Shayna Metz has been working to coordinate Tour De Frack since its inception. She began graduate school at SIT (School for International Training) in Vermont in September, 2011 and is scheduled to earn her degree in November 2012. She moved with her husband, Jake to Vermont for a year to take classes, then moved back to Western PA after hearing what was going on with Marcellus shale drilling. As part of her master’s program, Shayna needed to complete a practicum and decided to intern with Beaver County Marcellus Awareness.
For her practicum, she decided to use Tour De Frack and Beaver County Marcellus Awareness as case studies in order to evaluate grass roots movements involved in anti-fracking awareness. She thinks that this is the “perfect opportunity for citizens to protect local and human rights. If people fail to do something about this, I’ll feel like I’m at a loss. It will show that we don’t care enough.”
Grassroots movements, like Tour De Frack are a test to show whether or not communities are willing to fight. Even though many of these movements are small, with enough human power, they become strong.
Although TDF and BCMA have different methods of action, their goals are ultimately the same. Neither group needed help from any big organizations. They have both been able to stay true to their grassroots. BCMA focuses on the Service Creek Watershed, which is a more concrete and localized mission front. They focus on the more legal aspects of fracking. Tour De Frack focuses on storytelling through creative arts and music. As a result more people are drawn to the movement. Although, TDF’s mission is more abstract and can’t necessarily compete with large corporations. Shayna believes that these organizations work as compliments to each other, in order to achieve a common goal.
Shayna believes that this is the perfect time for a movement like this to thrive. With tensions rising between the 1% and the 99% with movements like Occupy Wall St, so many people from the 99% are choosing to rise up. The gas companies represent the 1% who is benefitting from the cream off of the top.
If “people care that much to give their time and money to do something about it (ending gas drilling), that says a lot about the human condition.”
The only struggle with grassroots movements is finding enough people to get involved: “Most people aren’t going to join until it has affected them. Those joining now have more insight into the problem and can create awareness.” She believes that once others decide to join the movement, organizations like TDF and BCMA will offer support to those who are ready to fight.
Shayna wants our government to invest in alternative forms of energy, like solar and wind power. “IF we’re spending our money on research, instead of cleaning up after a well goes through- think about what we can do.”
But for Shayna, this issue isn’t merely academic or even philanthropic. When she moved from Vermont, she was legitimately concerned about living in Pennsylvania. About two months ago, two pads went up for rigs near her home. “We heard the ‘rumble, rumble, rumble’ and knew something was going to happen.”
Deer have left an area that used to be bustling with wildlife and trees have been leveled. The piles of timber are still lying near the road.
“We thought that it was a military base, the forest was leveled in two days. The rig went up, then it went down,” she said.
Shayna, who lives with her husband Jake, and daughter Ayree in Beaver County, began noticing that her dogs’ hair was falling out about two weeks after the drilling began. Her dog sheds, like most dogs do, but this time it was different. Clumps were falling out, and her dog has been lethargic. With a new baby, Shayna doesn’t have the money to keep up with expensive vet bills. In many cases, families who became sick as a result of fracking noticed the first side effects in their animals.
Now, her family has begun buying water, because they don’t want to expose Ayree to a potentially contaminated source. This is even more wasteful because it uses plastic and is shipped in, which causes even more contamination.
Water contamination is even more disconcerting because Shayna is still breastfeeding her daughter, increasing the risk of exposure. Now, she has realized that it was almost serendipitous that she chose the issue of Marcellus shale drilling before she left Vermont.
Upon having a personal connection to the movement, she had even more urgency to stand up against fracking. Shayna said, “Although the gas company and the state aren’t listening to the stories of the people. We heard them, they matter, and we are proving that there is value in the human experience…When people say that there are isolated events, collecting stories shows us that these events aren’t isolated and more people are having issues on a daily basis. It’s a phenomenon.”
(Note: This interview presents the words of an eight year old. Verbatim. I couldn’t resist commentary, so it is included within parenthesis)
Mommy said, “We’re going camping”, and I thought that we were going to stay in one place, drive a long way, and stay in a place with black bears.
I knew that it wasn’t going to be anything like that once Mommy said that we’re going to keep moving to different campgrounds. Before the trip, I was excited and a little scared. I was scared that something wasn’t going to go right.
Since the trip has started, I have liked discovering new things. I discovered two deer, when I thought I would see black bears. I met new people, like: Mel, Michelle, Mike, The Wolf (Bill), Shayna, Kristina, Tom and Ping. (The interviewee chose not to include Jason or myself, because she already knew us and we weren’t that exciting, after all) I discovered a new band: Mike Stout. I got to dance with my friends. I really liked his music. That was my favorite day, so far. (Her interpretation of her favorite day is pictured at left)
My second favorite day was swimming with dogs in the Youghiogheny River. I found out about a new sheep dog. This dog was black, white and caramel colored. I thought that they could only be black and white.
My least favorite day was Thursday (today) when we went to a college library all day, while my mommy did work for TDF. I was bored out of my mind.
Before the trip is over, I want to see a black bear.
I think that the trip is important because people and animals are dying. We’re helping to save people and animals by getting clean water. I learned that dirty water can affect you. There might be worms (like bacteria) and slime and poop in the water that could either make you really sick, and you could lose something like your leg, your arm, your hand, or your foot. (I got scolded severely for laughing at this) Water gets dirty when people don’t treat it right. They throw trash in it, like yucky food, trash, or chemicals.
But, you can keep water clean by telling people not to throw things into the water, by saying “Don’t do that, it can hurt animals” (At this point, she stood up and acted out an entire scenario)
You can clean up trash in the river by swimming into the deep end by using goggles. You can just pick up litter in shallow parts. You can give fish healthy food. For the water that we drink, you could get more companies to make healthy water. Other kids could tell their parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, and grandpas about how dirty our water is and how we can clean it. The kids could pick up trash. They could find people who were throwing the trash in. They could go clean up the water.
I say, we need to stop this now. If we wait until later, there might not be many sea animals left. There might be a lot of houses that are for sale, because all of these people are getting ucky water (not “yucky” water) from rivers that look clean, but are not. The people keep drinking it, then they get sick and then they die.
For people I know, it really hurts when people die too early, because you never get to hang out with people as much as you think that you would. And for people that I don’t know, it’s still sad to hear because even though it’s not a part of my family, it’s a part of another kid’s family. Maybe they would have to live with their grandparents, and they might not have a home, so they might have to end up on the streets.
The most important reason to take care of the earth is so that everyone can stay alive longer and so we can help God and show him that we love him.
Because, the best things about being alive and healthy are: you get to do new things, see new animals and hear about new things like different colored cows-some cows that make different milk, like chocolate milk, and different roosters. My favorite reason to be alive and healthy is to hang out with my family, which includes animals, because animals are family.
(The interviewee insisted that we kept the following paragraph)
What’s odd to hear is that some people dye chicken eggs, like they can change them to different colors like purple, blue, pink, and different Easter colors. (The interviewee looked over my shoulder, making sure that I added all of the colors she rattled off) Also, some people dye their dogs, or animals different colors. And some people dress their animals. Some animals cut claws off of cats, or cut off their tails. That can be bad because if a cat gets their claws cut off, then it gets thrown outside and it can’t fight against raccoons or escape bears by climbing up a tree, then it will die. We should protect animals and leave them alone. We need to allow them to be how they are supposed to be.
(I tried to reign her in and make a connection to our cause)
We should protect our earth and leave it as God made it. And when the grass gets brown, there’s really nothing you can do about it.
(Maybe we should encourage her to invest in some good, organic fertilizer and bear repellant)
Alone in the Youghiogheny
I hear my heartbeat
And the pulse of our people
They are screaming for justice
I drag the silt with my toes
Mighty Yough, carry our tears
Let our cries reach others' ears
Give us strength!
The rail-cars click along
Disturbing my watery slumber
Deep into the earth- there’s a stir
An awakening of our nation
I push against the current
The powers of industrial capitol
An unforgotten history of lies
We breathed in smog and exhaled regret
A Great Blue Heron floats East
Stretch into the unknown
Pipelines run along the route
Carrying their bounty far from home
I stretch into the unknown
I wade deeper and stand
My undulating breath reminds me I am alive
I wade deeper and stand and fight
Bobbie Hineline of Greensburg joined TDF for two days of biking and storytelling. She joined the crew before West Newton and rode into Cedar Creek Park
. She will continue on to Ohiopyle
The first thing that you notice about Bobbie is a silent wisdom. She is very thoughtful, but once you engage in conversation, you quickly notice that she is genuine and enthusiastic about her passions.
She first heard about Marcellus shale drilling a few years ago. “You heard the word and didn’t know what it meant” she said. Then about a year and a half ago she watched Gasland
and became more involved with the cause.
But, Bobbie didn’t immediately jump into a rally or march into the Shalefields. She had always viewed herself as an activist, but “was never there”. Quite frankly, she thought that many major events seemed to be too threatening and there was a disconnect between ideology and action. This very honest response reminds us that it’s not always easy to actively live within the world. Often, the mundane gets in the way.
But last year, a group of Quakers
walked across the state of Pennsylvania peacefully petitioning PNC Bank's financial support of mountaintop removal . As the group travelled, they needed to stay with host families along the way. Bobbie saw this as an opportunity to contribute and welcomed them into her home. When she saw them walking, she thought, “I can do that.”
When she heard about Tour De Frack, she saw it as a perfect way to get involved. If the Quakers could walk, she could bike. She really appreciated the focus on human stories. “(This movement) needs to be a conversation” she said, “It’s too late in some places, but not too late in others.”
“What we love most about Pennsylvania is being shattered,” Bobbie said. As she lives in the city, she doesn’t see all of the immediate effects of the drilling, but as she travels outside of her neighborhood, she sees that the natural landscape is beginning to change. “They (the gas companies) don’t want us to know what the place looks like (now).”
She is particularly concerned with water quality, as so much of it becomes contaminated through the fracking process: “So much water is used and we’ll never get it back.”
“We should hold the Earth to the highest value” she said. The Hineline family practices what it preaches. Bobbie said, “We live lightly on the Earth at my house.” Her husband is a vegetarian and Bobbie eats little meat. They grow their own veggies (just yesterday she harvested her first tomoato of the summer), along with other produce including raspberries and strawberries. They do not own a clothes dryer, instead everything is hung on a line, and their car has the capability to run on vegetable oil.
Being good stewards of the earth is she and her husband’s highest value. Since they bought a large home, they knew that it was essential that they pursued alternative ways to live in order to tread lightly upon the earth. Biking through PA in support of TDF is another way in which she can support her worldview.
But, there is always a tension between living an ecologically “light” life and participating in society. Bobbie’s husband would love to move into the country and live off of the land, but the idea of fracking interfering scares them. If they were to buy property, its value could decrease dramatically and even more importantly, the Hinelines fear for their health if a gas company would move into their area.
So until unconventional gas drilling is banned in Pennsylvania, they find alternatives. They own 4/10 ths of an acre which can be very productive, they walk everywhere, and they continue to promote urban gardening. Planting in the city has its perks because “there are no critters destroying the plants.”
Bobbie works as a spiritual director with Saint Ignatious. She has led multiple retreats with homeless men and women in order to rehabilitate them and provide scaffolding for positive recovery. Her religious background as a pastor for twenty years has given her lenses to see the abuse of the earth as a spiritual metaphor. Just as an innocent Christ figure was crucified, humans are crucifying an innocent earth. “The earth is in the Passion now,” she said.
But Bobbie isn’t someone to see this situation as hopeless. Just as Christ was resurrected, there is hope that the Earth can be restored. Through movements much like Tour De Frack and methods to “live lightly,” humans can help to repair some of the harm that has been done, and prevent further damage for future generations.
Jake Metz , deemed the Jackie Onasis of the Tour, due to his elusive answers and silent observation, joined bikers for the kick-off event in Butler, PA and the evening event at Blackberry Meadow Farms in Natrona Heights. He will be joining the group again in Washington, DC. His favorite part of the bike trip was, “going downhill and driving across pavement”
He is married to Shayna Metz, the Program Coordinator of Tour de Frack. He works as a skilled union laborer at a construction site in the Pittsburgh region. He got involved on the tour through his wife.
Being the spouse of the organizer of such a large event isn’t always easy, especially with a 10 month old daughter, Ayree at home. But Jake is very supportive of his wife’s adventures. “I’m very proud of her” he said.
Shayna has been working on her masters through the School for International Training (SIT) n Vermont and this project is her master’s thesis. She has been working to coordinate Tour de Frack for the past four months.
Sharing in his wife’s passions is important, but for Jake, the affects of unconventional gas drilling methods have hit even closer to home. A gas company began drilling about a mile and a half away from his property a few months ago. Thankfully, he and his family haven’t experienced too many adverse affects of the drilling, although it is still too soon to tell. There is speculation that water quality may have been affected, which is even more disconcerting with a baby at home. One of the most noticeable repercussions of the drilling was the heavy traffic near his home.
This is an important issue to Jake, despite his personal connections to the cause. The more he has learned about the negative health implications, the more he sees that educating people about the fracking process is vital.
Working in the construction industry isn’t always conducive to spreading awareness on the negative aspects of fracking. Many of his coworkers are unaware of the damage that drilling causes. “They have a lack of education, and are overcome by ignorance and greed.” He has tried to spread awareness in his workplace, although many of his coworkers would gladly take the money. “They’re good guys,” he says, “they just don’t know what this will do to them.”
Drilling is also scheduled to begin near the Ambridge Reservoir, which serves over 30,000 people. Jake grew up right down the road from the reservoir and is afraid that his family and friends will be affected. He has fond memories of spending time nearby and is concerned that the land will become contaminated. Many of his family members and friends still live nearby and the drilling will likely affect their primary water source.
“Some of my friends have already cashed checks for $250,000, and they don’t even know if their land will be used,” he said. “If people really understood how it would affect their children and grandchildren, they would think twice before accepting a check.”
Tour de Frack is a small group, and Jake hopes that it will difference. But, this organic group is up against some tough competition. He is looking forward to see the turnout in Washington. Although, he wonders, “What’s 20,000 hipsters, farmers, and bikers against giant oil companies that run the country?”
Hopefully, he will be met by a strong, united force on July, 28th on the lawn in the nation’s capitol. Like Jake, the other cyclists hope that America’s leaders will listen to the voices of constituents instead of large corporations. This human-powered trip has been, and will continue to be a platform for sharing the stories of those affected by natural gas drilling, like the Metz family.