A Better Vision
A Better Vision for the Valley was an inspirational conference organized by FreshWater Accountability Project and attended by many residents from the Ohio Valley, as well as representatives from numerous environmental groups. It took place on May 11, 2019, at Wheeling Jesuit College. Impactful speakers shared their knowledge about the environmental and public health crisis we are facing due to the oil and gas and petrochemical development in Appalachia.
The Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis gave a presentation entitled: “Fracking, Financial Risk & Our Future Economy.” Kathy Hipple provided a clear picture of the oil and gas industry’s financial insecurity, which was a motivating force to remain hopeful that the region would not get locked into an extractive-dependent future, and to continue to work towards the changes we want to see in our world.
Grow Ohio Valley spoke about the importance of securing healthy, and locally grown food and we saw great potential to do so in the region. The abandoned factories on both side of the river could be converted into greenhouses in our vision. Many sustainable economic development ideas were generated and participants began to see action steps they could take to move forward.
Acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of the Ohio Valley was made and respect given to their ancient ways of living in balance and harmony with the natural world. There was a time, not that long ago when you could drink the waters flowing in the Ohio River. Now it is the most polluted river in the country. We can re-learn the ancient ways of the indigenous people to live in harmony with nature and secure a happy and healthy future for our children.
Local county commissioners, city council members, economic development offices, and others were contacted and invited to the conference. We were disappointed that none of them attended, because we know how important it is to have local officials embrace an expanded view of the Ohio Valley’s future. We need a diversified economy, not one dependent on major polluters and the boom and bust cycle of fossil fuel industries. We want to break the trend of exploitation of vulnerable people here in Appalachia, who will take whatever jobs are offered due to the lack of viable economic opportunities, with decreasing health and increasing taxes due to the externalized costs of extractive industries.
A better vision is needed for the Ohio Valley. The continued plundering of our natural resources by the fossil fuel industry are resulting in an environmental and public health disaster. Even without considering the imminent and horrific threat of climate change, the damage to the region we see already due to fracking and its pipelines and infrastructure have altered our area from a beautiful countryside to an industrialized and polluting landscape. We have witnessed the devastating effects of coal mining and oil and gas exploration in the past. Just recently upon a recent visit to my mother’s childhood home, just a few miles upstream from the Ohio River in Belmont County Ohio, we were heartsick to find a drastically changed landscape and acid mining drainage from the coal mining that have destroyed the health and beauty of where my mother’s home once stood.