Lingering Questions

Having an unexpected chance at a last-minute final column for Metroland, is a blessing and a curse. No pressure, after an almost-12-year run. At first I scrambled to try to assemble a column on one of the topics I hadn’t gotten to, wanting to just continue as I had been, but over the holidays and it being a big topic, I couldn’t pull it together properly.

Instead, I will leave you with a distinctly non-exhaustive spattering of some questions I didn’t get to, or that I (and plenty others) have written about but remain important and unanswered, some rhetorical, some deeply not. Though Metroland was one important place we could have conversations like these, it needn’t be the only one. Continue reading

Pipeline Whack-a-Mole

Didn’t I write this column already?

The one where I say, hey, it’s so awesome that New York state banned fracking, but companies are still trying to criss-cross our state with new pipelines that allow gas fracked in other places to get to market—whether that market is New England, or abroad via tankers.

The one where I explain how these companies who care for nothing but a quick buck and destroying the climate in the process are using eminent domain and federal regulations to force us to allow them to transport stuff across our state that (a) does not benefit us and (b) needs to stay in the ground for the future of humanity.

Oh right, I did. Continue reading

Safe Trains

As regular readers may know, I’m a big fan of train travel. I intend to be taking a train home from New Orleans in less than a month. It will pass through Philadelphia, as do the trains I take to and from DC regularly.

And given the awful derailment of last week I’m sure all of us on the train will have a moment of held breath as we approach that curve, even though we know that statistically we’re probably still safer than if we were driving on a highway, and even though we know that the disaster has finally prompted long-promised speed controls on that curve, even while it hasn’t shaken loose the bare minimum funding we need to upgrade the whole system to keep pace with the rest of the world.

Many people have in response to the derailment held forth at some length about the terrible shame that is the underfunding of our train system, and how it not only makes us the laughingstock of the industrialized world, but also is, clearly, dangerous. So I won’t repeat what they had to say.

But here’s what else I’ll be wondering on that trip: when I return home to Albany, will my kids be able to meet me at the top of the stairs? Will they have been allowed to watch my train pull in, and others out, and feel the magic of the train yard, and imagine as they watch where a train might take them? Continue reading

The Fight Comes to Us

If you have paid even a modicum of attention to the climate justice fight over the past couple years, you have probably been aware of both the movement to keep fracking out of New York state, and the fight to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from North Dakota and the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, from being built.

If you are like some of us, you have admired the ranchers, farmers, and First Nations people along that pipeline and in the tar sands itself who have been creatively and consistently and bravely saying they want no part in this horrendous environmental catastrophe that is destroying communities in the short term and threatening to keep us from being able to head off catastrophic climate change in the not-that-much-longer-term. You might have wondered whether you would do the same if you lived in these threatened communities, and felt quietly grateful you did not.

Well, now you do. Continue reading