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Event Organizers

Event Organizers

Brian Cohen – US

Ed Fallon – US

Irene Vilar – US

Brian Cohen

The Marcellus Shale gas industry has affected a lot of lives, both positively and negatively. It produces record-breaking amounts of natural gas, but it has led to many negative consequences for local residences and the environment. In March 2014, Cornell University Professor Anthony Ingraffea highlighted the hazards of drilling by concluding after analyzing state data that state regulators have been unable to adequately keep tabs on drilling on state lands. Inspections revealed that at least six Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania’s state forest had begun leaking and at least 2 of the 86 Marcellus wells in the Loyalsock were leaking.

In fact, across Pennsylvania, the data shows that Marcellus wells have been leaking at a disturbing rate. Up to 13 percent of shale wells drilled before 2009 have already developed leaks in their casings, Professor Ingraffea said in a December 12 TEDx talk.

While the shale continues to beat expectations economically and as a resource, some eco-groups have been hitting the pavement. For instance, Protect Our Children, a coalition of organizations and citizens concerned about the risk posed to children by natural gas drilling and gas related infrastructure has called for drilling to be kept at least one mile away from schools. This call for action stemmed from a gas well explosion and fire on February 11, 2014 near Dunkard, Greene County, PA.

In order to raise awareness about the positive and negative impacts, the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project was conceived. Brian Cohen became the Project Director to take care of his brainchild. The Marcellus Shale Documentary Project tells stories, through photographic images, of how the lives of Pennsylvanians have been and continue to be affected by the Marcellus shale gas industry. The travelling exhibition opened in October 2012.

In preparing the project, the photographers traveled across Pennsylvania, meeting people, listening to and recording their stories. The project includes homeowners, tenants, farmers, medical practitioners, engineers, protesters, activists, victims and beneficiaries of the drilling.

According to the New York Times, the members of the Marcellus Shale project are documenting people who’ve been caught up in the gas boom to create a visual record of the great shale rush.

The travelling exhibit is making the rounds.

Brian Cohen moved to Pittsburgh in 2007 from London. He saw the rush on Marcellus Shale had been in the headlines for years. Cohen’s wife told him that a local foundation was looking for proposals addressing the issue. Cohen decided to get a team together and started documenting. They took pictures of the drills, water that ignites, and neighbors who leased their lands to the energy companies to keep their farms running. Cohen finds the human story most compelling because it shows the relationship of the people most affected by the process to the process. 

During an interview with Sproutfund.org, I particularly found his reply to the following question extremely compelling,

What’s the story from all of this that you cannot shake?

When you sit down with someone who says, This is what my water was like until such and such a date, which was coincidentally shortly after drilling started, and things started. My husband and I started having nose bleeds or stomach ailments or weight loss or cancer and so-and-so committed suicide from the stress. Pets that died. This is what my water looks like, it’s black. …. And then you hear that [the Department of Environmental Protection] said my water was fine. That’s when I’d come home and be like, this is not right.

So true, indeed. You might also find this interview with NPR as fascinating as I did.

That’s why I absolutely love this project – it’s nuanced. It’s a great catalyst for discussion and it doesn’t overlook the people that are most affected by these processes.

Sources: Business Journal Daily, The Vidicator, YSU News, New York Times, Public Source, Ohio.com, Columbia Journalism Review, WUNC, Sproutfund.org, Desmogblog.com, NorthcentralPA.com, State Impact NPR

Ed Fallon

First, watch this video about The Great March for Climate Action.

Second, just breathe a sigh of relief, because participants are marching from March 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, walking 15 miles each day across 36 states, and ultimately ending in Washington D.C. on November 1, 2014 for the climate!

Click to see the map of the journey and the names of the marchers.  235 marchers from 36 different states and 6 countries are participating! They raised the money through crowdfunding.

Fallon grew up in Saugus, MA moved to Iowa in 1984 and forged a career as a respected state representative in the Iowa General Assembly from 1993 to 2006. After a few unsuccessful runs for office, he shifted his focus from politics to the climate crisis in 2007 after a meeting with environmentalist and 350.org leader Bill McKibben.

“I decided then that I should be doing more about it,” Fallon said. “There’s a lot we could be doing to address the climate crisis, but our leaders aren’t getting the message. They are stuck in the old way of thinking.”

He launched the Great March for Climate Change on March 1, 2013 and spent the year seeking staff and contributions to make the event feasible. He sees climate change as the defining issue for leaders and policies need to be enacted to move us in the right direction.

Pastor David Clark of the Redlands United Church of Christ, who provided shelter, a potluck dinner, community involvement and a forum for presentations is part of moving in the right direction. He sees this march as fitting their mission and vision because the church is into social justice and mental sustainability. They’ve even asked people to give up carbon for Lent for fasting rather than chocolate or fast food.

Miriam Kashia from Iowa, 71, is in it for the long haul reportedly. She has studied the losses and the loss of 100 species a day is too steep, for all of life on this planet.

“There are climate refugees and climate conflicts because there is not enough food and water. Because of droughts and floods people are being displaced,” she worries.

She also thinks that as a country we’ve been living on credit and extracted more than we can pay off.

You can find daily updates on their Facebook page.

Day One video:

Sources: The Des Moines Register, Little Village Mag, Fall River Herald News, Uprising, Redlands Daily Facts, Shanghai Daily, Youtube, Iowa City Climate Advocates

Irene Vilar

She founded the Americas Latino Eco Festival which began in 2013. They hosted thousands of visitors at the 2nd festival in 2014. The festival was held in Boulder Colorado from September 11-16. It’s considered the world’s largest Latino themed environmental festival. In 2007, Vilar also founded the nonprofit Americas for Conservation + the Arts, a Latin America-focused arts and education network. The Eco Festival has been dubbed a “Latino South by Southwest.”

Combine star power, glitz, political leaders, educators, chefs, activists, scientists, movers-and-shakers, and artists and you might be considered as turning a critical issue into a soul-stirring opportunity for those who are concerned to combine their solutions and feel like it’s not just another photo opportunity to show you care! The hosts are engaging others who care and avoided another stage filled with talking heads.

Instead, the event actively engaged communities in the conversation. The climate threat is serious and deserves serious attention, not more passive promises to recycle or supportive statements. It requires action. The climate threat needs to involve communities that feel disconnected from the established climate fighters and organizers.

This year’s speakers included Edward James Olmos, Ed Begley Jr., Mexican-American climate scientist Patricia Romero Lankao, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, and environmental justice scholar Dorceta Taylor. Co-sponsors included Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and Boulder-based The Dairy Center for the Arts. Other leaders included: environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs; bilingual authors of children’s books; environmental education organization leaders; Latino outdoor conservation groups; and community leaders at the forefront of tackling renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and workforce development for military veterans.

What inspired her?

Essentially, Irene Vilar first started to attend environmental gatherings in Colorado and felt disconnected. She describes her experience through the eyes of someone who felt that some of these campaigns make people believe that they’re not qualified to participate. Many of the institutions and the systems that are in place do not represent the “brown face of the country,” as she notes. That makes people feel like they don’t belong, even when people talk about diversity.

However, she considers that diversity and inclusion are two separate things. Engaging communities of color about climate change is critical to her. When she decided that she was going to host the festival, she figured that despite all the fundraising and costs, money wasn’t what was at stake. She sees our planet, ourselves and community involvement in the conversation of climate change as what is at stake. She didn’t see starting small as a good idea, since she figured she wanted to create a precedent and couldn’t afford small steps given the magnitude of the problem.

This year, they raised double what they raised during the first year and attracted Telemundo, the NRDC, Whole Foods and Patagonia as sponsors that are inclusive of Latino-minded communities. The gathering of 10,000 people at the huge environmental festival showcased the latest water access and filtration projects, research findings, literature, art and film, educational programs with a STEM and environmental focus, innovations to address vexing social and environmental problems and more.

“When I was doing research for the festival, my first impression was to buy the story we are sold — that there is no Latino leader in the environmental movement. What I discovered is that the supply is there. I realized that it’s not about educating our communities, but the white communities! It’s more about educating them and validating us. There are a few issues; one of them is that the environmental movement is looking for PhDs. Our community is underserved. Many of my friends have grandfathers and fathers and mothers that have not even high school degrees, but we’re great conservation leaders.”

She explains that the reason why Latinos are huge environmentalists has to do with the fact that Latinos suffer from it because they live in the most polluted cities and many in the community work outdoors exposed to all the factors contributing to climate change. She also believes that the ecological tradition of Latin Americans plays a big role. Culturally, the values are attached to madre teirre, Mother Earth.

To her, the multicultural Latino eco-festival fills a huge void. She credits the power of people for making the festival even possible.

She calls her activism, a “quiet activism: always searching for meaning regarding identities and the fluidity of identities.” The Americas Latino Eco- Festival is Vilar’s answer to what she calls a “campaign of disinformation” about the history, the very perception of Latino Americans and their place in the U.S. environmental movement. She sees the US from its origin as a multicultural society, even though many continue to suggest otherwise.

She sees that many environmental organizations claim that the problem lies in a lack of nonwhite leaders. She sees this a total fallacy. She thinks there is something to be said about how many of the conservation organizations and billionaires funding their organization don’t dedicate anything to outreach and inclusion efforts.

She sees there is a visible change in this misinformation.

“It’s finally happening because all these polls are coming out and proving that Latino Americans are not only the fastest growing consumer group, but also the greenest.”

A National Resource Defense Council study showed that 93 percent of Latinos believe in global warming while only 60 percent of surveyed whites said they believe in global warming.

She feels the most effective way to engage the community is to remind people of their legacy. I love that approach myself!

She is a mother, an author, a literary agent focusing on minority writers of the Americas and a visionary who brings together leaders from the entire hemisphere to encourage collaboration to accelerate the pace of innovation and solution creation. Exciting!

Sources: Grist, NBC News, Youtube, Boulder Weekly, Facebook, Huffington Post

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