Posted by on September 8th, 2011
By Kathleen Dudley and Don Hamilton, Co-Founders, Drilling Mora County
Four years ago, here in Mora County, we were “awakened” by the sound of greed lapping at our doorsteps. “land men” came to our peaceful, pristine, agricultural community seeking mineral leases to drill for natural gas.
As New Mexico residents, we have seen the devastation this brings to communities, as the northwestern and southeastern regions of the state, also formerly agricultural, became industrial zones that are no longer reasonably habitable. Cancer and asthma rates have soared in these areas since the petroleum industry began running their engines, while agriculture and the Hispano culture have virtually disappeared.
Here in northeastern New Mexico, the land is beautiful, the air and water are clean, and the culture is still Spanish-based, extending back four centuries in the state. Many neighbors speak Spanish as their first language, and some elders speak little English, despite being multigenerational New Mexico residents. As soon as the land men arrived, however, we realized that every aspect of this beauty suddenly became endangered. We also knew that we must act quickly to protect this unspoiled land where humans, as well as wild animals, can still flourish. We began educating ourselves and other county residents on not only the extreme danger we face, but also on how we may be able to stop the devastation before it begins.
Environmental attorneys and activists repeatedly told us that we could not say “no” to the gas drilling, that we could only seek to mitigate the damages. We could not accept this, so we continued to search for a means to say “no.” Why, we asked, could we not determine our own destiny here in our own county? Why must we allow outside interests to steer our county down an industrial road when county residents overwhelmingly desire continuity of their land-based lives?
In response, we began meeting as a community to draft a local Community Bill of Rights law, which recognized our right to clean air and clean water, and which placed our rights above the “rights” claimed by gas drilling corporations. One of the inspirations for us has been Envision Spokane’s advocacy for the adoption of a Community Bill of Rights in the City of Spokane.
Just like here, residents across the country, including Spokane, face the same issue, whether the industry that threatens is big oil, big agriculture, Wal-Mart, or Nestle, which is commandeering water supplies across the land so they can bottle the water in plastic bottles that destroy health and fill landfills. It is a war, and it is a war against “We the People.” We have been losing steadily up to now, but also across the country, residents like us, including those in Spokane, are finding ways to say “no” to this onslaught. We have no time to lose, and the time is now. In a country founded upon principles that support our inalienable rights to freedom, it is imperative that we reclaim those rights before it is too late.