The bikes have stopped peddling and the TDF team has been enjoying life off of the trail. The team has been spending time with their children and grandchildren, receiving puppy kisses reminiscent of A Christmas Story, editing photographs, savoring life on a farm, playing music in Ohio, savoring hot showers with Dr. Bronner’s
peppermint soap, and feeling the sand beneath their toes. We’ve all been enjoying this beautiful life that we went to Washington to fight for.
And since we are now in civilization with plenty of internet connections, we will update you on the second part of our trip!
While we were on the trail, we were able to experience another side of civilization, a more unconventional side, perhaps. But with each experience, we were able to see another beautiful part of the human experience.
We spent some one night sleeping at a camp site on picnic tables, pushed together like bunks, next to train tracks in Cumberland, Maryland. That night, as exhaustion and sore muscles were piled on each biker, a rainstorm blew in to wash away negativity and hurt feelings. Although a few members had to go back home to tend to other responsibilities, the TDF team was reminded of what beautiful things water can do. Stop the Kaboom
was next on our venue list. The team walked into something that looked like enchanted woodland, with two stages nestled in between trees, surrounded by tree-stump tables, and a beautiful tent above a stone fire-pit. We were able to hear local bands and enjoy the beauty of West Virginia as we collaborated with other activists who are fighting against Mountaintop Removal. Our team shared stories with the crowd and discussed how Fracking is the same evil that we have encountered with the coal industry, just with a different face. Zach
joined our team at Desert Rose Café
in Williamsport, MD where we were able to have an awesome show and delicious meal (we particularly enjoyed the delicious smoothies and gluten free options). We even met up with local photographer, Mary Nau
, who took awesome shots of our storytelling. CCAN
joined us and collected some of our stories to help MD continue fight against fracking and keep the Chesapeake Bay clean.
Then, we were on the road again, on our way to The Blue Moon Café
in Shepherdstown, WV to eat some more delicious food (we discovered that our team really likes to eat, especially after a long day of riding) and hear Zach play some new songs from his album Mountains and Meadows.
After three days without access to showers, we encountered hospitality from a local church. While the media team was in search of a camping venue, Covenant Churc
h in Shepherdstown, offered the team showers, air conditioning, and comfy couches to sleep on. This serendipitous encounter reminded the TDF team of the beauty of kindness and hospitality. The church’s generosity and hot showers were another high point of the trip.
Our last day on the trail, before DC, we were able to stay at a civil-war era lockhouse along the Potomac River in Poolesville, MD. The team loved the beautifully preserved house and the chance to sleep in authentic rope beds and watch a certain blog-writing, media team member reenact scenes from Gone with the Wind. We discussed our highs and lows of the trip around a campfire (one of the few we were able to maintain because of the rain). The common theme among the highs centered around the generosity of others that we encountered along the way. Whether we encountered an enriching conversation, warm meal, or the opportunity to freshen up after a long day, we were blessed by those whom we encountered along the way.
As we carried stories to Washington, we saw the lives that we’re working to preserve along the way. As the toxins released during drilling run downstream and contaminate water along the way, we also found that kindness can travel downstream. The human power required to bike 400 miles could not have been generated without the energy sources we met along the way at Stop the Kaboom, Desert Rose and the Blue Dog Café.
The trip came to an end, but we still had plenty of work to do in Washington. Stay tuned to hear more about our adventures in lobbying.
After over 400 miles, a dozen awareness events, and 10 days on the road, team Tour de Frack arrived in Washington DC last week with six gallons of water from the Woodlands. On July 26th the team carried the contaminated water and copies of Stories from the Shalfields
, a book full of first person accounts, with them to meet with members of congress. Our first meeting was with Rep. Mike Kelly of Butler County. Although he seemed skeptical of our concerns, the representative agreed to meet with the families of the Woodlands during the August recess.
We also met with members of Sen. Toomey and Sen. Casey’s staff and left information with countless other members of congress. Our last meeting of the day was in the West Wing of the White House where team members met with Heather Zichal-President Obama’s Deputy Assistant for Energy and Climate Change. Unfortunately, the message from almost everyone we meet with was the same; “our hands are tied.”
So if our elected officials cannot help us, where do we turn? We must empower the people and force the decision makers to listen and be clear that we will push them aside. When people lead the politicians will follow. The ride may be over but TDF will continue telling stories of people like the ones found in this beautiful short film by Rich Waters The Woodlands.
We truly believe that once people see the true human and econimic costs of fracking the fog that has been intentionally created by those invested in the industry will lift and we will be forced to make meaningful fact-based decisions instead of sailing around in the dark while other profit on our health and community.
The stories we collected will soon be available on-line. For more information about what is happening in Butler County sign up for Marcellus Outreach Butler’s newsletter here
and visit their website www.marcellusoutreachbutler.org
In his novel, All the King’s Men
, Robert Penn Warren writes, “Soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time. “ In the past three days, the riders have encountered 90+ degree temperatures, uphill bike paths, multiple flat tires, and a torrential downpour. It’s no wonder more people aren’t standing up for what they believe in.
Living in the world, in history, in time, is really uncomfortable. We have to encounter things that are unpleasant. We have to be selfless. We have to alter our perspective from one that is ego-centric to one that is conscientious.
When I interviewed Bobby Hineline
a few days ago, she said that she had always viewed herself as an activist, but she simply “never showed up.” I think that most of us could say that we neglect to “show up.”
Over the past few days, the TDF team has been experiencing what it is like to live within the convulsion of the world.
Monday evening, we attended a picnic sponsored by MOB (Marcellus Outreach of Butler
) and the Westmorland Marcellus Citizen’s group
. The groups provided a delicious meal and engaging conversation with the team at Cedar Creek Park
. The team members, who are parents, grandparents, professionals, and activists “showed up” to demonstrate their support for the cause. They wanted to send stories to Washington DC and bolster the morale of the team.
By Tuesday, the crew encountered dehydration, exhaustion, and communication problems. But, after a lunch of fresh fruit and hummus at the Yough Park in Connellsville, PA
, the team delievered a thank you letter to Mayor Charles Matthews and the City Council after they unanimously
voted against Act 13
, which would take away local government’s control of zoning laws. After biking to city hall, the team was met by news reporters from the Connelsville Courrier and we were able to share our story.
By simply “showing up,” we were able to spread even more awareness about our mission and show support for a local government taking a stand against giant corporations.
Later, we met with members of the Mountain Watershed Association
to discuss the benefits of clean water and teach children about the water cycle. We spoke with Josh from the Public Herald
and we were able to learn about his new documentary film, “Triple Divide
,” showing the dangers of natural gas drilling. TDF was able to share a delicious meal at Fall City Restaurant and Pub
, while sharing more stories from the Shalefields with MWA members and other area fractivists.
These people have devoted their lives to “showing up” and taking a stand for what they believe in.
Now, we have to ask ourselves: when should we act and when should we sit still?
For the TDF crew, ensuring that Americans have clean water and that they are not being taken advantage of by large gas companies is a priority that requires action. The moment that people began to get sick from their drinking water, or from airborne pollution was the moment that we could no longer sit still.
Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is just showing up
” and in order to be successful for this cause, we need to “show up” in small towns between Butler, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. We need to carry the wishes of those who could not “show up,” themselves. Most importantly, we need to take action for our Earth who is always showing up for us.
Although taking initiative is often difficult, it is our responsibility to live within this world and within the responsibility of time and take care of what we have been given.
We have been receiving positive press during our ride. By getting in touch with local officials and local press in many of the stops along the trail, the human stories that we are carrying to Washington can be spread to even more people throughout the region. Support these local newspapers and check out our media coverage: Ecowatch
, online forumThe Cumberland Times
, Cumberland MDThe Tribune Review
, Pittsburgh PAThe Ellwood City Ledger, Ellwood City PAEssential Public Radio, Pittsburgh PA
I think that if we needed one word to describe today it would be: generosity. After starting the day off with a delicious breakfast, we continued to encounter excellent human beings throughout the rest of the day. While the bikers made their way from Natrona Heights to Millvale River Park
, the media team set to work uploading pictures and contacting media sources at Crazy Mocha
on Butler St. in Lawrenceville. As we drank our coffee and tied up loose ends, we began to stress about mounting to-do lists and eminent deadlines. But, as the day went on, we realized that everything worked out. That's because this mission is worthy and sincere. Although some people might not think that this trip is worthwhile or even productive, the people that we encountered today seemed to nullify that idea. One man drove from New Jersey this morning in order to join us on our trip to DC and over twenty cyclists met at the park in order to ride into the Southside as a unified force. Each person who signed a petition, pedaled a bicycle, or signed a wish ribbon took a stand against fracking and the negative affects it has on the environment and our local culture. (If you notice on the back of each bicycle, the TDF rider is carrying a flag with many colorful ribbons hanging off of it. Each ribbon carries a concern, or a wish that someone wants us to deliver to Washington. The ribbons not only will serve as a very tangible demonstration of constituent concerns to legislators, but it also reminds the riders and other TDF affiliates that this cause is important to many people.
In fact, fighting against fracking is helping to save lives. If you would like to send a wish to Washington, send us an email
. )When the riders crossed over the Hot Metal Bridge and into the bandstands behind the Hofbrauhaus in Southside Works
they were greeted by a band of more than 15 people, raising their instruments for our cause. Although the idea of such a small group making a significant impact on legislation seems implausible, the booming drums and assertive trumpet bleats affirmed the notion that together, our voices are mighty. The enthusiasm of the band was contagious and rejuvenating to the cyclists who had spent all day weaving in and out of traffic. After experiencing such an enthusiastic
welcome, the team members dispersed to spend the rest of the afternoon with host families. Upon arriving with our host family, we were greeted to delicious burgers, refreshing beverages, a place to freshen up, and even more importantly: air conditioning. Our host, Wade had said, "I couldn't help to coordinate the event, but I wanted to show my support." His delicious burgers were an excellent contribution to the cause. At 7:30, we rejoined our team with other community members and various local musicians at The Pump House
for an evening full of dancing and unification against unconventional gas drilling methods. So many people came out to support the cause, offer donations, and share their personal stories of why they got involved in the TDF movement. The generosity of all those in attendance was astounding and again reminded the TDF team why this trip is so pivotal. With every effort made today, every laugh, and every turn of the bicycle spoke, we saw the reason for this campaign: humans. We are fighting against something that destroys the very essence of who we are. The humanity behind each act of service today was not only touching, but also it revealed the power of human force. As Mike Stout
sang about the "American Dream" at The Pump House, a group of children danced around him. They were soon joined by an even livelier group of older women. Before we knew it, everyone in the room was clapping and singing and moving their hips. The humanity was contagious.
So, instead of worrying about what arbitrary tasks need to be accomplished, we need to be generous. Not only through acts of service, but also by encouraging one another. If you can spread benevolence by dancing with a couple of 8-year olds, or by offering someone hummus and pita chips after a long day, or even by holding open a door, then take advantage of the generosity that makes us human. Only humans can win the battle against large corporations and relentless drills. The human spirit is strong and mighty. By joining together, we can once again reclaim the land from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters.
Last night, the TDF crew spent some quality time at Blackberry Meadows
CSA Farm in Natrona Heights. Greg and Jenn were excellent hosts as we feasted upon homemade hot dogs, yummy homemade hummus, and root vegetables roasted over the fire. The crew especially loved the locally brewed sodas from The Natrona Bottling Company
. After a time of fellowship with CSA members and others from the community, the group sang a rendition of "This Land is Your Land" led by Mike in honor of Woody' Guthrie's 100th birthday. As the local eco-system is becoming contaminated by gas drilling companies, it is imperative for us to ask, "Is this land really made for you and me?"We are carrying over six gallons of toxic water, which is said to be "safe to drink" according to the DEP (despite heavy sediment and a disconcerting flavor)
, to Washington DC to show our nation's representatives a concrete example of how fracking impacts the lives of Pennsylvanian's. Greg shared a jar of fresh spring water that will also make its way to DC, alongside the contaminated water from Butler County, reminding us that we are all downstream. -AC
Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power.
As I swam off our anchored sailboat at the western edge of Lake Arthur, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate freedom. I watched my family float in the crisp clean water of the lake, and I felt a calm that is hard to come by in the shalefields. Bliss, these days, is hard to come by.
I hate the word shalefields. Western Pennsylvania was once synonymous with sweet water creeks for kayaking, local ponds for fishing, and slow winding roads for bicycle rides. Is it any wonder why in 2009 tourism overtook agriculture as Butler’s top industry? But what was oft described as an outdoorsman’s paradise now has this new demarcation and all that comes with it. We are promised jobs, environmental stewardship, and sensitivity to the community. More often than not, what we find are industrial shortcuts, unintended consequences, snarling traffic, fractured communities, and an erasure of our outdoor herita ge. It must stop!
When speaking with an organizer from Save Western Maryland on the phone last weekend, I pulled up behind a residual waste truck with temporary plates at a stop sign. It was the same red cylinder truck with a cat-walk on the driver’s side that I have seen countless times all over the state. Once you know what’s in them you look at them in the same way that early humans must have looked at saber-tooth tigers; as a threat. The smell was horrific. This truck was loaded. A driver just a few days earlier had told me that they were not supposed to use Rt. 528N when they were loaded, but that this rule was frequently broken. This driver seemed to be Exhibit A. He turned left onto Rt. 422W heading towards Ohio.
After a BBQ at home, we finished our 4th of July celebrations at the community park, in the baseball field listening to the Pittsburgh Philharmonic playing songs from the Wizard of Oz
and watching the fireworks overhead. The children played in the infield while we sat in the outfield facing the third base wall. We took solace in the fact that these explosions were in the air and not under our feet.
The temporary comfort of forgetting is blissful, but knowledge is power, and we at TDF intend to use and spread ours. Clicking our heals three times will not solve anything.
Please consider a safe and tax-deductible donation
to TDF via Clean Water Fund. We are half-way through our fund drive and have reached 25% of our goal.J.B.
At the end of a long, hot day, bicyclists and walkers cooled off in the park’s sprinklers and celebrated a successful march in the Don’t Frack Ohio campaign. In an attempt to preserve their water from natural gas drilling, concerned citizens, stretching from Boston to Raleigh, attended a three-day training in Columbus, OH. Their efforts culminated on Sunday in a day of action when over 1,000 concerned citizens marched on the Ohio Statehouse declaring their right to say no to the drilling companies. The event was the largest citizen action taken against fracking in Ohio’s history.
350.org served as the host organization that put together the training events. It is named such because 350 parts per million of carbon-dioxide in the air is the highest safe level recommended by scientists. However, Josh Fox, film maker and creator of Gasland, pointed out that 350 is also symbolic of the $350,000 that the gas industry gave to OH’s Governor, Fox stated, “that means that there’s a horizontal well bore going down from somewhere in the gas industry, snaking underneath the capitol and injecting money up through the chamber. They’re fracking up your government.”Tour de Frack
, a Butler County, PA based organization, was in attendance, carrying jugs of drinking water from water wells that had been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing in their community. The group plans to ride from Butler, PA to Washington, D.C. in an effort to raise awareness about the toxic effects of natural gas drilling. The riders will meet with various groups in D.C. and participate in the Stop the Frack Attack
rally that will be held Saturday, July 28 on the lawn of the Capitol.
As the “gold rush” for natural gas continues to put profit before people, citizens are waking up to the reality of grave health concerns, including headaches, vomiting, intestinal poisoning and cancers. In the country, farmers are faced with stillborn animals and dead livestock. Pennsylvania seems to be serving the eastern part of the country as a lab rat, and if there’s anything we can learn from the disasters out west, especially in Wyoming, it’s that it is impossible to contain all of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. For every gallon of frack fluid that goes into the Marcellus Shale, only half of the waste water is returned.
Please voice your concern in your local community. Educate yourself around the issues and know-You Are Not Alone.
-Shayna Metz (TDF)
At least two homes in the Woodlands are without electricity tonight. I happened to be in the area today filming personal testimony for our trip to DC when I encountered the two women in one of their homes. We talked for the next 3 hours and it was brought to tears on several occasions.
They have fallen behind on their bill and called the electric company to explain the situation. The woman on the other end of the phone told them that maybe they should pay their bill.
The problem is that they now have more bills than ever. They have electric, grocery, cable, and gas like most of us, but now they have “fracking bills.”
Both families have ill individuals in the home and are living on a fixed income. The mother at one home told me today that the added financial burden of paying for gas to travel to a family member's house to take showers, to the laundry mat, the cost at the laundry mat itself, gas for extra trips to the store for water and the cost of the bottled water itself are proving to be too much for her family. She was too proud to accept my offer to come and stay with me tonight even though without the filter in the air conditioner, the contaminated air from the nearby wells will keep her up all night coughing.
The other spoke of the air quality tests that she had just received in the mail yesterday. She is between two wells and has high levels of several carcinogenic compounds and hydrocarbons in her air. “This isn’t Pittsburgh,” explained the husband. “The only thing that should be in the air here is cow shit.”
Both families have experienced a sudden decline in health since the wells moved in next to their homes. They slowly started to recover since they stopped drinking their well water but doubt that they will ever fully recover. One family returned to well water several months ago. The mother explains “The DEP and Rex told us it was fine, so we started drinking it again and then we both got sick again. I mean you think that they are looking out for your best interest and you trust them.”
They expect the power to be back on Friday or Saturday.
The following post comes from Gregg at Blackberry Meadow Farm
. Gregg and the rest of the team at Pittsburgh's most community oriented CSA will be hosting the riders of Tour de Frack the evening for July 14th. Stay posted for details.
The report can be found here: http://blackberrymeadows.wordpress.com/about/risks-to-farmers-who-frack/ As most folks are aware, there has been a sharp increase in recent years for large fossil fuel companies to extract deep deposits of gas. As farmers, and as concerned community members, we have heard both pro’s and con’s of leasing and community impacts. As a community-supported farm, these things concern us greatly, and we began working with the University of Pittsburgh Environmental Law Clinic to investigate the risks and outline them for us. We have posted a new document to our website (under the “About Us” tab) called “Risks to Farmers who Frack.pdf”. This document took 2 academic years to complete, mostly because so much new information, claims and research was being released - it was all we could do to sift through it! What we finally received was an outstanding objective analysis of the potential risks. With this information, we can publicly announce our position to support a moratorium on deep mining, until ecologically benign technologies are developed. -Gregg