In recent months, the state of New York has been a focal point in the broader public debate over hydraulic fracturing. Activists in the state have teamed with musicians (in the loosest possible definition of the term) and Los Angeles movie stars to try to block shale development from occurring.
Hollywood’s finest, including Robert Redford and airline aficionado Alec Baldwin, as well as celebrities like meat-suit-wearing Lady Gaga have expended great effort in trying to undermine scientific conclusions about the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
Meanwhile, unemployment remains unacceptably high in the areas of upstate New York where prospective natural gas development would be located. So, it was with perhaps little surprise that when the voters in the Southern Tier had their say at the ballot box last week, they sent a clear message that they’ve had enough of “artists” telling them how to live their lives.
As the Associated Press reported, candidates opposing hydraulic fracturing “were beaten up and down the ballot after intense campaigns, some of which were framed as referendums on shale gas development.”
Translation: bring all the tambourines and celebrity star power you want, but facts will win the day, and the people have spoken.
Not to be rebuffed by democracy, “Artists Against Fracking” founders Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon – best known for breaking up the Beatles and, well, being the son of the lady who broke up the Beatles, respectively – have paid for a huge billboard that says “Imagine There’s No Fracking.” Naturally, the sign is in New York City, far away from both where development will actually occur and the people who voted overwhelmingly in favor of such development.
The group claims that the billboard was placed on a route that Andrew Cuomo frequently travels, meaning they’re clearly trying to tell the governor to ignore the voters and ban hydraulic fracturing. To be fair, they could have put the billboard in Elmira or Horseheads or anywhere else in the Southern Tier, but after the thumping that opponents of responsible natural gas development took at the polls, it’s probably for the best that they kept their toxic message far away from the people it would most severely impact.
What Yoko, Sean, Ms. Gaga, Jack Donaghy, and the countless other wannabe “experts” don’t understand is that in upstate New York, people don’t have to “imagine” anything. There’s effectively been a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing since 2008 throughout the state. The lack of jobs (unemployment in the Southern Tier is above the national average) means upstate New Yorkers are actually living in a world without responsible natural gas development – not just singing about it on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and pretending it’s somehow paradise.
If there’s one thing to be learned from the recent elections, it’s that New York voters are done with the games and grand charade. They want jobs and they want futures for their families, and last week they voted for both.
Hopefully they won’t have to “imagine” a better life for much longer.