"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men." —Rachel Carson
The task: Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find it here:
Search for papers within 25 miles of zip code
The reason: Letters to the Editor are a highly popular section in newspapers
(second only to horoscopes!), and they are, on-line or on paper, powerful
influencers of public opinion. Governor Cuomo's office reads them.
General suggestions for submission (but check your local paper's own guidelines for letters as well):
- Send your letter as direct email text, not as an attachment.
- Only send to one newspaper and don't post on a blog or send to any other outlet.
The newspaper will want an exclusive.
- Whittle your letter down to 200 words or less. Fewer than 150 words is best.
Brevity is a virtue. The shorter it is, the more likely it will be published. Sometimes,
just a few sentences can make a powerful, memorable point.
- If you cite a statistic or study, include a link to your source so that the editor can easily fact-check.
- Include your name, email address, mailing address, and phone number. Often, the editorial
staff will call to confirm that you are, indeed, the author of the submitted letter.
- A friendly phone call the next day to ensure the editor received your letter also increases your chances of publication.
- Use your own words. And avoid sarcasm, a narrative strategy that works much better in speech than in writing.
Possible topics (choose one of the below or invent your own):
- The regs. For those who participated in
Thirty Days of Fracking Regs,
explain why you spent your winter holiday time writing public comments on the DEC's proposed
fracking regulations. Feel free to repurpose one of your best comments to use as an example!
Feel free to say how you expect the DEC to respond to the 204,000 comments it received. Background sources
- The new polls. The January 17 Siena Poll shows overall opposition to fracking among
New York residents has grown by 10 percent since the December 3 poll and now stands at 44
percent, with only 40 percent of New Yorkers in favor. Upstate New Yorkers now oppose
fracking 51-38 percent. That, too, represents a jump. (In December, the split was 45
percent to 39 percent.) Furthermore, the majority of people with incomes lower than $50,000
oppose fracking. It is clear that public opinion is turning against fracking all over the state.
Feel free to offer reasons for this trend, along with some words of advice for Governor Cuomo. Here's the
and here's the
(see question 41) for comparison. News analysis
- The new study from Colorado. A study just out in the journal
Environmental Science and Technology
found that over half of the volatile pollutants in the outdoor air in Erie, Colorado come
from nearby natural gas operations. Researchers know that because the "chemical
signature" in the gas emissions differentiates them from air pollution from
other sources, like automobile tailpipes. Because the emissions of drilling and
fracking operations can now be fingerprinted, so to speak, the science suddenly
looks much worse for an industry that could previously hide behind the claim that
their contributions to air pollution are negligible. Volatile pollutants are the
raw material for the creation of ground-level ozone, which is linked to childhood
asthma and risk of heart attack and stroke in adults. Fee free to include your personal
experience with either of those problems. Press release with amazing video
- The Marcellus ban. The Town of Marcellus has banned fracking by a 5-0 vote of its town board.
Notably, the Town of Marcellus is the namesake for the Marcellus Shale because it's one place in
New York State where the methane-suffused bedrock actually emerges out of the ground as rocky
outcroppings. If you want to touch the Marcellus Shale, take a day trip to the village of Marcellus.
Where fracking is now banned. Take that, Marcellus Shale Coalition! (For an extra twist, google the
name "Marcellus," and ruminate on its Roman Empire origins. Poor General Marcellus: in the end,
he was run through by a spear. Hmmm…) Would you like your town board to follow the example of Marcellus,
New York? What message do town bans send to Governor Cuomo? News story
Please vary wildly from any of the above themes or go your own way entirely. The more informed and distinct
your point of view, the more likely it will attract an editor's interest. If your letter is published,
send me a link. If not, don't despair. Your letter may have helped someone else's letter find its
way into print. When an editor reads a pile of letters on a single topic, he or she concludes the issue
must be of urgent concern and so is more likely moved to print one of them.
All together, our words will be the rising tide that raises all the anti-fracking ships. Now get to work!