The Rev. Leah Schade
This op-ed appeared in the Milton Standard Journal on July 2, 2013, and in the Sunbury Daily Item on July 6, 2013. It was written in response to the proposed tire incinerator planned for National Gypsum by En-Tire Logistics in White Deer Township, Union County, Pa.
Something is fundamentally wrong with our democracy when businesses are de facto given more voice, clout, protection and ultimately more power under the law than citizens and communities seeking to protect themselves from harm.
With the tire incinerator proposed by En-Tire Logistics for National Gypsum, regardless of the threat this business poses to the health of their local community, the White Deer Township Supervisors’ hands are tied by the law that requires them to approve a conditional use permit as long as it complies with the provisions of local ordinances. This raises an important question as our nation celebrates Independence Day this coming week. How did the law – which has evolved in this country over more than two centuries – devolve to this point where capitalistic interests supersede human interests of safety? Could the founders of this nation have intended this when they risked their lives to commit to the cause of freedom and democracy? Certainly not. And yet the steady, insidious (some would say demonic) hand of Mammon has chipped away at our humanity and quietly shaped the law for so long, and largely without significant challenge, that we have locked ourselves into a system of our own making and allowance.
As a nation we see how distorted and corrupt the system has become when the highest court in the land actually grants personhood status to economic entities and corporate interests (Citizens United, 2010). On the state level we see how Act 13, which grants favored status to the shale gas industry under the law, has paved the way for the violation of citizen and community rights across Pennsylvania.
And right in our backyard with this proposed tire incinerator, we are faced with the confounding conundrum of how to prevent a clear threat to our area’s beauty and public health when every governmental and democratic avenue appears to be closed to us.
Yet these challenges have caused neither dismay nor acquiescence among the citizens I have been privileged to work alongside in groups such as Organizations United for the Environment, Shale Justice and the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition. I have witnessed the coming together of some of the most incredible minds and committed citizens I have ever met. We are all bringing our varied talents and skills to the table for the cause of protecting our land, water and communities, while advocating for an economically just system fueled by clean energy and supported by a system of true democracy. Of this, I believe our country’s founders would swell with pride.
Rev. Schade is the pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg, a PhD Candidate at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and founder of the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition.