Anti-Fracking Warriors Steingraber and Boland Released From Jail
[Editor's note: On Nov. 26 at 12:01 a.m., Sandra Steingraber and Colleen Boland were released from jail after serving eight days of a 15-day sentence for trespassing at the gates of Crestwood Midstream on the banks of Seneca Lake. They were immediately greeted by a crowd of supporters outside the Schuyler County Jail in Watkins Glen. Below are transcripts of their speeches.
Steingraber and Boland are among the first wave arrests as part of a sustained, ongoing, non-violent civil disobedience campaign against the storage of fracked gas along the shores of Seneca Lake, a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. There have been 73 arrests so far. Calling themselves "We Are Seneca Lake," those risking arrest—and their supporters—wear blue during blockades. Donations to the jail fund are greatly appreciated and make a perfect holiday gift.]
Hi, everybody! I missed you all. And I missed this beautiful world. I’m glad to be back. And I’m glad to be wearing blue again, instead of orange.
But I’m also glad to have spent this past week in the 24/7 company of my co-defendant and Seneca Lake co-defender, Colleen Boland. Thanks to the kindness of our booking officer, Colleen and I were placed in adjacent cells.
For five days we talked through the wall between us and passed notes back and forth. After our TB tests came back negative, we were reclassified and then could speak to each other face-to-face in the cell block and walk together in circuits together around the rec yard.
Colleen, there is no person I would rather be imprisoned with than you.
One document that we passed back and forth between us was a copy of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it, Dr. King makes the case for civil disobedience as a tool of social change when all other lawful efforts to attain justice have failed.
It was interesting for me to learn that the civil disobedience trainings during the Civil Rights Movement included how to cope with “the ordeals of jail."
Likely, for King and his fellow civil rights workers, continuing their civil disobedience witness in jail was not a choice, as it is for us, who landed in jail because we respectfully refused to pay our court fines.
Nevertheless, enduring the ordeals of jail still has value. Among other benefits, a jail sentence offers time for reflection.
Here is one insight I’ve had during my own week of reflection. It comes from a fellow inmate who is struggling mightily to overcome a lifetime of drug addiction and sexual abuse that extends back into her early childhood. Abuse is what’s normal for her. She has never lived without it. So, how to move forward? She told us, “I’m not trying to find myself. I’m trying to CREATE myself.”
I think that’s our challenge, too. We’ve been living so long under the tyranny and abuse of the fossil fuel industry that it’s come to seem normal to us. We have never experienced life without it.
So, when a Texas-based gas company buys our lakeshore in order to store vast quantities of explosive hydrocarbon gas in the old salt mines underneath—imperiling drinking water, the climate and everything in between—we don’t know what to do. All we know is that Big Oil and Gas has always had its ravaging way with us.
We can’t find the path to victory; we have to CREATE it.
That’s going to require a lot of work from all of us over a sustained period of time. What Colleen and I just did is only a tiny part of the struggle. So, please don’t thank us. Tell us what YOU are going to do.
And, now, to explain further our prohibition on thank-yous, here is my friend, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant (Retired), Colleen Boland, defendant and defender.
Thank you all for braving the cold and coming out at such a late hour to welcome Sandra and me home.
As many of you know, a little over a month ago, and with the full support of many of you here tonight, I chose to embrace my military past and take on Crestwood Midstream and the oil and gas establishment. I was arrested for trespassing on October 29.
For this action, I donned pieces of my Air Force uniform, and, I have to say, it has served me well. Recalling the hardships and dehumanization that came with basic training long ago helped me immeasurably to endure the discomforts of a seven–day jail stay.
Drummed into us, over and over again, throughout basic training, was one fundamental principle: leave no one behind. On the obstacle course, before we could move onto the next barrier, we had to stop, look back, and make sure no one was in trouble behind us.
During last few hours in lock-up tonight, I couldn’t help but feel that I was about to leave new comrades behind: my fellow cellmates in cell block C. With the exception of my next-door neighbor in cell number 3 (Sandra Steingraber), I knew that I would soon be leaving behind women who told us they believe in what we are doing and wholeheartedly support us.
And they thanked us.
Due to their circumstances and the heart-wrenching life stories they freely shared with us, I understand they can’t join us on the front lines—now or anytime in the near future—even though they said they gladly would. They’ve got life-saving work to do—on themselves and for their children. So, I give them a pass.
But, as I sat in my locked cell, day after day, I realized I’m growing less patient towards those who are quick to thank and painfully slow to step up. We are in a crisis here—along Seneca, and in Horseheads, and Lowman, and Painted Post, and in other communities throughout the region that are threatened with fracking and fracking infrastructure.
Time is ticking out. Call me cranky at this late hour if you wish, but I believe it’s high time for those who know the perils we face to find a way to contribute.
Not everyone needs to go to jail. But for those Seneca Lake Defenders who are considering trading in their blue garb for orange, I encourage them to do so. It is important to keep the spotlight on what is happening here, and I believe filling the jails with physically able folks will help do that.
A special note to women who are considering accepting a jail sentence in lieu of paying fines: I can say with confidence that Sandra and I have cleared the minefields inside the Chemung County jail. The women inmates there are prepared to welcome you, watch over you and show you the ropes. From their cells, they are prepared to help us in our fight in the only way that is available to them.
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What is killing coral?
I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for what's killing corals. We know there are many, many different factors influencing coral abundance, diversity, distribution and health these days, but I think the specific answer varies based on where you are.
Temperatures play a major role at global scales, and then you have all of these other, more local factors like disease, physical impacts of storms, or ship groundings.
Researcher Stephanie Schopmeyer prepares to out-plant Staghorn coral onto a Miami reef. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
We had the dredging of the Port of Miami channel a couple of years ago and that caused a lot of localized mortality due to sediment burial and sediment stress. You also have land-based sources of pollution that can damage by location and nutrient influence that causes algal overgrowth of corals.
Local factors are superimposed on regional factors directly related to global climate change. Changes in temperature, more temperature extremes, acidification of the water, changes in storm frequency and sea level rise— all are at different scales — but they all combine to cause coral mortality.
Factors vary both spatially and temporally, but the outcomes are all the same. Regardless of where you are, we've lost a tremendous amount of coral.
Nursery-raised Staghorn coral out-planted onto a reef by a citizen scientist.
In the face of all those threats, can restoration work?
Historically, restoration was developed and used for acute disturbances. A ship runs aground, and so then there's a recovery, and funds are allocated to recovering the reef structure at a given location, and then corals are planted on top of that. But as global conditions decline for coral reefs, there's now a need to scale up. So, we're not just dealing with the localized impact—we're looking at species declining throughout their range.
We need other tools at larger scales, and that's where coral reef gardening has come into play, because it works at larger scales compared to just dumping cement and rebuilding reef structures, costly endeavors that recover just a very small footprint. We're growing and planting these organisms.
Do you worry about planted coral dominating the reefs?
Initially, these techniques were developed for fast-growing corals. The genus that we're focusing on, Acropora, is threatened, so these are very important reef-building species.
When abundant, they monopolize shallow environments. They form thickets, extensive areas of high-density colonies. That's the way they used to grow, until about three to four decades ago when they got wiped out by disease and other factors. The branching corals that we're working with grow between 10 and 15 cm per branch per year, so that's very fast growth.
Through recent advances in coral aquaculture, we're now also able to grow massive species, the ones that grow very slowly. Mote Marine Lab has developed microfragmentation techniques where they can cut coral colonies very, very small and make them grow very, very fast. Although we focused on branching corals initially, now most of the programs, especially here in Florida, are expanding onto other threatened species.
Citizen scientists plant coral. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Can these efforts solve the problem, or are they a placeholder until climate stabilizes?
You hit the nail on the head. One of the early criticisms of reef restoration was the scale issue and spending a lot of resources working on a very small footprint.
We've dealt with that now, over the past 10 years we've expanded to the point where we're growing thousands and thousands of corals—we're planting thousands and thousands of corals—so that issue of scale is no longer a valid criticism.
The other major criticism is that, even though we're planting a lot of corals, we're planting them onto environments where the same stressors that caused their initial mortality are in place. Now there is ocean acidification and increased temperatures, so things have gotten, in some cases, progressively worse.
Staghorn corals create a sustainable source of corals for use in restoration. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
That is a valid concern if we were just planting corals, but we're not just doing that. We're still concentrating on all of the other aspects of reef restoration, setting up marine protected areas to protect fish stocks and coral impacts, working to curb land-based sources of pollution, and setting up sedimentation and nutrient controls. And then, on a much larger scale, we're all trying to curb carbon emissions, trying to limit the greenhouse impacts and acidification impacts. All these tools just help us buy time.
We're also doing a lot of genomics work to see how corals can increase their resilience. A colleague of mine here at the Rosenstiel School at University of Miami, Andrew Baker, is stress-hardening corals. He works on coral symbiosis, and he found that by applying a little bit of non-lethal stress, he can make corals shuffle their Zooxanthellae, which are the endosymbiotic microalgae that provide energy to the corals. In that process, they're able to uptake Zooxanthellae that are more thermally tolerant. So, through the forced shuffling of symbionts, you may be able to buy these corals one or two degrees of tolerance, so that they become more tolerant to bleaching in future years. That is cutting-edge science.
We're trying to actually find out what makes corals survive, and trying to beef up their defenses and their resilience over time. And that's because we have access to all these coral genotypes through the active propagation from coral gardening.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
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