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December 05, 2016
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Barbara Yeaman garners statewide award; Conservancy founder honored for lifetime achievement

Seamus McGraw, author of “The End of Country,” delivers the evening’s keynote address under the projected image of Barbara Yeaman.

Following the award ceremony, as pictures of Yeaman from infancy to the present continued to appear on a screen behind the podium, keynote speaker and Susquehanna County resident Seamus McGraw addressed the audience. McGraw is the author of “The End of Country,” which explores the “epic battle for control” of the Marcellus Shale and his family’s experience in leasing their land.

The gravel-voiced writer shared his perspective on fossil fuels while painting his persona for the crowd. “I usually show up dressed in leather and travelling on a motorcycle,” he said. “I live almost entirely on caffeine and nicotine, so I’m not gonna throw stones.” Suddenly lobbing a heavy bag into the air,” McGraw growled, “I lied. I am gonna throw some stones. Almost 20 pounds of coal, which I carry around because that’s how much each of us burns every day.”

McGraw detailed the process and costs of coal extraction, asserting, “Every person in America is digging a grave-sized hole in America every single day.”

Moving on to natural gas extraction, McGraw called it the most divisive issue in the state. “It’s created a situation where we find it very difficult to talk to each other,” he said. “When we talk about the Marcellus Shale, it is absolutely essential that we recognize the real and profound risks associated with the development of this,” he said, then added, “It is also essential that we review those risks in context.”

McGraw said that while he believes human survival depends on a carbon-free future, he advocated for relying on a mix of fossil fuels to bridge the gap. Then he invited comments from the audience.

“Prolonging bad habits and philosophies that have gotten us into this mess in the first place isn’t the answer,” responded conference attendee Virginia Kennedy. “We have to change our paradigm in terms of how we live and think. There are more and more problems associated with hydrofracking. Let’s be honest and not waste time rationalizing this dangerous process. Let’s use our creativity and energy to do something better than that. We have to move away from natural gas, oil and coal. We’re in a hard place right now, but that should motivate us to rise to the best in ourselves, not to rationalize something that’s only marginally better.”