Journal 1/6/13: Fracking, Foolishness and Ingersoll

The brief update from the reading of my pilot Upgrade: it went far better than I could’ve expected. Now the real work begins. More soon!
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If you’re interested in participating in some really smart environmental advocacy, check out Thirty Days Of Fracking Regs.  If you’re like me, you love the jobs created by fracking, but you’re concerned about the possible (or certain) environmental damage. However, where the butane hits the road is not in a general yay or nay, but in detailed legislation surrounding things like well casings and forced poolings (did you know 40% of New Yorkers could be forced into the gas extraction biz through a kind of eminent domain? I didn’t.)

Enter Thirty Days Of Fracking Regs, an advocacy site that gives you enough deep knowledge to understand why the legalese is important, and then makes it easy to comment on the DEC’s draft regulations on fracking. Rather than a simple “I oppose this” petition, they call for unique, informed comments to shape the legislation towards something that protects the environmental rights of all citizens. The devil is so often in the details, and usually only big industry has the time and resources to shape those details towards their own interest. It’s exciting when grass roots activism is able to work at the same detailed, deeply informed level.

Check it out, and there are still a few days left to get involved.
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I would say that The Myth of Universal Love is one of the more foolish opinion pieces I’ve read in awhile, but of course, I love the author too much to say that. The point of expanding our circle of empathy is not–in the author’s hypothetical zero-sum case–to sell the fancy shoes we bought for our son to feed hungry children in Africa, but to be aware of the millions in poverty, in slavery, in war; and to make choices informed by a compassionate concern for their welfare. Now, is that easy? Absolutely not. I’m struggling with the ramifications of that expanding circle in my own life. But is it as simplistic as never buying fancy shoes again? The road to (a better word than) utopia is paved with complicated choices that bend towards justice.
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In the same Sunday Times that brought me that essay, I learned for the first time about Robert G. Ingersoll, the so-called “Great Agnostic” orator of the 19th century. I was pleased to see that this abolitionist, suffragist humanist was close with Walt Whitman, and delivered his eulogy, ending with:

“He has lived, he has died, and death is less terrible than it was before. Thousands and millions will walk down into the ‘dark valley of the shadow’ holding Walt Whitman by the hand. Long after we are dead the brave words he has spoken will sound like trumpets to the dying.

And so I lay this little wreath upon this great man’s tomb. I loved him living, and I love him still.”

The emphasis above is mine: “and death is less terrible than it was before.”  If you know Whitman’s work, you know just how truly Ingersoll honors it in those words; and if you know me, you know how much solace and beauty I find in them. “A child said, What is the grass?…”

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