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VTS_01_5In speaking with someone I had just met, I mentioned that my current creative work was focused on environmental issues—including both iterations of Pig Tales, which juxtaposed excerpts from children’s stories with greedy short-term approaches to fracking, and Cooking with Gas, the project I am currently developing.

He asked if I were also active with these issues in the rest of my life. My response was a description of co-organizing a small contingent for The People’s Climate March this past September, which included my leading Chi Kung/Qi Gong practice in Central Park before marching.

Later, as I thought more about his question, I realized that my involvement with environmental issues goes back decades and that in one way or another, it usually related to food and nutrition.

Biodynamic Agriculture Project I recalled attempting to organize a biodynamic farming project for Tibetan refugees in India in the late ′90s and early ′0s. Although it did not work out as expected, I did get in touch with Peter Proctor, a highly respected biodynamic specialist from New Zealand who was spending at least half the year teaching workshops and supervising projects in India. He was proud of teaching Indians and Pakistanis and Bangladeshi farmers in the same workshop, and was happy to include the Tibetan and American sent to attend one of his workshops. Later, he connected with Tibetan refugee farmers in a different community and they were glad to learn methods for improving the soil and increasing crop yields.

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Preserving Homeland and Livelihood I also remembered receiving an urgent letter from the US Tibet Committee around that time, which explained that the World Bank was preparing to fund a dam for China that would destroy the land and livelihood of thousands of traditional Tibetan nomads. I drove to Washington, D.C. with a friend to join the rally in front of the World Bank and then, while the others marched to the Chinese Embassy, because my friend had a broken toe, we drove from the World Bank to the Chinese Embassy and rejoined the group.

At the time, Working Assets was my long-distance company and on every bill they wrote about an issue that customers could respond to without charge, by phone or fax. When I returned home, from D.C., it occurred to me that this issue would make an excellent Citizen Letter, and I sat down and wrote a letter to the president of the company. The next month, this issue was described. Almost 40,000 people faxed or made phone calls to the World Bank against the project, and it was tabled.

gas-cookingRecently As per a previous blog post, “Beginning New Piece,” this past year my focus has been much closer to home or, rather, in my home without cooking-gas service for several months, the only silver lining being that during those months I was not exposed to radon from gas from the Spectra pipeline. Now, while I am grateful to be able to cook, I do keep my kitchen window cracked open, even when it is very cold outside.

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After discussions with colleague Andrea Haenggi, I decided to offer Chi Kung practice—open to all—prior to the march, so that we can renew our own energy before marching for renewable energy.

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We are currently planning to meet at 10:00 am, on the northeast corner of 77th Street and Amsterdam, and then practicing Chi Kung after we join the renewable energy group. Given the complex logistics of this huge march, the time and/or location of our meeting could change.

If you are interested in joining us please let us know how to reach you if there are changes. Right now the forecast for Sunday is great, yet in case this changes, most 99-cent stores sell very light-weight rain ponchos for about $1.29. Pack lightly for the day, yet do bring water and snacks to fuel yourself for several hours.

For more information about the march, what to bring, etc., please see www.peoplesclimate.org.

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At a recent anti-fracking rally in Albany, speaker after speaker was passionate and well-informed about the already-proven dangers of hydraulic fracturing. To highlight just a few:

    • Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who was arrested for protesting the storage of fracking wastes under Lake Seneca, the source of her drinking water, told us that she’d rather wear an orange prison suit than see her children in blue hospital gowns.
    • Ghandi’s grandson told Cuomo that while his grandfather led people on a peaceful walk to the sea, now the sea was walking, not so peacefully, to the people.
    • Lois Gibbs brought her perspective from the Love Canal, where at least there were laws against the chemicals that had been used. (In case you don’t know, when he was Vice-President, Dick Cheney inserted a provision that exempts fracking from the Clean Air and Water Act. )

The good news, from Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil Engineering and the Environment at Stanford University, is that his recently issued, several-hundred paged report describes in detail how New York State can produce 85% of its energy needs with renewable energy sources by 2030 (and 100% by 2050)—and at lower cost than fossil fuels!

Now if only Governor Cuomo, New York State Senators and Assembly Members would read Professor Jacobson’s report and act on it. Instead, I noticed a line in the “Energy Highway” section of the Governor’s New York Rising: End of Session Report – 2013 report, tucked away on page 35, stating that expanding natural gas utility service will reduce energy costs for homeowners and businesses. “Natural gas” means fracking.

Even more disturbing, on the international level, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a ten-nation trade agreement that the United States is currently and secretly negotiating to allow corporations to sue governments for the profits the corporations would have made if environmental protection laws were not in effect! Word is that Obama wants Congress to agree to Fast Track Authorization of the agreement. Fast Track will not allow Congress to comment upon or make any changes to the agreement.

If we don’t take time from our busy lives now to sign petitions, call or write Obama, our Senator, Representative, Governor, State Senator and Assembly Member, we will bear responsibility for allowing these travesties of due process of law and environmental justice to irreparably damage the environment and the circumstances which make our busy lives possible.

Happily, the video of Pig Tales (more portions of a developing piece) performed at Soaking WET, January 17-20, 2013, turned out well. I created these new portions for the semi-circular dimensions of the space and most of the action was concentrated towards the center. This made it easy for the camera to see all of the dancers as well as Jay Ryan’s beautiful lighting. I was encouraged that the most frequent comment was that people wanted to see more. I will be posting about future developments. In the meantime, if you were not able to attend a live performance in January, click on the image below for excerpts.

VTS_01_5As of this writing, Governor Cuomo is continuing to punt on whether to allow fracking in New York State. On January 11th, the last day for public comment, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon delivered 50 cartons containing 204,000 letters to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s offices in Albany.

This was in addition to those of us, myself included, who hand-wrote and snail-mailed our letters. My letter pointed out that a study by the Colorado School of Public Health found that anyone living within a half-mile of a fracking well had a 66% higher chance of getting cancer than someone living a mile away, which is not say that even a mile’s distance would not create a statistically significant difference for someone living two or four or eight miles away!

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon’s presence drew reporters and cameras to the otherwise deserted building. In the New York Times, Danny Hakim wrote “Ms. Ono warned that the fight would not stop even if hydraulic fracturing were approved. ‘If they do this, there will be a class action . . . It’s going to go on and on and on . . .’”

I am grateful for her willingness to commit her considerable talents and resources to this issue. Click here and here for my earlier posts about houses that could withstand the big bad wolf of fracking, and here for a video excerpt from “Pig Tales.”


Image: video capture of Kaoru Ikeda (front) and Mari Sakahara (rear) in portions of “Pig Tales,” June 2012.

Victoria Dombroski, Mari Sakahara, Kaoru Ikeda-Billeci, Tatyana Kot in rehearsal;
photo by Amber Connors-Merino

In New York State, there are two houses (see previous post) that currently are withstanding the Wolf of fracking: the White House and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s purported ambition to occupy it in the future as President of the United States; and the upstate, country home where Sean Lennon spent many wonder-filled childhood days. Sean and his mother, Yoko Ono, wrote a song against fracking and performed it on Jimmy Fallon’s television show. They also initiated Artists Against Fracking and have been interviewed in the press.

In Erie, Colorado, however, the celebrities who supported the Mothers of Erie Rising (Mark Ruffalo, Natalie Merchant and Ed Begley) were not residents of the town, and soon after the mayor advised people not to be “emotional” about the issue, at the end of August the moratorium against fracking was lifted. By then, his own children had already moved away, and my correspondent at Mothers of Erie Rising wrote me that she would be following suit.

A new coalition, Frack-Free CO, has recently been formed and has announced a public gathering on October 23rd. Meanwhile, I am back in the studio, choreographing new material for Pig Tales that will be performed at Soaking WET, January 17-20, 2013. So far, the movement is bound-flow, mechanical and disconnected.

Video capture from Pig Tales: Stick House Being Shattered
Victoria Dombroski, Mari Sakahara, Rebecca Walden

Rotterdam-based choreographer Thomas Körtvélyessy wrote me: “I thought of you instantly when I got this link: http://wagingnonviolence.org/2012/07/the-frack-war-comes-home/. The line that struck me most was: ‘We can live without oil. We can live without gas. But we cannot live without water,’ and once again I cannot understand how this could not be obvious to anyone at all. What will be the kind of house such a Wolf will not be able to shatter given the right amount of huff and puff (or trickery, or sheer forcing into exhaustion or fake-security)?”

L. to R.: Mari Sakahara, Kaoru Ikeda-Billeci, Rebecca Walden

Recently sent the video excerpt (below) from the June 26th performance of Pig Tales at Dixon Place to the Mothers of Erie Rising, wanting to make sure that my use of parts of their eloquent letter met with their approval before I posted the video here and on YouTube. Jennifer Palazzolo, RPh., one of their founders, replied: “Thank you for honoring our work and the letter Angie wrote for all of us to Encana. It was a beautiful interpretation. We thank you for wanting to share this publicly and support you doing so.”  See www.erierising.com to learn more about the latest developments in their situation, which will be incorporated into future, expanded versions of Pig Tales, along with more from Three Little Pigs.

video capture: Mari Sakahara, Tatyana Kot, Rebecca Walden, Victoria Dombroski

The performance of Pig Tales at Dixon Place Presents: Crossing Boundaries, on June 26th, was sold out, and the piece was enthusiastically received. Colleagues commented on the performers’ wonderful presence, on well-made art that speaks to issues of our time, and on Andrew Lu’s beautiful lighting. One of my chi kung students, who works in publishing, e-mailed me: “Along with the elegant, fluid movement, your piece was so witty and literate! [My friend] liked the politics, too! Great work!”

Dancer Kaoru Ikeda-Billeci is joining the cast, making Pig Tales a ‘trio for five’ plus one, and I have more ideas for the piece, which  I am preparing for the Dixon Place Presents’ Crossing Boundaries performance on June 26th, than I will be able to present in 12 minutes! The material has taken a direction—and revealed a purpose—of its own, interweaving the variously playful, lively and literal, odd and abstract movement sections with song and text from a number of sources: Three Little Pigs, Charlotte’s Web, Sun of Wisdom as well as, most recently, an eloquent letter from the Mothers of Erie Rising requesting that fracking well-pads not be drilled adjacent to their children’s schools and playgrounds. For ticket information on June 26th, go to www.dixonplace.org. I look forward to expanding the piece into an evening-length work in the future. Please click here to find out how to support our endeavor with a donation in any amount that is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.