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Blog Posts: Activism

December 16th, 2014

Don’t Let Fracking Destroy Her Legacy

By Alex Nagy

Dianne Thomas

Dianne Thomas, anti-fracking activist.

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Dianne is one of the amazing people I get to work with as the Southern California Organizer for Food & Water Watch. Dianne and her late husband worked hard to build a home in Carson, California to leave behind for their children, but the oil and gas industry could destroy their legacy.

When Dianne found out that Occidental Petroleum (“Oxy”) was planning to drill 200 new wells over the next 10 years, she asked if there would be fracking: they answered yes. The night before, she had caught a special on TV about extreme oil extraction — she saw homes cracking and falling apart because of fracking.

That’s when Dianne and her neighbors reached out to Food & Water Watch. They had heard about the work we were doing with communities to ban fracking.

Dianne and I started to meet weekly to strategize about the campaign — how to get Carson’s story in the news and how to build more public support. It was clear that Dianne was passionate, and as a skilled community activist she would give Oxy a fight. I helped by providing the information and resources to fight this fracking proposal, including reports from our research team and insight from other organizers working to stop fracking in towns across the country.

With your support, we can continue to partner with local activists like Dianne and provide the resources to ban fracking!

While the City Council was considering Oxy’s proposal, we convinced them to put a 45-day hold on all new drilling in Carson. During that time, the community rallied support to convince the Council to put a permanent ban on new drilling. At several City Council meetings, there were so many people that supported the ban, we couldn’t all fit in the room!

Oxy used a lot of dirty tricks to overturn the temporary ban and get approval to start drilling. They even bribed people by offering gift cards to generate support for fracking at City Council meetings. They also pulled some powerful political strings, with a local paper reporting that Governor Jerry Brown called Carson’s mayor to urge him to kill the fracking ban. Clearly the community was doing something right if Big Oil and Gas were trying so hard to shut them down.

When it came down to it, we knew the vote was close. The movement against fracking in Carson was strong, but Oxy’s connections were powerful and they had spent a lot of money to fight the ban. Unfortunately, Oxy’s money and lobbying won out, and the Council voted against the ban on drilling.

But our fight is far from over — we are continuing to work together to keep fracking out of Carson, and out of other communities in California and across the country. We know we can’t let up, that we have to work even harder because if we don’t stop it, new oil drilling could start in Carson in 2015. Will you stand with us to ban fracking in communities across the country by making a generous gift?

Dianne is in this fight because Carson is her home, it’s where she bought a house and has worked hard to create a legacy for her children and grandchildren. I’m committed to this work because, like Dianne, I can’t just sit by as some corporation comes into a community and destroys the land, water and health of real people. This is all of our fight, because no one should be at risk of the dangers of fracking.

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November 21st, 2014

The Last Straw for Irish Citizens: The Struggle Against Water Charges

By David Sánchez

IrishRight2WaterA European country in crisis. Men in black come to the rescue. With the complicity of the national government, they impose painful measures on the population. Men in black never forget to be nice to their friends, so the measures include a provision to privatise public water services. As a reaction, massive citizen’s mobilisations take place. The story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We have already experienced this situation in Greece, and just a few months ago, Greek citizens won the battle, and water will remain in public hands. Now history repeats itself, and the struggle against water privatisation and commodification is at boiling point in Ireland.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Irish Government and the men in black (also known as the Troika, formed by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) provides for the introduction of domestic water charges and the establishment of a new water utility, Irish Water, easy to be privatised in the near future. In a nod to their cronies, the men in black tapped former Irish Minister of Environment Phil Hogan, who led the implementation of these changes, as the new European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Following months of protests and resistance, on November 1, more than 150,000 people mobilised across Ireland to oppose the changes. Water charges in Ireland will discriminate against those with less economic means and the unemployed, adding another regressive tax at a time when citizens have been asked to make too many sacrifices to solve an economic crisis which they did not cause. Ireland’s public water system is already paid for through general taxation, which is progressive, and charges commercial users. The Irish people have already shown that they wish it to remain that way.

Once again, European citizens should raise their voice against water privatisation and commodification. Food & Water Europe, together with our allies at the European Water Movement, want to express our solidarity with Irish citizens. Resisting water charges means fighting for access to water as a universal human right, and against the commodification of water. And it means blocking future privatisation attempts.

When will the European Commission finally get the message? Its provisions to privatise water failed in Greece, and they will fail in Ireland if citizens continue with their mobilisation. People in the streets of Dublin, Madrid or Athens; citizens voting in Thessaloniki, Rome or Berlin; nearly 2 million Europeans signing the Citizens Initiative on the Right to Water. All of them are claiming water as a public and common good. Men in black should be nice, for a change, to their citizens — not to their friends.

You can support the Irish campaign on the Right to Water here.

 

November 5th, 2014

Using Our Voice and Our Votes to Fight Corporate Interests

By Wenonah Hauter

1411_FBHL_ElectionsQuote-C1I can’t say that I was surprised as the returns came in from the bruising midterm election last night. It’s no accident that a group of die-hard reactionaries were elected in many states from the flood of dark money, in combination with low turnout and shocking voting rights abuses. Once again, the Democratic strategy of sounding “Republican Light” and relying on TV ads to win seats in a handful of swing states has proven ineffective.

The fact is, no matter which party is in control of Congress, our way forward remains clear: We must continue to organize and keep elected officials accountable on the issues we care about.

While news programs spent most of yesterday and today talking about big wins for the Republican Party and corporations, the American people still managed to make a considerable difference. Voters went to the polls in Reading, Pennsylvania and Sussex Borough, New Jersey to prevent corporations from privatizing their respective water systems. In addition, the people of Athens, Ohio, San Benito County and Mendocino County, California and Denton, Texas all successfully voted to ban fracking in their communities.

This midterm election put communities and corporations up against one another in a very unfair fight. Plain and simple, Big Oil and Gas tried to use money to bludgeon its opposition. In San Benito County alone, the oil industry spent about $2 million in order to spread misinformation about fracking and lead residents astray.

But what did local residents have to fight against this dangerous campaign of lies? They wielded true facts about fracking, backed up by independent scientific research. And these dedicated activists pounded the pavement, talking with neighbors and building a network of trust.

People dedicated to banning fracking in their communities may have been outspent 13 to 1. But they still managed to win, and preserve the wellbeing of the places they live for future generations. To date, 136 communities in the U.S. have banned fracking, and that number is only likely to grow.

By gutting campaign finance laws, the U.S. Supreme Court put a gaping wound in our democratic process. The Koch Brothers and other greedy sources of dark money have given corporate interests a soapbox and a megaphone to push a dangerous, selfish agenda.

Things will be very tough in Congress now, and we expect more McCarthy-like tactics. But Food & Water Watch and our supporters will not be cowed or frightened.

We will continue to fight for our right to clean drinking water and safe food; for our right to know what ingredients are used in our food; for our right to preserve our health and our environment; for our right to create a better, healthier world for our children and future generations.

That’s why no matter what the results of the elections at any given time, we must continue to raise our voices and engage politically so that we can build the political power to create the world we want for our children and grandchildren.

That’s what we’ll continue to do in 2015.

October 31st, 2014

Frackers in Bed with Dr. Evil: Covers Pulled Off

By Lane Brooks Corporate_BS_Detector

It’s hard to forget that moment in the 2012 presidential race when Mitt Romney, speaking before guests at a $50,000 a-plate fundraiser, uttered his now infamous 47% remark. Thanks to the wonders of modern smart phone technology, the speech was caught on camera, leaked to the public and became a major talking point for the Obama campaign.

Well, it seems that Richard Berman, the man known as “Dr. Evil” and the “arch-enemy” of do-gooders had a bit of a Mitt Romney moment himself a few months ago. The New York Times recently reported that Berman and his associate Jack Hubbard were taped giving a speech before the Western Energy Alliance, a trade association for the oil and gas industry, where they shared a few pages from their playbook for attacking and attempting to discredit progressive causes. Check out The Center for Media and Democracy for an overview of those tactics.

As public opposition to fracking grows, the oil and gas industry is obviously feeling the heat. That’s why it’s deployed Berman, and this transcript only reinforces that fact. The industry is truly scraping the bottom of the proverbial oil barrel, turning to deceptive tactics because the truth is against it. Berman isn’t the entire problem here, but he and his associates embody the corporate greed that has allowed destructive oil and gas practices to proliferate.

Berman and Hubbard also name check several of their foes, including the organizations they selected to attack through their Big Green Radicals initiative. That’s when our ears started to burn. You may remember that Food & Water Watch was included in this initiative to discredit the movement to protect the public from fracking.

In detailing their work to discredit advocacy organizations, Hubbard boasted of their tendency to “get personal,” by digging up dirt on board members, even going so far as to research the title information for their cars. What’s next, going through their trash? We wouldn’t put it past them.

As damning as the recording of Berman and Hubbard is, it wasn’t exactly shocking. Their tactics are obvious to anyone who reads newspapers or watches television. But what was priceless about catching Berman and Hubbard on tape is the fact that the speech was recorded and leaked by an oil and gas industry executive apparently offended by Berman and Hubbard’s bravado.

It’s definitely a sign you’ve gone too far when the oil and gas industry, not exactly known for its decency, is offended by your tactics.

What effect will Berman and Hubbard’s gaffe have on the debate over fracking and our nation’s energy future? It’s too soon to tell. But next time you see an ad on TV touting the so-called possibilities of fracked oil and gas, remember that it could have Berman & Company’s fingerprints all over it.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that nobody would be employing Berman & Company if they didn’t feel truly threatened by the national movement to ban fracking. The industry might possess bottomless coffers, but we’re armed with something more important—the truth—that fracking poisons our most essential resources, contributing to climate change and undermining the future of our planet. So, keep on fighting to protect your communities from fracking, and we’ll continue to use factual research and organizing power to push for a global ban on fracking. We may also start locking our trashcans at night.

Read the transcript here.

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October 10th, 2014

For Europe, a Game of Fracking RISK?

By Geert Decock

Join the Global Frackdown

Don’t play geopolitics with shale gas!

Fracking is full of risks; It threatens water, air, the climate, public health, livelihoods and more.

That much we know.

But what if fracking were RISK? As in RISK, the board game, where the goal is to occupy as many territories as possible (keep in mind that the oil and gas industry’s goal is to frack as many territories as possible). The metaphor is not as farfetched as you may think.

This past Tuesday, ahead of the Global Frackdown, Food & Water Watch’s international day of action to ban fracking, we gathered outside the European Parliament in Brussels to play our own version of RISK — “Fracking RISK” — to bring lawmakers and community members up to speed on the many dangers of fracking.

Right now in the UK, European states are offering large swaths of territory to the oil and gas industry for shale gas exploration. Fearful of the many known risks of fracking, local communities are pushing back against this looming threat. Some states have even enacted local, regional and national bans on fracking. Much like the game RISK, the oil and gas industry is trying to control as much territory as it can.

Because of the crisis in Ukraine and the growing dependency of European Union member states, especially in Eastern Europe, on natural gas imports from Russia, the issue of drilling for shale gas has really shot to the top of the EU’s political agenda. Energy security and shale gas are now an integral part of geopolitical discussions in the European Union and in neighboring nations.

So, how does “Fracking RISK” work?

First, you will need to create or find a “board” with all the countries of Europe.

The rules:

Players split into two camps: On one side is Big Oil and Gas; its goal is to spread as many drilling rigs around Europe. On the other side is Local Communities; this team’s goal is to defend its lands against Big Oil and Gas by spreading fracking bans. The teams take turns throwing two dice.

If, for example, Big Oil & Gas throws a total of two or 12, they get to put in five new rigs. Throwing a total of three or 11 earns you four rigs, and so on. The rules of the dice are based on basic probabilities. The same rules apply for how many fracking bans Local Communities gets to put on the map.

There are also cards that each player receives after their turn, which they can cash in on the next turn.
For Big Oil & Gas, one card might read: “NATO Secretary General claims anti-fracking groups are KGB spies: Big Oil & Gas gets to put up five extra rigs.” Another could read: “Thanks to a ruling of a corporate tribunal (the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism currently being negotiated in the EU-US free trade agreement), Big Oil & Gas can overturn four fracking bans”.

Of course, the Local Communities team can earn these cards as well: “Public opinion demands a health impact study: Big Oil & Gas must skip a turn.” Or: “Another train with volatile shale oil blows up: Take three rigs away from Big Oil & Gas”. This one has particular relevance to a densely populated continent like Europe: “Government decides no fracking in densely populated areas: Take five rigs away from Big Oil & Gas”.

So, who won the test-round outside the Parliament on Tuesday? Unsurprisingly, Local Communities overwhelmed Big Oil & Gas by their numbers and quickly spread fracking bans all around Europe.

Check out some pictures and a video of our game. Feel free to suggest some extra rules and cards in the comments section below!

On Saturday, October 11, communities all over the world will participate in the Global Frackdown to challenge lawmakers to ban fracking. Join an event near you! www.globalfrackdown.org/events

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October 1st, 2014

The Movement to Ban Fracking Has Momentum

By Wenonah Hauter

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the People’s Climate March, along with our allies and thousands of citizens from around the world. We stood together in New York City to demand that our world’s leaders take definitive action on climate change. Of course, a big part of our mission on climate change is our fight to ban fracking, and while 2014 has seen some major milestones for our efforts, perhaps the most important of these is the evidence that our movement is growing. In order to get you inspired for the 2014 Global Frackdown, we created a video to show you some of the faces that are out there working hard around the country to ban fracking. As our video demonstrates, we are building on this momentum, and we need you to join us on October 11 to show just how strong we are.

Throughout 2014, we have witnessed citizens taking action across the nation, as well as around the globe. At Food & Water Watch, we have been keeping track of this progress as evidenced by the growing number of actions taken by communities against fracking. Last year’s Global Frackdown was a huge success and 2014 is shaping up to be our biggest Frackdown yet. It’s a good thing our movement is growing because we need to show our strength now more than ever.

The oil and gas industry has been pushing its agenda for expansion, particularly in California, Florida, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In fact, just this week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Dominion Cove Point in Maryland, one of the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in the nation, and the only one that’s located close to a community. In New York, our efforts to birddog Governor Cuomo have proven successful. The Governor himself commented on the tenacious and persistent nature of our efforts to remind him that we don’t want fracking in the Empire State. So far, mainly due to the determination of this movement, we’ve kept fracking out of New York.

We are honored and proud to stand with each and every one of our allies in this critical fight against fracking. Will you join us? You can join an already existing event or even plan to host one by visiting Globalfrackdown.org, and we encourage you to share your stories with us. Help us spread the word about this year’s Global Frackdown by sharing this video.

Where will YOU be on October 11?

August 7th, 2014

Frackopoly: Documenting the Movement to Fight Fracking

Wenonah Hauter, Mark Ruffalo and activists rally to ban fracking.

Wenonah Hauter, Mark Ruffalo and activists rally to ban fracking.

By Wenonah Hauter

Writing a book is both a daunting and energizing experience. My first book Foodopoly took months of research (helped by many here at Food & Water Watch) and sheer discipline. But the payoff was great: I was able to tour the country and meet people who are concerned about the state of our food and the state of our politics, and I felt palpably that the work of Food & Water Watch is necessary and making a difference by building a movement of concerned citizen activists to become politicized to protect our essential resources from corporate control.

What Is Fracking?
  • Inherently unsafe, fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. It’s a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well.
  • Sign the petition to ban fracking.

Now, I’m back in the trenches of research and writing with my follow-up book. A true tale of corruption and greed, Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment looks at how a powerful citizen-led movement is making progress fighting one of the biggest and most powerful industries in the world on one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: fracking. In preparation for the book, I am interviewing people in affected communities across the country who have had their well water contaminated with methane; their health impacted; their air polluted; and the value of their homes destroyed.

As I’m starting to wrap up the book, I’m feeling excited about what lies ahead, and what the book represents. It’s a story of what’s possible and ultimately, what will save our democracy: engaged citizens, impacted by an issue in their backyards, in a fight for their lives and making a difference.

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July 31st, 2014

EPW Subcommittee Jumps the Shark with New Report

By Lane Brooks

Lane Brooks is Chief Operating Office of Food & Water Watch

Lane Brooks, COO, Food & Water Watch

 

We are used to groundless attacks from Big Ag and Big Energy, such as the silly effort that industry shill “Dr. Evil” mounted against us.

We are also used to elected officials pushing policy that helps their richest donors become even richer at the expense of the public.

Now it looks like the industry PR machine really is taking over our institutions of democracy to combine these two trends. The minority staff of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has issued a report that might as well be a post from the Koch Brothers.

The name of the report gives you a good picture of the tone: “The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.” Really? The 92-page report doesn’t get around to mentioning that many of the organizations they cite are actually supporting pretty weak efforts that are giving industry a pass. Only in the land of the loony is the Walton Family Foundation (of Wal-Mart fame) a vanguard of progressive action in the public interest.

Congress is on track to become the worst performing congress in the history of the nation, yet they have time to spend your tax dollars attacking the environmental movement. It’s no surprise that the Committee includes water carriers for industry and climate change deniers, David Vitter of Louisiana and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.  

It would be laughable except that the report has a chilling point. They are attacking the idea that tax-deductible organizations can work on public policy. They are trying to silence any organization that has the courage to stand up for the public interest. We will not be silenced and you will be hearing more about this effort in the future.

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July 24th, 2014

Q&A With “Resistance” Filmmaker Michael Graziano

By Katy Kiefer

“Resistance” filmmaker Michael Graziano and his daughter, Tess

Michael Graziano, the filmmaker behind Resistance, a ground-breaking new film on the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, took time to answer some of our burning questions. Like many of us, Graziano isn’t a scientist or a doctor, but decided that this was a story the public urgently needed to hear. Keep reading to learn more about his experience making the film and what you can do to help curb antibiotic resistance. 

Q: What made you decide to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance?

A: Our previous film Lunch Line was about the history and politics of the National School Lunch Program. In the process of making and touring that film we learned a lot about public health and became acquainted with a number of agriculture and public health advocacy groups. Through that work we started hearing about MRSA (resistant staph) infections in school locker rooms, day care centers and the like. At the same time we also started hearing about the overuse of antibiotics on farms. I decided to look more into the issue and was shocked by what I learned. I thought the problem deserved a closer, and more generally accessible examination than I could find at the time.   

Q: What was the biggest or most surprising thing you learned in the process of making the film?

A: There are a few. One is that there are basically no new antibiotics in the pharmaceutical pipeline, and even if a new compound were discovered today it could easily take 10 years and $1 billion for that compound to become a clinically useful medicine. To make matters worse, the large investment in time and money required for antibiotic development, along with some other factors addressed in the film, has caused many pharma companies to shutter their antibiotic development units so there are now only a small handful of companies actually doing this critical research.   Read the full article…

July 14th, 2014

Organizing is Not Glamorous… But It’s Powerful

By Jessica Wohlander

Jessica Wohlander (left) and Jacob Abaraoha, Food & Water Watch interns, practice canvassing in Brooklyn.

If you are an intern at Food & Water Watch in Brooklyn (like me), Eric Weltman will take you out for coffee on your first day. He will talk about the organization for a while, explain what “bird-dogging” is, and inevitably tell you that organizing work is not glamorous. You know that already, but it isn’t until you’ve spent two solid weeks trying to phone bank your way through a list of nearly 3,000 names with a gaggle of volunteers that you understand what he means. Having the same conversation or leaving the same message on answering machines 3,000 times is not glamorous work.

Yet when the day of the rally has arrived, and you’re wandering around with a clipboard asking every individual in a crowd of over 500 if they’ve signed in, one of those 500 faces might stop you. In this case, the rally was to tell Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York.

“You work with Food & Water Watch?” they might ask. “What’s your name? I think you’re the one who called me. I wouldn’t be here right now, if you hadn’t made that phone call. Thank you.”

And then you realize that you are a part of something much bigger, and those hours on the phone with individuals have created momentum towards real change. You chat with them for awhile, and they pick you out of the crowd at the next rally to say hello, and suddenly you are not just a volunteer making phone call after phone call in a big noisy room in Brooklyn, but a part of a very large community with a very specific purpose and a growing voice to create real social change. And when you chant the chants at that next rally, you realize that you can shout them out with a little more enthusiasm and a lot more confidence.

My experience interning at Food & Water Watch has taught me that together, through organizing, we are unstoppable. A statewide ban on fracking is possible!

Jessica Wohlander is an intern with Food & Water Watch in Brooklyn.

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