Students Protest at Ramapo Reservation


Ramapo College students, faculty and members of local environmental organizations rallied together on Tuesday morning to protest the Tennessee Gas Pipeline that will be cutting through the Ramapo Reservation Park.

The demonstration, organized by Matt Smith from the North Jersey Organization for Food and Water Watch, began at Ramapo College and continued to the parking lot of the Ramapo Reservation. Those involved marched and yelled, "Stop the pipeline! Yes we can!" down Route 202 toward the Ramapo Reservation. Protesters had a model of a pipeline and held signs that read, go to China" and "Don't Frack Mother Earth."

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline is a 40-mile gas line that would cut through the Delaware River, Sussex County to Passaic County and then to the Mahwah meter station that goes back about a mile into the reservation, Smith said. Fracking, caused by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, is a process in which rocks below the surface are opened and widened to grab water that is about a mile below the earth. Mixing with sand and toxic chemicals, the water is then pushed at high pressure to allow gas and oil to seep up to the surface.

Smith added that there are three issues that revolve around fracking. The first is that fracking affects half of the water below the surface. Therefore, fifty percent of the water that rises to the surface has chemicals that can't be cleaned out. The second issue is air pollution. Fracking causes an extremely toxic environment that affects health. The third issue is the burning of fossil fuels.

After the march, the group of about 50 people gathered around a large tree by the parking lot of the Ramapo Reservation. Smith informed participants about the Tennessee Gas Pipeline and several professors and members from local organizations spoke about the dangers of fracking.

"This is a real unique opportunity to take a stand and say no," said Smith, who stood with a megaphone speaking to the group of protesters. "We are not going to sit here idly and let [them] ruin our planet. This pipeline is not going to happen here."

Harriet Shugarman, an adjunct professor of Climate Change Policy at Ramapo and executive director of Climate Mama agreed.

"We need to understand it is about companies making money," she said. "It is not energy independence. It provides money to companies that will sell this overseas."

Shugarman also stressed the importance that what is currently happening in the community is also connected to a bigger and more global issue, such as climate change.

"The pipelines connect and make their way up to the east coast, like a map," Shugarman said. "Connect the dots and it's a global picture even though it is very local to us."

Ramapo Professor of Documentary and News Production, Marta Bautis, connected the dots to a global issue. She spoke about people in Argentina protesting against an oil company, much like the people rallying against the Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

"Connect the issues! Think about generations to come and what we can do about it," Bautis said.

The next to speak was Elliott Rugga of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, who talked about sustaining communities.

"We have a wonderful and fragile place that can't sustain intrusions like pipelines," Rugga said. "No one is looking at the cumulative impact this is going to have."

Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation stressed the importance of people not just getting educated about fracking, but also acting against it. He congratulated those who came out to the rally.

"It's not easy to act, but you did." He encouraged them to reach out to their local municipality and let officials know of their disagreement. "I urge you to vote and continue to be active," Perry said.

Jack Daley, an environmental professor at Ramapo College, spoke about America's reliance on petroleum and the importance of becoming less dependent.

Daley repeated "present pleasure, future pain." He said that the current benefits America receives from petroleum will end up having negative consequences in the future. "You need to prepare yourself. If there is money on the ground, they [corporations] are going to get it."

Ramapo's 1STEP (Students Together for Environmental Progress) senior member Geoff Richter was proud of the turnout of the event.

"It's nice to see people from different organizations gathering together," he said.

As students picked up the pipeline model and their posters, Smith reminded students that they are a part of a globalized village.

"We can't let corporations destroy our planet. People are taking one step further today than they did yesterday," Smith said.