Today, although a bit late for “class,” I attended a webinar provided by the Center for Earth Jurisprudence and hosted by Sr. Pat Siemen, O.P., J.D., the Director of the Center. It was #2 in a series called “Protecting Our Common Home.” Sr. Pat Siemen’s spoke on the concept of the rights of nature and the history of the movement, including codification of Rights of Nature in the Ecuadorian Constitution in 2008. Then, Shannon Biggs, from Movement Rights, brought us a stronger understanding of how to assert the rights of communities and nature. Up early in Hawaii to participate in an event that took place at noon Florida-time, in less than thirty minutes and in gentle tones, Shannon laid a strong foundation for any movement toward community rights based on respect for all community members. Much of her presentation used the hot topic of fracking to illustrate how grass roots action can become substantially more effective through a set of mindshifts from blaming and attacking the “bad guys” to linking arms for desired outcomes.
Fracking is more than an example for a deep process change in how decisions are made and governance is accomplished. The language used to define this activity also gives us a metaphor for how “we” crack up, break apart, divide and are conquered. Compare the Oxford Dictionaries “American-English” definition of “fracking” with the Merriam-Webster definition. Thus, “The process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil and gas.” (Oxford Dictionaries) versus, “The injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources (such as oil or natural gas.)” (Merriam-Webster) In the first definition, something brutal is taking place. In the second, poor, trapped oil and gas are being liberated!
Lesson #1: Pay attention because language matters.
“The people united will never be defeated.” This is a powerful chant as we march our way down the street of history. The truth is “we, the people” are easily defeated by the application of high pressure to “force open existing fissures.” We are easily defeated because the fissures already exist, laid down over many years, subterranean and subconscious, buried, grown over, but ready to fracture when pressure is applied unless deep healing and wholeness come about through everyone’s efforts and daily decisions.
Lesson #2: Focus on healing, not to be “nice,” but to be strong when the big decisions come.
Then, there is the question of what the oil and gas need and want to do, what all the people living above and around the oil and gas need and want to do, what the critters large and microscopic around the oil and gas need and want to do, both in the short-term and in the long-term. Do the oil and gas want to be extracted, freed up or left in peace to continue a millenial process, maybe to become something even richer than oil and gas, something our present selves cannot even imagine?
Lesson #3: The question here is not, “Is fracking (or abortion, or gun-based policing, or whatever divisive issue) good or bad?” The question here is, “In a true democracy, who has the right to choose?”
Time to go outside. Take the children outside, too.