I grew up in a very small town, a farming town with the main attraction being the horse racing track. The nickname of the town is literally Slow Motion Goshen. There had been continuing development of the surrounding areas for as long as I can remember, but mainly with adding new housing, or shopping centers, nothing big or super controversial. Right around the time I moved away, development started in a town close to mine but no one really knew what was going to be built, just that it was going to be big. I remember hearing the rumors of a possible power plant being put in, but that’s what they were, rumors. People were mad they wanted answers, and I’m sure I missed a lot of what was going on seeing as at this point I was only visiting on weekends and was a freshman in high school, if they built a power plant or a fracking site it wouldn’t affect me much.
Eventually it was confirmed that CPV Valley Energy Center was being built and I remember hearing about and seeing pictures of protests and then reading this article in the local paper. The image associated with the article shows protestors wearing masks and holding signs in front of what is especially for a small town area, a very large, clunky, and foreboding building. Masks might be common now but the fact people were wearing them in that picture stuck with me. I remember reading these peoples’ accounts of having difficulty breathing and getting headaches after the plant started operating and thinking that in my small, tight knit area there wouldn’t be something like that, that would cause harm allowed to function, or at least I really hoped it wouldn’t be allowed.
More recently I have seen a lot of social media activity surrounding the harmful effects of the natural gas fracking that is going on. A few weeks ago, right around the start of this class I started doing some research once in a while. As we read Exposure I see a lot of similarities between what was going on in Earl’s town and in mine, and I’m sure what a lot of communities experience when something like this is built nearby. I have learned that there have been multiple lawsuits against the plant already, pretty much as soon as they started building and for a variety of reasons. There have been concerns raised about toxins (specifically Ethylene Glycol) being released into the water supply of surrounding areas, including an alarming amount of deaths in animals near the Wallkill River. I decided to look at CPV’s website to see if they had addressed any of the issues the public has been proposing. I was disappointed but not surprised to find a lot of blanket statements talking about sufficient testing, and precautionary measures but failed to find any actual documentation of those things. I felt the same frustration when reading about how Dupont was so easily able to cover up their wrong doings.
Frances Ruth Harris. (2018). ‘There was no place to go’. The Chronicle. 07, Feb.
Kids are like sponges. They soak up so much information so quickly, and they ask the most interesting and oftentimes thought provoking questions. This is why it is so important to expose kids at a young age to issues with the environment. When I listened to The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke I instantly wanted to show it to my 5 year old nephew. He is doing virtual school, and we have a large role in choosing material for him, so I have been trying to find ways to incorporate discussions from this class into his education. After showing him the audio of the book he did not have much to say, but throughout the day his questions kept coming. He asked about how the kids in the story made a bike like that, and even asked if he could get rid of his bike to build one like theirs. We talked about how the book said they lived in a house made of mud, and looked at pictures of what real world places like that looked like. He learned what the word indigenous meant and kept trying to use it in sentences (he’ll get there). The point is this story, although not directly about how one can help the environment, opened a conversation and a young mind to many new concepts. He made connections that can now be fostered with further discussion, and by adding additional information.
This story as well as Run Wild by David Covell does an excellent job of depicting nature in a relatable way for children. There is a specific connection to be made here the the 25th Bali Principle that states, “Climate Justice calls for the education of present and future generations, emphasizes climate, energy, social and environmental issues, while basing itself on real-life experiences and an appreciation of diverse cultural perspectives.” Every child can relate to the free feeling of riding a bike or playing outside on a beautiful day. These stories allow children to put themselves into that situation and think about concepts in relation to themselves.
Exposure by Bilott has definitely made me think more about environmental law. When I began to look into what other environmental lawyers were doing in the world I was intrigued after reading about Andrew Kimbrell. He was the attorney that took on the case that led the US Supreme Court to declare EPA regulations on greenhouse gases for the first time in US history. In addition to being an attorney he plays large roles in many important organizations, including being the co-Founder of Foundation Earth. The mission of this organization as described on their website is, “…to bring an earth-centered economy into reality through a major rethinking of society implemented via outreach campaigns” (http://www.fdnearth.org/our-mission/). In addition, he is the President on the Board of Humane Farm Animal Care, this is the organization that gives the Certified Humane label. The more I read about these organizations and the work they are doing the more I want to be involved. I think environmental law, as well as all the directions Kimbrell has taken his career are fascinating. Pushing for change in the way the environment is treated is so important, and I find it promising learning about people like Kimbrell who are pushing for that change in their communities through outreach, but also are able to voice the need for change at a political level.
I was fortunate to grow up in a school system where at least in the younger grades, I had teachers and adults in my life that made an active effort to use the environment around me to give myself and other children the opportunity to connect with and attempt to understand nature to a certain extent. As I read “Lessons from a Garden Spider” by Kate Lyman, I found myself smiling being able to relate to the excitement and fascination the children in that classroom felt by having a personal connection to a living thing and watching its life cycle. As a child in school I was able to watch caterpillars turn into butterflies in my classroom, and then outside of school I was in a program part of which involved hatching chicken eggs in an incubator, then feeding, caring for and raising them until they were old enough to be brought to a local farm. As a child the way watching creatures separate from oneself is an experience guaranteed to make a lasting impression. The child develops a sort of love for that creature. However, I have to agree with certain points made in “How My Schooling Taught Me Contempt for the Earth” by Bigelow. Especially when he talks about how “…harmful ecological messages were woven into the curriculum.” I was taught to appreciate and care for those individual creatures, but without being taught about how I could protect the environment around me. It was a central lesson based on that specific type of butterfly, which as I said was a great experience, but perhaps what would make a greater impact on students long term is learning how to love the environment as a whole. I felt an obligation to take care of those creatures I was watching grow and develop but I did not feeling the same way about the environment I was living in.