April 25, 2013, by Sandra Steingraber
Earlier this month, Orion friend and columnist Sandra Steingraber was sent to an upstate New York prison for blocking a facility used to store hydrofracked natural gas. Sandra has continued to write from jail; her most recent, and final, letter from Chemung County Jail is below. She was released today, shortly after midnight.
My book, Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, was released in paperback this week. But, being in jail, I was unable to grant interviews or otherwise to participate in its promotion. That’s not a situation that book publicists appreciate, although mine is being very good about it. But, being in here, I feel that I am walking my words.
The fundamental message of Raising Elijah is that the environmental crisis is a crisis of family life, as it robs parents of our ability to carry out our two most basic duties: to protect our children from harm and to provide for their future. When inherently toxic chemicals—including developmental toxicants linked to asthma, birth defects and learning disabilities—are legally allowed to freely circulate in our children’s environment, we can’t protect them. When heat trapping greenhouse gases create extreme weather events that slash the world’s grain harvests (this is happening) and acidify the oceans in ways that threaten the entire marine food chain, starting with plankton (and this is happening too), then we can’t plan for our kids’ futures—no matter how much we sock away in their college funds or Tiger Mom them into athletic or musical mastery.
This crisis requires our urgent attention. And by attention, I mean sustained political action, not intermittent, private worrying. Hence, unless the kids can get there and back, under their own steam, then piano lessons, karate, Little League, play practice, SAT prep, and Scout meetings are cancelled until further notice. Ditto for yoga, date night, and book club (with apologies to my long-suffering publicist).
Look, one in every four mammal species is headed for extinction. The world’s available drinking water is becoming less and less available. Insect pollinators, which provide us one-sixth to one-third of the food we eat, are in trouble. The price index for thirty-three different basic commodities is rising, and financial analysts are predicting shortages of the kind that lead to social unrest. Meanwhile, the world’s leading and most powerful industry is preparing to blow up the nation’s bedrock and frack out the last wisps and drops of gas and oil—releasing inherently toxic chemicals into our communities to do so.
In short, we don’t have time for out-of-town sporting events.
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