Blog post by Rachel Haberstroh, Fossil Free Fellow and Divestment Organizer at Brown University.

As part of my fellowship with this summer, I’ve been at work creating a presentation for New Yorkers Against Fracking to be used for educational and recruitment purposes. In a movement that coordinates many multiple community groups and often feels to be flying by the seat of its pants (emphasis on flying– it’s amazing what is pulled together), it has been difficult to set aside time for someone to assimilate all of the different arguments against high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, to read through all the reports and studies, watch all the movies, follow all the updates, and pull out the one-liners that communicate why we absolutely should not, and cannot afford to, frack in New York State or elsewhere. So the task fell to the summer interns- Greta Neubauer and me.

We were told to make it clean, make it clear, make it true, make it sexy.

And I’ll add here that we felt a bit spoiled. Many of my friends and colleagues were out in what may turn out to be the hottest summer on record, grinding on, making me proud. Sitting in the air-conditioned Dumbo office shared by Food and Water Watch and NYAF, I’ve spent my hours reading, watching, highlighting, taking notes, coordinating Google docs and eating Japanese-Mexican fusion tacos from a food truck (hey, we’re in Brooklyn…).

office space

As we finish up the presentation this week, I’ve come to realize that this may be the most important work that I could be doing right now, for this movement. I don’t say this to mean that what I’m working on is more vital than action-planning or community outreach or media strategy or the other great things folks are working on. I mean that, to effectively fight the natural gas industry, we got to have our facts straight.

I say that because dinner parties might be the most treacherous of battlegrounds. And I’m not joking. Together with dinner parties I would add restaurant meals with your partner’s parents, parties at your friend’s apartment, and any other social situations where you meet new people, they ask you what you’re doing for the summer, and you tell them you’re working against fracking.

One of the hardest things for me, in the climate movement as a whole, has been talking about it with others who don’t particularly care, or who think its funny, or who are tired of my ‘hippie crap’, or who actively think I’m crazy. It isn’t easy being green. And it can be challenging to talk about something you really care about, and spend a lot of time thinking about, without making it sound as if you think you’re somehow more enlightened than your peers or that they should feel guilty for not yelling as loudly, or even attending your rally.

So when it comes up over dinner, I put on my best “I’m a friendly well-meaning college student!” smile and brace myself. Not because I don’t want people to have questions and disagree with me, but because I’m still learning to play ball. I want to have the answers, and I want to be convinced by my answers. I’m still horrified by conversations I had early on where I was stunned by a fact I hadn’t heard before-

But Solyndra failed!

The EU is investigating Germany’s Renewable Energy Act…

What about methane from cows?

Feeling particularly self-conscious to be advocating a change from the status quo, to be asking for what is essentially a complete re-design of our world’s energy system, I would stutter, blush, and back down, tail beneath my legs, white flag flying. It would feel awful.

I’m not speaking for others here. For me, it has always been hard to step out there. I’ve felt tepid claiming my place in a ‘movement’, as a member in a ‘fight’ against fossil fuels. Instead, I took on mostly behind-the-scenes roles, painting banners, designing flyers, having dorm room conversations with close friends.

It has started to feel like that isn’t enough. Most people who know me well seem to be supportive. It’s those darn dinner parties, those new people, for whom I may possibly represent the entire work of activists everywhere, whom I feel I must convince, or at least gain the respect of.

So the conversation begins. The oft-cited arguments are tried-

But what about jobs?

Isn’t it a transition fuel?

I think it’s worth it to be independent from foreign oil.

But this time is different. I’ve read all those studies, all those articles. I know who funded what campaign. I know which reports are reliable and which aren’t.

Job estimates are greatly inflated, and most workers come from out of state.

Once infrastructure is put in place, it will be used for years to come.

It is feasible for New York to be completely fueled by wind, water, and sunlight.

This summer I discovered that armed with the right facts, I no longer feel vulnerable in those conversations. Fully researching and digesting as much as I can about fracking has been enormously satisfying and has given me courage and security because I can tell you with absolute certainty: fracking sucks.

I won’t say I know it all. That might be impossible. But I’ve got a lot of it under my belt, and I’ve looked at enough different perspectives to feel confident that my information is not too biased, and that it is accurate. Most of all, I’ve found that being informed means I’m never afraid of sounding like a airheaded flowerchild or uninformed pansy or kool-aid chugging anarchist.

Because I’m not. We aren’t. The facts are in and they should be LOUDER than any money or shiny advertisements or industry executives. The fact that 50% of wells fail over the first 3o years, or that our water supply could be irreparably contaminated, or that we don’t even need fossil fuels anymore, is more convincing than political pandering.

So let’s all read up. It’s clean, clear, true, and sexy.

And it feels good.