Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Defend Seneca Lake Against Environmental Enemies "Foreign or Domestic"

Colleen Boland and Sandra Steingraber arrested @ Seneca Lake
On October 27, retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Collen Boland zipped up a fleece jacket emblazoned with her name, rank and rows of decorations, then headed to Crestwood energy’s site on Seneca Lake. There, she linked arms with others defending Seneca Lake from the proposed gas storage project. When a tractor trailer approached, Boland and the others refused to move. Within minutes Sheriff’s deputies showed up and arrested the protesters.

Boland, who was born and raised in Corning, NY, never thought of herself as an activist. She never thought of herself as a tree-hugger. After four years of service in the Army and another thirteen in the Air Force, Boland retired. She took off her uniform and moved on to new things.

But with industrialized drilling and gas storage encroaching on the local landscape, Boland reluctantly polished her boots and dusted off her awards and decorations and prepared to serve in a new way.  In a press conference last week she reflected on her years of military service, and the places she was stationed. One thing they had in common, she said, is water. Children in Schuyler County and Dimock, Pennsylvania, like children in Malaysia and elsewhere, need access to clean water.

Explaining why she wore a “civilianized” version of her Air Force jacket, Boland explained that she was trying to dispel the notion that “the only people standing up to protect our water, our air, and our communities are tree-hugging hippies or out of touch dreamers. Don't get me wrong, I love trees, but I was never quite cool enough to be a hippie —and I'm certainly not dreaming," she said to laughter and applause.

Boland is distressed and offended that people who oppose extreme fossil fuel extraction are being dismissed as “people who don’t belong here.” We do belong here, she declared.

 "I am still serving, still defending. I am defending the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region that I love against all enemies foreign and domestic. Crestwood is my enemy." Boland isn't the only Veteran defending the lake; Dwain Wilder, a former sailor, spent his Veterans Day in jail for his part in the protest.

Watch the video of the press conference and read an interview with Boland in the Air Force Times.

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