Mary will deliver these comments (below) in D.C. on September 27, at a rally in front of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Thanks to WV CAG for transporting Mary and other OVEC volunteers to this rally.
News about why folks are at this rally: CLEAN POWER PLAN: World watches as U.S. #climate saga heads for court showdown
My name is Mary Wildfire and I live near Spencer, West Virginia. I’m here to say that when our Attorney General joined the suit against the Clean Power Plan, he did not speak for me, or most West Virginians. (He did speak for his campaign contributors.) The Clean Power Plan is a sensible start to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the future in West Virginia and everywhere else.
Every fossil fuel project involves local environmental harm where the fuel is extracted and refined, as well as the global harm of the greenhouse gas emissions. West Virginia has suffered greatly from the myriad harms of the coal industry, and is now suffering from the newer harms of unconventional natural gas drilling and fracking. I live above the Marcellus and Rogersville shales, and while I have not been affected myself—so far—I’ve heard the horror stories from those who have.
We own two-fifths of the mineral rights of the land I live on, so we could stop drilling there—but an ill-informed or intentionally misinformed neighbor could allow it, affecting us just as much. And the oil and gas industry wants a forced pooling bill that would allow them to drill under your land if a certain percentage of your neighbors agree—that is, the mineral owners, not necessarily the people who live there, who have no more say than the mice who live there. What industry wants, industry generally gets—as we see with this lawsuit designed to slow or stop implementation of commonsense rules that should have been implemented 20 years ago.
But I am not really here to talk about the localized harms of the fossil fuel industry—I’m here because I am haunted by retrograde ghosts. A regular ghost is one who can be perceived even though they’ve died. A retrograde ghost is one who can be perceived even though they haven’t yet been born. I hear the voices of the people living in the latter part of this century, trying to survive on a planet ravaged by severe climate change and other kinds of pollution, and those voices tremble with rage.
What were you thinking? they ask. How could you ignore the warnings of your scientists, year after year, decade after decade, as the parts-per-million climbed and the effects began to roll in—yet you just kept on. Kept on driving , and flying big planes, all spewing greenhouse gases; kept on wastefully using electricity derived from burning coal, and gas. You refused to change your habits, your lifestyles, or your politicians. You stayed in your comfort zone, and we pay the price—trying to grow enough food to keep from starving, when one year is too wet and the next is too dry, and every year is too hot. When bugs and diseases that we never saw before keep invading. If we do get a good harvest, we have to decide whether to share it with the endless streams of climate refugees—people coming from the East Coast cities that are going underwater, and the desert that now covers Colorado and is moving into Kansas, and places like Mississippi that are unlivably hot, and wherever the latest flood is, and there’s always a flood somewhere—while our own kids suffer malnutrition. More displaced people than our remaining arable land can support. And if we say no—all too often there’s gunfire.
It didn’t have to be this way, they say. You could have made a transition, could have built a lot more of the solar and wind power that pollutes little, and insulated your buildings, and rearranged your towns so people didn’t need to drive. You could have done a lot of things, if you thought your children mattered. Guess you didn’t.
So, I speak for these ghosts, saying—don’t wait until it’s too late.
Mary Wildfire, of Roane County, is a volunteer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.