With fracking banned, New York back on path to greatness

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has clearly endorsed something like wisdom on Wednesday in his decision to ban fracking in the state. 

He has agreed with two of his commissions, the one there to protect the environment and the other one there to protect the health of people. At the public meeting Wednesday, Howard Zucker, the state’s acting commissioner of health, said bluntly, “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.” Both Zucker and the governor stated they wouldn’t want their own children living near a fracking site.

You can hear the already-built pipelines grumbling underground -- and also hear the people breathing sighs of relief from deep within our lungs. You can hear the earth sighing in relief.  You can hear the great state of New York singing Easter hymns, that the hope of her people in her may yet be resurrected.

It is too soon to sing all four verses of the Easter hymns. But we can start the “Strife is Over, the Battle Won.” We can eke out an alleluia or two. Way too much is already built, already paid for, already financed to let us jump all the way out of our tombs. But many of us are at the threshold, peeping out and daring to hope.

Related: "A pro-energy platform, sans fossil fuels"

Fracking has been on our hearts and minds for several years. We know we are split down the middle, if sheer numbers of votes count, which they do.

Half of us are short-termers and know we need cash, know we need the short-term investment in fossil fuels. The other half are long-termers and know we can’t afford fracking. It comes at too high a price to our lungs and our livings, not to mention our land, which you can only insult one too many times.

The governor said he would listen to all the scientific evidence and he has done so. The governor also has to listen to the fossil fuel lobbies, whose well-funded megaphones might even cost him an election or a vote or three. The scientific evidence has joined the anecdotal evidence to convince a man who had skin in the game, cards on the table, votes to win and money to raise. 

The governor has made up his mind. 

I am a native New Yorker. Everyone who knows me knows I am in love with the Hudson River, the Catskill Mountains and the rolling hills and streams of this land. I have loved them even when the Hudson was yellow with chemicals and the mountains gashed by miners. 

I have been equally in love with the New York of the progressive, well-educated, thinking people who are my neighbors. Now, in this decision, we have found a governor, whose love of the land and whose brain put in gear by the evidence, who may yet make us great again.

Check out the six-part Catholic News Service series on fracking:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

People love to stay immune from the connections between the sacred and the profane, holy space and “regular” space, tented space and mansioned space. They love to say they want to keep religion out of politics, as though God could not work through governors.

They try to tell us that politics and religion never meet. Or that money is “dirty,” and therefore can get away with its meanness. Deliverance from these false dichotomies is our largest need as a state. Money is holy and just and good when used for holy and just and good purposes. The governor still needs money to win in New York and those of us who applaud the fracking decision need to help out in holy and real ways.

Sacred space is also never just one place or in one time. For a governor, it is never just one decision. It is as much the aftermath of that decision as what studies go on before. The blend, not the division, of sacred and profane spaces really matters to justice and its hopes. 

So now is the time for those of us who love New York to support the governor, as a holy matter, not an instrumental one. Thank you, Gov. Cuomo, for setting the great state of New York back on the path to greatness. 

We will help you along the long way.

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