gas wells. We sat around their kitchen table and talked for several hours about Sullivan County and what makes it a special place to live. For these particular residents, peace and quiet, natural beauty, and wildlife are what made them choose to make their home here.
It was clear during the interview that the family is in love with this area, despite how things have been changing. In years past the land men came to offer bids for their mineral right. Today the natural gas industry and its infrastructure continues to expand. The family expressed concern about traffic, industry misinformation, crime, and community dynamics.
The family requested to remain anonymous because it would potentially “other” them within their community. One of the goals of this project is to connect residents of the county with other local folks who otherwise might not have had the chance to talk or meet because of the fear of speaking out. As our first interviewee explained it, “Because of this particular environment, we must edit ourselves.”
It was a wonderful opportunity to speak with residents about their opinions on the past and the future of their community, and has us looking forward to the future of the project.
A New Mentor:
The next day, several members of the listening team met with a long-time community organizer working in Bradford County. This person offered much advice to us about outreach strategy and tactics that in their experience were successful or unsuccessful. This helped us better understand how to approach our particular situation.
Although we have worked in different parts of Pennsylvania, there are still many similarities and ways in which their information can be of great use to us here in Sullivan County. For those of us who are rooted in this part of Pennsylvania, as we continue to make our lives here, it was encouraging to hear an explanation of the value in the meaningful connections we continue to strengthen as we embark on the listening project.
The following weekend, on November seventeenth, some organizers from SOC attended the Mountain Watershed Alliance’s Community Leaders Network Fall Shindig, which was held in North Park, outside of Pittsburgh. The Shindig was a second annual event which brought together community and grassroots organizers from across Pennsylvania who are working on shale gas extraction issues.
SOC organizers helped facilitate a Community Outreach discussion, which was a chance for people working in both rural and urban areas, from across a diverse spectrum of life experiences, to talk strategically about what community means to us, and ways in which we reach out to build bases of community resilience and resistance to toxic industries.
The event was an excellent opportunity for our organizers to talk to folks from around Pennsylvania about what the fracking-related situations are here, but also to hear what other folks are doing, and especially, how we are working to build a diverse and inclusive movement. We continued to build upon regional relationships that we expect to last for years to come.
Moving Forward: Listening for the Path to Justice
We are currently in the process of setting up a larger group meeting with residents of Forksville to discuss their feelings about their community. Forksville is a borough in Sullivan County near Worlds End State Park. Forksville’s name name from the fact that Loyalsock Creek and Little Loyalsock Creek meet within the county, creating a fork.
Interviews are continuing to take place as we approach the December holidays. Two members of SOC left a recent interview feeling encumbered by the economic complexity of rural areas such as northeast PA. These residents of Elkland Township, who are small business owners, expressed distrust of the industry but were also forthcoming about the economic benefits upon their company.
What may seem like a moral contradiction to some is clearly an economic fact of life for residents of northeast PA. The Shalefield Organizing Committee hopes to learn more about the way in which the environment, gas industry and residents of northeast PA are economically interconnected. By listening, we hope we can begin learning how to create a path towards justice with affected residents.
The past few weeks have been filled with wonderful opportunities to speak with residents about their opinions on the past and the future of their communities, and to build upon our connections to others working on similar issues. We look forward to our future interviews as our calendar begins to fill up and are grateful for your continued support.