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Presence in the Public Square

Lawyers Mall, Annapolis, MD

The letter below was published in the Republican newspaper 02/23/17.

To the Editor:

Once an aquifer, spring, or stream tributary is destroyed, it is gone forever. It is breathtakingly incredible that local and state officials would, by supporting fracking, sign away something as essential as the public drinking-water supply. The public’s interest needs to be represented – not only by our elected officials, but also by our citizens who are feeling more and more estranged.

Much of this destruction, devastation, and industrialization of our ecosystems has been accomplished with the willing and eager participation of many of our elected representatives, who seemingly do not recognize the social and regional decline facing their constituents. Corporate and political interests are aligned against what should be the public’s interest.

It’s time that the people be given a voice and presence in the public square instead of feeling that they have little control over continued exploitation and manipulation by outsiders.

Over the last 10 years, environmental degradation to our beautiful, natural landscape has occurred without the public’s knowledge, as closed-door negotiations among local and state government and energy companies take place. And there is very limited federal, state, and local regulatory oversight.

Henry Caudill, writing on Appalachia’s natural resources, got to the heart of the matter:

“Industry has always treated the mountains with contempt... protests while heard will produce little change. Since the year 1000, the discovery of immense new stores of resources coupled with endless technological innovations have elevated living standards enormously, but society is still essentially feudal, still fundamentally composed of barons and serfs.

The distinction is one of power. The industrialists – that is, the destroyers and polluters – are the barons. They sit in boardrooms where weight of limitless millions focuses. The serfs are the millions of one-vote citizens whose taxes subsidize and support the system. They can never reach the ear of a president or governor, and their usual, and usually worthless, way of asserting an opinion or preference is a letter to the editor. As was the case in feudal England, the barons blithely disregard them while acquiring new tax immunities, new special privileges, and new millions.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Let’s challenge our leaders to consult the better angels of their natures. For if they don’t stand up to protect our families, mountains, and our supply of drinking water, there’s little hope for much else. We need to wake the hell up and ban fracking now.

Friendsville, MD

Mr. Bambacus is a former state senator, representing Garrett and Allegany counties.

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