- The East-West divide. Numerous westerners, folks from Texas and Wyoming who have been living with the effects of the fossil fuel industry (and fracking in particular) for years, professed themselves thankful that this issue has finally hit the east. They weren't wishing their ill luck on us--they were just pointing out that until fracking became a reality for us, we easterners were all too happy to consume the natural gas produced in their states. Like the fossil fuel industry itself, in other words, we were willing to externalize the costs of fracking, to palm them off on someone else. As a homeowner whose water and air are heated by natural gas, I hope I'll never make that mistake again. But I fear that, in many cases, an issue needs to affect one personally before one wakes up to its dangers, or even its existence.
- The black-white divide. Though there were numerous representatives of tribal peoples at the summit, there was no one I would have identified as African-American. (This is not to say, of course, that visual identification is foolproof.) One of the oldest splits in the environmental movement, one dating back to its origins in the nineteenth century, is the predominance of (relatively affluent) whites and their tendency to ignore the issues of most importance to (relatively poor) non-whites. Given the anti-fracking movement's emphasis on environmental justice--on securing clean air and water, meaningful work, and civil liberties for all people--I hope the movement will be responsive and receptive to the needs of people of color. But given who is most directly affected by fracking at present--rural and suburban people, large landowners, etc.--I fear the movement may take a while before it begins to recognize the concerns and claims of urban, lower-class, and minority peoples.
If this movement is to succeed, it can't be exclusive or exclusionary. Here's hoping the next People's Summit works to address the issues that divide us.