Sandra Steingraber, is a New York State anti-natural gas activist extraordinaire, teacher, eco-biologist, author, and parent. She is also a cancer survivor- a cancer linked to drinking water contamination. She has written several books including Living Downstream: an Ecologists Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, and Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. The book is named after her son and is about all of our children, ourselves, and our friends and families that are being raised and living on the contemporary earth. In it she reminds us that there are thousands of human made toxic chemicals including at least 200 known brain poisons that flow freely in our economy.
Today Steingraber is in jail, again, standing up for all of us. She is defending us against a corporate economic culture that cares about profit and expansion and not much else. A few years back, when she was again in the Chemung County Jail, this time over an “Earth Day” remembrance, she said about he choice to go to jail ” A heroic narrative is a substantial one. Against all odds, it is possible that standing up can make a difference. Every person has the opportunity to have a heroic narrative in their lives, and so when our children ask- Are we going to die, it is the beginning of a heroic narrative to say, No- I am on the job, I will help make a difference.”
Steingraber published a new letter from the Chemung County Jail in EcoWatch. “Why I am in Jail” is excerpted below.
EcoWatch, 21 November, 2014
Breakfast in the Chemung County Jail is served at 5 a.m. This morning—Friday, November 21, 2014—it was Cheerios and milk plus two slaps of universally-despised “breakfast cake.” Along with trays of food—which are passed through the bars—arrive the morning rounds of meds for the inmates who take them. Now comes my favorite time of day in jail—the two quiet hours between breakfast and 7 a.m. before the television clicks on and we are ordered to make our beds and the loud day begins. Between the end of breakfast and 7 a.m., most women go back to sleep. Now I can hear only the sounds of their breathing—different rhythms all—and, on the far side of the steel door—the occasional voices of the C.O.s (correction officers, a.k.a. the guards) and the walkie-talkie orders they themselves are receiving.
I have come to believe that a successful civil disobedience campaign likewise depends on the willingness of at least some of us to gladly accept jail time over other kinds of sentences, such as paying fines.
There are four reasons for this. First, it shows respect for the law. In my case, I was arrested for trespassing on the driveway of a Texas-based energy company that has the sole intention of turning the crumbling salt mines underneath the hillside into massive gas tanks for the highly-pressurized products of fracking: methane, propane and butane. (The part of the plan involving methane storage has already been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). Even before the infrastructure for this gas storage is built, Crestwood Midstream has polluted the lake with salt, at levels that exceed its legal limits. Crestwood’s response is to pay a fine and keep polluting. By contrast, I refuse to pay a fine to excuse my crime and so accepted the lawful consequences of my actions.