Fed Up With Washington, Environmentalists Decamp to Hipster Enclave

Documentary filmmaker Josh Fox discusses this year’s Power Shift event in Pittsburgh.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Add to Briefcase
Lucia Graves
Oct. 15, 2013, 9:50 a.m.

As the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment enters its 15th day of shut­down, en­vir­on­ment­al­ists are pre­par­ing to look bey­ond the City on a Hill to the city of bridges, hip­sters, and steel.

This year’s Power Shift, a bi­en­ni­al meet­ing of thou­sands of en­vir­on­ment­al act­iv­ists from around the coun­try, will be held on Fri­day, Oct. 18 in Pitt­s­burgh, the first time the event has been held out­side of D.C. since it began in 2007. It’s a move that one young Pitt gradu­ate de­scribed as sym­bol­ic of a shift from polit­ic­al lob­by­ing to grass­roots or­gan­iz­ing and maybe, just maybe, be­ing cool.

“The polit­ic­al angle we’ve been try­ing to take hasn’t really been work­ing,” Seth Bush, who works as a cam­pus or­gan­izer for the Si­erra Stu­dent Co­ali­tion at Pitt, told The Pitt­s­burgh Post Gaz­ette. “We’re work­ing on a bet­ter, clean­er, more just-en­ergy fu­ture, and that could start here in Pitt­s­burgh.”

An­oth­er reas­on to choose Pitt­s­burgh: It’s at once at the heart of build­ing the green eco­nomy and the first city to in­sti­tute a ban on frack­ing, a fo­cus for Power Shift this year. “It’s a chance for young people to come to­geth­er and talk about what it means that the pres­id­ent sup­ports nat­ur­al gas,” said Maura Cow­ley, dir­ect­or for En­ergy Ac­tion, which is or­gan­iz­ing the four-day event.

The nat­ur­al-gas in­dustry has re­vo­lu­tion­ized the U.S. en­ergy in­dustry, but it has also raised ser­i­ous con­cerns about safety and sus­tain­ab­il­ity. The pro­cess is thought to con­tam­in­ate drink­ing wa­ter, and ex­cess gas is of­ten ven­ted off, pro­du­cing air pol­lu­tion. The dis­pos­al of frack­ing wastewa­ter un­der­ground also ap­pears to be linked to earth­quakes in Ohio and else­where.

Much of the reg­u­la­tion around frack­ing takes place at the state level, but en­vir­on­ment­al­ists note there’s much Pres­id­ent Obama can do, in­clud­ing ban­ning frack­ing on pub­lic lands and re­open­ing the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s in­vest­ig­a­tions in­to frack­ing-con­tam­in­ated ground­wa­ter in Dimock, Pa., Pa­vil­lion, Wyo., and Park­er County, Texas.

A pe­ti­tion by act­or Mark Ruf­falo ur­ging Obama to re-up the in­vest­ig­a­tions has garnered more than 99,000 sig­na­tures, and he’s not the only star to high­light the is­sue. Among this year’s fea­tured Power Shift speak­ers is Josh Fox, the con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­ment­ary film­maker who achieved something ap­proach­ing celebrity status fol­low­ing the re­lease of his frack­ing doc­u­ment­ar­ies, Gasland and Gasland 2.

“It’s my con­ten­tion and be­lief after mak­ing Gasland 2 that we can­not have demo­cracy as long as we have con­tin­ued de­pend­ency on fossil fuels,” Fox told Na­tion­al Journ­al in an in­ter­view Monday af­ter­noon. “Cur­rently, we don’t have demo­cracy on these is­sues; we have a sys­tem that’s bent in every pos­sible way — at the state level, at the loc­al level, and at the fed­er­al level — for the gas in­dustry over the people.”

Fox, who has fol­lowed the Mi­chael Moore tem­plate of film­mak­ing in which artistry and act­iv­ism go hand in hand, said the pri­or­it­ies of this year’s sum­mit are very much in tune with what he learned mak­ing Gasland.

“For a pres­id­ent who was elec­ted by a grass­roots move­ment to be ig­nor­ing the largest grass­roots en­vir­on­ment­al move­ment in dec­ades is in­cred­ibly dis­ap­point­ing,” Fox said.

The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment, al­though it’s pos­sible the spokes­man was fur­loughed.

What We're Following See More »
TWO MONTHS AFTER REFUSING AT CONVENTION
Cruz to Back Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST
WHO TO BELIEVE?
Two Polls for Clinton, One for Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST

With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:

  • An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clin­ton lead­ing Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary John­son at 7%.
  • A Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll gave Clin­ton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way bal­lot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
  • Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
TRUMP NO HABLA ESPANOL
Trump Makes No Outreach to Spanish Speakers
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."

Source:
$1.16 MILLION
Clintons Buy the House Next Door in Chappaqua
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."

Source:
×