I got this book as a Christmas gift last year. I honestly didn’t even know what the topic was when I picked up the book. I began reading and realized this one was hitting close to home.
Jennifer Haigh’s book “Heat and Light,” takes place in a town called Bakerton which had been built on the coal industry, but had fallen on hard times as coal lost favor. A company comes into town, selling the story of natural gas, trying to convince residents that allowing fracking on their farms would save their futures.
Residents wrestle with their choices. What is best for their families financially? How do their choices affect their neighbors? Will those that fight simply be left behind with nothing as the fracking moves forward all around them? And will those who stand up leave their neighbors with no future?
Here in our town residents have been battling against an asphalt plant that would be established in a residential area within 1.5 miles of two elementary schools and a preschool. The fight has dragged on in court for years and then, suddenly, local officials settled with the company, hoping to get something out of the mess. Residents were outraged and the discord and discourse continues. More lawsuits. More fights. So many issues mirrored those in the book.
My take action message is this one — STAY INFORMED. It was stunning to me how many people didn’t even know about this asphalt fight until the settlement was made. Some felt like it wasn’t very close to them. Some felt like it was a lost cause. Some just really didn’t care. The ones that made me sad were those that really, really did care but just hadn’t known until there was little left to do.
As the realities set in, I think people realized all the ways our environment could be affected. We draw from local groundwater. What might leach into the soil and our water supply? Even if there are air quality controls on the factory, what is the impact as the open-topped trucks travel through town each day? What is the traffic impact of these enormous trucks trying to pull out onto a main road?
So my take action message for today is to stay informed about what is going on in your community, especially as it pertains to the environment. It matters.