Amity and Prosperity – Book Review

No one should be sacrificed in the name of energy.

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America could be anyone’s story and that is why you should read this book by Eliza Griswold.

Not long ago, I was scrolling down the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018 list, when I spotted Amity and Prosperity. I instantly knew I wanted to read the book and the holiday season seemed the perfect occasion to do it.

At this time of year, our hearts are filled generosity and goodwill towards other people. Juxtaposed against this are rampant consumerism and a significant boost in fossil fuel use as people crank up their heaters, cook and bake holiday foods, light up homes and neighborhoods, ship packages overnight, and fly across the country to enjoy festivities with family and friends.

The thing is that mining for coal, drilling for oil, and fracking for natural gas are industrial activities with terrible side effects especially for the people who live where it occurs. This is not okay. We need to get off fossil fuels and protect everyone’s right to clean air, water, and a habitable planet to live on.

In Amity and Prosperity, Griswold brings to life the stories of real people struggling to live their lives in the shadow of the ever-expanding natural gas fracking industry in Appalachia. It is easy to look away or say you do not want to read or hear about it, but I believe we all have a responsibility to find out what is really going on in our country and then try to change it.

Book Review

Appalachia is a place of natural beauty with warm-hearted patriotic people living on land abundant in energy resources like coal, oil, and natural gas. Many families have lived in the same area and even on the same land for generations. Over 150 years of mining and drilling for fossil fuels has taken a heavy toll on the people and the land.

As you read Amity and Prosperity you will meet Stacey Haney, a nurse, and single mother, and her two children Harley and Paige as well as their neighbors, other family members, and people in and around the community of Amity in Washington County, Pennsylvania (yes, it is a real town). Attorneys, state and federal agency employees, and fracking industry representatives will also make appearances.

Amity and Prosperity Book CoverEliza Griswold and Stacey Haney met on March 23, 2011, at the Morgantown Airport at a West Virginia/Pennsylvania Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact meeting, where Stacey had spoken about living near a Marcellus shale natural gas fracking operation.

After the meeting, her daughter Paige said, “You did good, Mom. You only cried twice.”

The next day, Griswold visited the Haney’s for the first time. Over the course of seven years, she would make 37 trips and follow the stories of 45 people.

All Stacey Haney was asking for was to be able to get safe clean drinking water from her well so she and her kids could be healthy and live happily on their farm.

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all people.”

—Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Article 1, Section 27 Natural resources and the public estate (1967 amendment)

The Bottom Line

When poet, journalist, and author Eliza Griswold rode across a river in Nigeria on an empty oil drum in 2007, she did not know it would lead to writing Amity and Prosperity.

After visiting and writing about places like Nigeria, where extremely poor people live on land that is rich in energy resources, Griswold decided, she wanted to return home and tell the stories of the people who live where energy extraction takes place in the United States.

One thing that struck me while reading the book is that Griswold herself is inconspicuous, present but not seen. She allowed the people living in Washington County, Pennsylvania to tell their stories, often in their own words with seemingly very little interference from her. I like that.

Imagine the courage it would take to open up your life to public scrutiny.

Stacey Haney would probably have been satisfied to live her entire life without becoming the heroine of a book and chances are her children would have preferred that, too. Yet, courageously and honestly, they and others did share their daily lives and struggles with readers everywhere.

Somehow, I get the feeling that Stacey Haney would not care about being an inspiration to anyone, but she is to me.

Featured Image at Top: Part of an American Flag Reflected in Waterdrops – Photo Credit iStock/perkijl

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Rise for Climate Wherever You Are on September 8, 2018

Pick up a sign and voilà you are an activist.

On September 8, 2018, join people around the world who are taking part in the Rise for Climate day of action to demand jobs, justice, and 100% renewable energy.

Rise for Climate is a worldwide event with hundreds of actions planned for the Saturday before the Global Climate Action Summit that California Governor Jerry Brown is hosting in San Francisco September 12-14, 2018.

If you can make it to San Francisco, you have an opportunity to participate in what is shaping up to be the largest climate march ever to occur on the West Coast. You could be one of the thousands of people taking to the streets carrying signs and loudly informing government officials and corporate CEOs that you want green jobs, environmental justice, and a society powered by renewable energy, now.

This may sound silly, but I can attest to the magic of picking up a sign and carrying it in a march with people of every hue, ethnicity, age, gender, and religion who have come together for a common purpose.

Although I am still a fledgling activist, my transformation began on February 7, 2015, at the March For Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, California.

My spouse and I were part of a contingent from San Luis Obispo who had boarded a bus in the pouring rain at 6:30 that morning. It was our first time participating in a protest march with thousands of other people.

Sign for March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, CA on February 7, 2015Being a newbie, it did not occur to me that I needed a sign until after I got off the bus in Oakland.

Fortunately, a volunteer walked by and pointed out a collection of signs made by a group of artistic volunteers. The sign I selected must have had magical powers because as soon as I hefted it and waved it about I felt like an activist.

For those of you who cannot go to San Francisco (like me) look for an action closer to home or create your action (suggestions at the end of this post).

“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.” —Pauline R. Kezer

Global Climate Action Summit

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement an international climate agreement adopted at the 2015 United Nations Framework on Climate Change. A month later, Governor Jerry Brown announced that the State of California would convene the world’s climate leaders in San Francisco in September 2018 for the Global Climate Action Summit.

“President Trump is trying to get out of the Paris Agreement, but he doesn’t speak for the rest of America. We in California and in states all across America believe it’s time to act, it’s time to join together and that’s why at this Climate Action Summit we’re going to get it done.” —Governor Jerry Brown (07/06/17 press release)

You can read about the Summit on the Global Climate Action Summit website.

Rise for Climate Global Day of Action

Long before email notices began appearing in my inbox a month or so ago, the Rise for Climate steering committee was already hard at work putting this global day of action together. 350.org is spearheading the event using their formidable Internet only organizing platform, but hundreds of local people and groups on five continents are doing the actual planning and organizing.

Climate change is not some amorphous future problem. It is already contributing to extreme heat, flooding, wildfires, pollution, and drought devastating the lives of people all over the world. Bureaucratic negotiations have been dragging on for decades and are not getting the job done.

People are mobilizing on September 8 to bring attention to the Global Climate Action Summit and to tell our state and local leaders that we need them to step up, now.

“We need every local government and institution to commit to building 100% renewable energy and stopping new dirty energy projects in their community. Anything less than that is out of line with what science and justice demand.”

You can find out about the San Francisco march and other actions around the world on the Rise for Climate website.

If You Cannot Be There, You Can Still Take Action

On September 8, I will be aboard the California Zephyr Amtrak train on my way to a visit Nebraska with two long-time friends so I cannot make it to San Francisco. However, I can still do something for the Rise for Climate global day of action and so can you even if you have to work that day, have already made other plans, or just cannot make it to San Francisco or a local event.

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Spread the word about the Rise for Climate global day of action.
  • Talk to your family, friends, and/or coworkers about climate change and renewable energy.
  • Write a letter or call one or more of your state or local elected officials asking them to stop new fossil fuel projects and support renewable energy projects.
  • Walk, bike, or take public transportation to a place you would normally drive.
  • Call a local solar installer to make an appointment to evaluate your roof for solar panels.
  • Display a Rise for Climate poster in a visible location.
  • Follow the action on September 8 and share it on social media.
  • Wear a t-shirt promoting renewable energy.
  • Have some friends over to watch a film about oil and natural gas fracking or mountaintop removal coal mining.
  • Write a letter to the editor about Rise for Climate and/or the Global Climate Action Summit.
My Rise for Climate Actions

This blog post is a means of spreading the word and I will be promoting it on social media.

If this letter to the editor of the San Luis Obispo Tribune makes it into the paper, I will update this post.

2018-08-30 Rise for Climate San Luis Obispo Tribune Letter to the Editor

I printed the above posters to display on the windows of my train compartment and I made the flyer with a template. I have extras in case I meet any like-minded people on the train. I am grateful to the Rise for Climate artists that create flyers, posters, signs, banners, and other pieces of art for us to use (you can find them on the Rise for Climate website here).

What are you doing to Rise for Climate?

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” —Barack Obama

Update: The San Luis Obispo Tribune chose not to publish my letter. On the train, many people walking by my compartment at least looked at the posters including the Amtrak staff. I am a fan of train travel so using paper and markers provided by my friend, I made an “I heart trains” poster and taped it to my window.

Featured Image at Top: Rise for Climate signs ready for the San Francisco March on September 8, 2018 – Photo Credit 350.org on Flickr

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