Why I Attended the PA Climate Convergence in Harrisburg June 10-13

When people ask me why I got involved in the anti-fracking movement, I tell them that I came for the water and stayed for the climate. I’d been in the movement for about a year when Cornell University’s Tony Ingraffea and Bob Howarth, along with their colleague Renee Santoro, published their letter in 2011 on methane’s role in global warming and were among those named Time Magazine’s “People Who Mattered” for their efforts.

My work since then has, unfortunately, taught me that state leaders do the industry’s bidding. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d spend more of my time fighting my government than fighting the industry. In 2018, frontline and grassroots organizations came together to found the Better Path Coalition. At our kick-off rally nearly four years ago, we came with no asks of our government. Instead, we rallied in the Capitol rotunda to announce to our government that we were committed to forging a better path to a clean, renewable energy future and a government that is responsive to its people.

We knew that standalone actions have little impact, that it takes sustained actions to make change. We wanted to be the drumbeat. We were doing a pretty good job of it. And then the pandemic hit.

Like everyone else, we struggled at first to figure out how to do our work if we couldn’t gather together in our communities or in Harrisburg. We’ve found ways to organize online and have even been in Harrisburg a couple of times.

But that is not enough.

When the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report came out in February 2022, the need for a serious call to action was clear.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”

Pennsylvania’s government has barely taken even half measures when it comes to addressing climate change. Examples abound. At a time when Pennsylvania should be taking aggressive steps to phase out greenhouse gas production, our state leads in natural gas industry growth as of 2021.

And when our government should be prompted by the IPCC report to take aggressive steps to phase out greenhouse gas production, rather than allow it to keep growing, our elected officials are cheering the soon to be online Shell plastics plant in Beaver County and the proposed Nacero gas to gasoline refinery in Lucerne County, while preparing to turn western Pennsylvania into a snake oil solution fantasy land of Carbon Capture and Storage and Blue (gas) Hydrogen and the entire state into a massive web of greenhouse gas emitting pipelines. Every one of those projects means more fossil fuel production and business as usual for the companies that are robbing people and future generations of their health.

This is why we’re going to Harrisburg in big numbers to demand climate action NOW!

Whether the issue is fracking, PFAS chemicals, plastics, air quality, environmental justice or the health of families and future generations, we need you. Bring your families. We want the voices of the young who are inheriting an increasingly uninhabitable planet to be the loudest.

We need our elected leaders to step up on climate action. We need to do it together and we need to do it in Harrisburg. That’s why we’ve organized the Pennsylvania Climate Convergence. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s columnist Will Bunch, who will moderate a panel of youth climate leaders on Saturday, is part of the lineup along with fracking author and activist Sandra Steingraber and Rolling Stone journalist Justin Noble. After a rally on Sunday, we’ll march on the Capitol. We’ll deliver a petition on Monday and install 6’ Climate Countdown Clock installed in the East Wing of the Capitol.

Karen Feridun, Co-founder, Better Path Coalition