Turning Points at Princeton: Three Views of Hydrolic Fracking

By Yoo Jin Lee (with Sela Hong) Center alumni

On September 11, 2012, Sela Hong and I took a trip to Princeton University to attend a panel discussion on hydraulic fracturing. The discussion was a part of ongoing series called Turning Point, which the Princeton University Alumni Corps organized. The corps is an alumni-operated organization that provides support to Princeton alumni interested in influencing their community through leadership and volunteerism. The event featured three guest panelists: Jeff Rosalsky ’85, executive director of Pocono Environmental Education Center; Eric Clark, director of student participation in Learning Aquatic Science and History (SPLASH); and Seamus McGraw, author of End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone, and an activist and educator on the subject of hydraulic fracture. Our primary reason for attending was to learn more about fracking, which was the topic of our capstone project as leadership fellows. The audience included current Princeton students, alumni, and organization representatives.

As its overarching emphasis, the informal discussion highlighted the speakers' work in terms of the environmental danger fracking poses to their respective communities. The speakers also emphasized the importance of volunteering with organizations that fight fracking and of putting one's own ideas for advocacy into action.

Turning Point fracking panelists (from left) Seamus McGraw, Jeff Rosalsky, and Eric Clark.

Staking One's Ground The evening progressed in an unexpected and interesting way because the three panelists, although they are all in the business of activism, did not share much common ground. However, the discussion confirmed that when one decides to stir into motion what he or she believes is right against uncertainty, the result can be effective and sustained. Regarding the Delaware River watershed, while embracing the idea of conservation, the speakers mentioned the issue of finding a balance and defining a character—encouraging the audience to be critical of the attitude behind the action, rather than simply to take sides.

In a response to a question about the future of fracking, McGraw quoted John Hanger, a prominent thinker and leader in discourse of fracking today. It was exciting to hear his name mentioned, as I had interviewed Mr. Hanger in the process of researching the capstone project.

The trip to Princeton was invigorating, and it was great to be a part of a small, yet highly motivated and intellectual community of volunteers and community leaders. It is incredible to realize that our exposure to fracking and other environmental issues through our capstone project has led us to Princeton, and potentially it will continue to be a gateway to more experiences.

Read more about Yoo Jin Lee and our other contributors here.