Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can We Talk About This?

I just returned from listening to writer/biologist/cancer survivor/activist Sandra Steingraber give a talk at Franklin and Marshall College.  While devoting most of her time to the topic of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Pennsylvania and New York's Marcellus Shale formation, she questioned why the current state of environmental health doesn't seem to be as much part of our public conversation as things like the state of the economy.  She described how she has been able to easily use online and TV news sources to teach herself about the world's current economic issues, something outside of her technical expertise, but that there doesn't seem to be that same opportunity for public discussion when it comes to our environment.

I agree with Ms. Steingraber, and I wonder how things that are so essential to our life and well-being, such as the air we breathe and the water we drink, are not interesting to us.  Even during the talk today, in a room filled with students, faculty, and community members who were not forced to be there, I noticed that glazed-over look in the eyes of several attendees.

Outside of school environmental clubs and protests staged by tree-hugging adults, why don't we talk about this?  Is it because we can't talk about some environmental processes and their potential health implications with certainty?  Is it because we're opinionated or afraid concerning the financial ramifications?  Is it that the problems seem too vast for us to make any kind of difference?  Is it that it's scary to talk about some of the possible connections between life-style and environmental impact and the resulting human health effects?  Is it that we're afraid to appear too "crunchy"?  Many of these are reasons I tend to keep my mouth shut.

But I'm tired of being quiet.  I'm wondering - can we talk about this?  I don't want to spend time talking to myself; I want to have a conversation.  Can we become, as Ms. Steingraber suggested during her lecture today, several Davids fighting a big Goliath?

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