From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change
Author: Zak Aldridge
My Action Plan is a the twig of a branch of a much larger issue. Specifically, it addresses the prospect of natural gas exploration in my town. Natural gas exploration is undergone using the technique of Hydraulic Fracturing, commonly referred to as Fracking, in which millions of gallons of water, laced with toxic chemicals, are injected into the earth to break up shale deposits and allow gas to flow. Fracking has caused significant water and air pollution in the places in which it has occurred. My Action Plan aims at prohibiting this industry before it ruins the beauty and habitability of my home place. Through initiative of the plan, I grew as an individual and a member of my community.
Much of what I’ve accomplished has been centered around my age and status: a student. Before the start of school, I contacted my principal and began organizing a teach-in for my high school. This required building usage forms, teacher notifications and months of preparation. Then, I had to coordinate with the advisor of our Environmental Club, getting our name on the event in order to formally affirm it. I contacted a biochemist professor at SUNY Oneonta, a local university, and asked if he’d be willing to present before my high school his research on hydrofracking. He graciously complied. The goal of this tactic: to educate the younger generation in order to prepare them for fracking, and hopefully inspire them to take a side of the issue and fight it.
Acquiring a reporter for the event, I made sure that my teach-in was recognized by a larger audience. As a result, a teacher from a neighboring school asked how he could have the same teach-in at his school and spread the trend. Others who read about my action in the newspaper or learned my name through the grapevine invited me to speak at their coalition gatherings and weigh in, for my opinion had become valuable within the anti-frack circles. Through the local paper and events I’ve attended, I have integrated myself into the already established grassroots movement of No Frack.
With this popularity, I set out beyond my school and into the local government. Others, some who have been working for the cause much longer than I have, have frequented Town Board meetings and spoken their wishes for a legal ban on fracking. Neighboring towns had been successful in prohibiting fracking through amending their zoning codes, so my town approached the issue the same way. I joined this contingency and voiced my opinion as well, speaking for the generation I belong to at the meetings. Since starting, roughly two years ago, the Town Board has undergone a change in leadership and ethics. As slow as democracy is, after two years, we have just recently adopted a ban on hydrofracking. Though not yet fully sealed, this evidence serves as a stark, indicative reminder of my, and other’s, hard work thus far.
My Action Plan took me from a stagnant adolescent to a soap boxing leader in my school and greater community. I have influenced others around me through this process and have garnered a reputation for being well informed and demonstrative of my ideals and aspirations as a member of society. Those who have been most exposed to my action have, themselves, become more active and informed about problems they wish solved. I have found in myself a change invoking, powerful individual, through the Brown Leadership Institute program.