Out of touch

I haven’t written a blog lately.  I had my initial flurry of activity and passion over it and then, boom, I began the doubt the relevance of my personal thoughts.

I hope its simply a phase, brought on by the fact that I haven’t had much time to think or to act.  At least, that is what I rationalize to be the cause.

Truthfully, deep inside, I find myself feeling out of touch with the world.  I find my opinions, on both mundane and important topics, to be out of sync with most people’s thinking.  Self doubt has crept in.

Some people see me as being smart and perhaps that is true to some extent, but I find the whole notion of intelligence to be merely a label for something much broader than the standard definition.  Everyone is blessed with a gift, be it in kindness, communications, empathy, rational thinking, problem solving, physical gifts, artistic or musical.  Everyone has a gift.

Practical intelligence strikes me mostly as common sense. My thoughts don’t seem so brilliant to me, but to my surprise I can’t find a lot people who think similarly as of late.

To illustrate, not to debate the issue, but to demonstrate what I feel, let me walk you through what is going on with my evolution of thought on this whole Ligonier Township Rezoning and Ordinance restructuring.

Prior to this issue surfacing, people could have rightly labeled me as fracking neutral or pro fracking.  I own a business, I believe in capitalism, I believe in free markets, I believe in property rights, etc..  I didn’t know much about the concept but it sure sounded good. Fracking wasn’t particularly relevant to my world.  It wasn’t happening where I live or so I thought.

Then I catch wind of the changes in Ligonier.  It’s coming.  It’s my personal responsibility to educate myself as to what may be something important.  I do what I do about anything that interests me; I do research.  Open minded research. Remember, at worst, I am fracking neutral.  So confirmation bias would lead me to look for things to confirm what I already believe.

It’s not a complicated issue.  It’s not hard to grasp the technology.  The most disturbing thing I find is that the issue is controversial. It’s not black and white.  There appear to some pros and there appear to be some cons.  This is not what I expected.

It looks as if it has real economic benefits to property owners who may benefit from a lease, but the economic benefits to entire populations are murky.  The benefits come in the form of catch phrases and generalized statements, like jobs and economic development.  No hard facts, no real numbers to crunch.  I am sure there has to be some economic benefit but at what costs?  I find this is no different than anything else economically, there is no free lunch.

It’s an industrial activity regardless of where it is physically located on a map. It has a track record, an undeniable track record, of potentially causing environmental damage frequently; its documented.  Many try to say that it is not fracking that has caused these issues, but unreliable handling of the waste byproducts (waste water, etc); that is the real issue.  My common sense tells me, well if you weren’t fracking, you wouldn’t have dangerous waste byproducts.

In working the new map and ordinance our leaders point out how they’re protecting public water supplies from danger. On the other hand they seem to disregard how many people in the township rely on private wells.  They propose that setbacks, pad sizes and other protections to allegedly protect the aquifers that supply these wells.

Anyone who has had a geology 101 class in college, or can ask the right question on Google, can tell you this assertion is not demonstrable.

After all this research, I have cause for concern, just simple concern. However, I find myself in the apparent minority on the issue. The vast majority of people appear to have little or no worry about the potential negative consequences or think we are all going to strike it rich.  For the life of me, I don’t understand why. I am concerned.

I ask why have entire states and entire countries banned fracking? If it is good, it is good, right? I get no intelligent responses.

I look at Ligonier and I view it as largely a bedroom community, with some local merchants, restaurants and support industry to serve the immediate area.  It is a place where the fortunate have second homes, tourism and recreation are major contributors to the economy.

The economy is pretty stable and I wouldn’t think anyone would classify our area, the township in particular, as economically disadvantaged per se; that would be quite a stretch.  It’s not like fracking is going to save us.  Save us from what?  We’re doing fine.

I have never, ever resented the professional and financial success of another person or another person’s lineage.  You go back far enough in any well to do family’s history and you will find someone came to their success the old fashioned way.  Someone, in the here and now or in the past, worked hard, worked smart, played fair and lived the American dream. We should celebrate that and I do.

However, now in the pursuit of this American dream, should we throw away common sense and the cost/benefit analysis of this new technology and say, I am willing to risk the health and well being of many others, so that I and a few others can make a lot of money and be well to do?  Dollars for lives?  Dollars aren’t a measure of the quality of life.  I am talking about the health and well being of ourselves and our neighbors.

More amazing is that those who stand to have no financial gain, whatsoever, are willing to put their own property, the health of themselves and their families on the line, so that a few others can profit?  “My turn will come, I know it.”

Should we go all in right from the get go?  We are that sure of the outcome across the board?  We really have it all figured out?

Even more awe striking to me is that when you step back and look at the chain of events that has lead us to where we are today, a reasonable person would not be faulted for thinking the whole process seems orchestrated, preordained and being rammed through despite public opinion.

  1. You have the move to go from three to five supervisors.
  2. You have an election where those elected to the created slots were funded by a PAC which is gas and oil friendly.
  3. We hire a full time manager with the hiring process handled by a public agency that is overtly gas and oil friendly.
  4. You hire a consulting firm to handle the new map and ordinance that is a member of the Marcellus Gas Coalition.
  5. You have a planning commission member employed by the same firm.
  6. You have a planning commission member and a supervisor with leases in hand.
  7. You take a public vote without discussion or debate after hearing 25 citizens voice their concerns.

I assume it is legal, but is it concerning? Is it good public representation? No one bats an eye.

You look at the new map and see it is regressive.  It goes from more restrictive to less restrictive.  No one bats an eye.

I ask questions that are as obvious as the nose on your face and I am a troublemaker and a loud mouth; all because at the end of the day, I have a private water well that is at risk, I am concerned and the entire thing seems almost surreal.

I actually have no metrics for public opinion but to the naked eye it appears the vast majority is totally indifferent to their futures, reluctant to speak or haven’t the slightest clue as to what is taking place, pro or con. Based upon what discussion I have seen, read and heard, of those who make their opinions known, more are outright concerned, than those who claim to be absolutely for it. Not that I think anyone’s opinion really matters, as our leadership appears to not be listening.

All I have on my side is research on the topic, common sense, a call for fair play and due process and I am in the minority?  I am in the minority?  What matrix is everyone else in?  What has everyone else figured out, that I seem incapable of deciphering?

More and more our nation and its elected representatives are not responsive to the wishes and needs of their constituents.  It is fact.  Public opinion polls bare this fact out consistently, regardless of party affiliation.  The average American thinks our political system is a train wreck.  It is not much different at the state and county level.

I see a small opportunity here, in Ligonier Township, to take our governance back.  Demand our elected officials be accountable to the general public, not special or personal interests, and do this right.

I don’t want a ban on anything, but I expect the process to be handled intelligently and slowly to make sure we get it right  or, if not, can make adjustments along the way. I do not hear any private citizens yelling at the top of their lungs, full speed ahead! Is that really radical thinking?

When will people wake up and realize they have a say in their lives?  You don’t have to have things forced upon you.  You can say slow down.

So you can see why I am feeling a little out of touch these days.  I look at issues with a common sense and logical perspective based upon thorough research and I stand, basically, alone.

When it comes to writing blogs that personally matter, I am frankly at a loss of words lately. I am just out of touch.

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