Raymond Beiersdorfer, Youngstown State University geology and environment sciences professor, organized a fall speaker series last year on the environmental concerns of fracking entitled “Fall Semester Speaking Series on Energy and the Environment.”
So far, there have been five talks, featuring guest speakers from Ohio State University, the University of Colorado and Purdue University. Beiersdorfer was the first to speak on Sept. 3, and said he wanted to take advantage of the university platform by teaching students, faculty and community members about hydraulic fracking.
“Last spring, I did two [talks],” Beiersdorfer said. “They were really well-received. Randy Dunn, former YSU president, said the campus had to be a marketplace for ideas: ‘Universities should educate people.’”
Beiersdorfer said the attendance at the talks, which take place every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Moser Hall Room 2000, has been moderate.
“The most we had was 40 people. We’ve been averaging in low 20s. I have been inviting local community leaders each week and none of them have shown up. Many members of the community are attending each week, but no people in positions of responsibility,” he said. “My personal opinion about the elected officials in Youngstown is that they do not want to learn about the risks of shale gas development. They have appeared, to me, to be willfully ignorant about the risks.”
Doug Fowler, a FrackFree America associate and former YSU professor, agrees with Beiersdorfer and said that persons in power most likely understand the risks, but have chosen to keep the information from the general public.
“It’s just so sad,” Fowler said. “Democracy can only function if the public continues to be educated. This is the new evolution; this is what nobody talks about now.”
Fowler said the type of fracking that occurs now is not the same drilling that took place many years ago.
“This is not the fracking of 40 years ago. We’ve set down these large scale gas and oil fields inside areas that are already settled,” Fowler said.
Fowler’s advice to students is conserve energy through small and simple steps.
“It’s okay to shop in a second-hand store. It’s okay to use second-hand books. The only way to save energy is to save energy, end of story. The solution is going to be developing alternative energy, scaling back our lives and thinking about the population,” he said.
Thomas Linzey, of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, will be speaking on Wednesday.
“I’ll be talking about how communities across the United States have begun to seize the authority to say ‘no’ to energy projects, even though the law is structured to give energy corporations more rights and powers than the communities in which they do business,” he said.
Linzey said he believes that individuals who wish to see change in legislation must start at a local level.
“The current system of law is rigged in favor of certain interests over community interests; it will take a community rights movement to change the law,” he said. “Most people think we live in a democracy, but when our communities don’t currently have the legal authority to say no to those things that harm them, then we don’t have a democracy.”
The series runs through November, and Beiersdorfer said plans are in the works for another series next semester.