Hands Across Riverdale: Occupy Well Street Responds to Fracking Refugees

Today begins my blog about the extraordinary events at Riverdale Mobile Home Community. We are at day 5 (though really day 6 if we are counting the vigil–and I would–on May 29th). I am, I have to say, just bursting with things to say about this experience. So this blog is both personal and political–in the best tradition of the feminist, social justice, and environmental philosophy and activism that I have tried to live for many years. Let me begin by inviting comments, corrections, revisions, suggestions, and constructive criticisms. I am one observer/participant in these events, and I don’t pretend to any god’s eye view. I also wish I’d begun this days ago–but my hope is that I can offer something of a timeline and then an ongoing account of how the world is being changed in myriad positive ways at Riverdale.

Very briefly, Riverdale is the site of the proposed construction of a water withdrawal site for frack operations in the Jersey Shore/Williamsport region–an epicenter of the fracking universe. Aqua America/PVR bought the land from the landowner in the early Spring of 2012, and thereby commenced to evict the park’s residents. I think it clear that the site was chosen not only because it had been zoned as light industrial, but because Aqua/PVR surely believed that the residents were unlikely to have either the resolve or the funds to put up much of a fight against this encroachment on their homes. You can bet your bottom dollar that had this been a middle class neighborhood of houses, Aqua/PVR wouldn’t have determined to locate the water withdrawal facility here. And that, for me, is one of the crucial elements of this story. These are not merely houses we’re talking about.

These are people’s homes, and as I talked a little bit about in my remarks at the opening vigil, home is not simply a place–it is that place where one can feel safe, where one can feel connected, belonging, whole. What has been ripped away from the residents of Riverdale are their homes, and that is a violation of what I regard as a fundamental human right to security. What Aqua America/PVR didn’t count on, however, was the strength of this community, the resolve and intelligence of its members, and the passion with which they understand–even if Aqua/PVR doesn’t–the meaning of “home.”

This resolve has now given rise to a new kind of “home.” One constructed–literally–out of the decimation of the mobile home houses of Riverdale. Over the next few days, I will try to capture this “home,” the creation of this deliberate community of resistance. But suffice it for now to say that it’s composition includes the remaining Riverdale residents, a collection of activists, citizens and children in whose faces you can see the passion, the significance of what it means to defend this community, to stand up for the meaning of “home.” I am no photographer, but I have taken about 500 pictures over the last days, and in each one is a moment of this movement for social justice, this emergence of a community in the most organic ecologically coherent sense: We are bound by a common mission, and that mission is not just to save Riverdale, but to BE a living representation of the meaning, the integrity, and the dignity of “home,” of “community,” of human decency, democratic decision-making, and joy.

This last word is important. There is so very much JOY in this emergent community. I pop in and out of people’s doing-of-things with my camera. I see work, and smiling, and laughter–even though we have all dealt with rain on top of rain on top of rain. I have watched people improvise to make shelter, to keep things clean, to make things work better for everyone. And I have seen so much talking, the sharing of ideas, the making of observations. We are all learning from one another–and this WILL change us all.

So, right now I must get back in my car. I am packing my backpack and by sleeping bag in hopes of staying tonight. Today is a key day in the ongoing life of Occupy Riverdale. Then again, every day is key day in the life of a community as vibrant and purposeful as this.

Wendy Lynne Lee

For my series of pictures taken every day of the Occupation, please click on “photos” at: http://www.facebook.com/wendy.l.lee (Raging Chicken Press will also be publishing these photos).

For an excellent account of the events at Riverdale, please see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stanley-rogouski/fracking_b_1566162.html

and: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stefanie-penn-spear/grassroots-activism-and-environmentalism_b_1559586.html

For video of these events, please see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZtAMqtEr3A&feature=youtu.be

And if you’re still not done educating yourself about this human and environmental catastrophe called fracking, please see my ongoing series right here at Raging Chicken.

Wendy Lynne Lee | Professor of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University


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