My name is Mary Obringer. I have recently finished my junior year at Liberty University, where I am majoring in journalism and minoring in piano performance and creative writing. I’ll admit my path is not the most common combination of specialties. In fact, I do not know of any single job that would combine all three fields.
However, that’s not important to me. I chose my path because I enjoy learning about each field and I hope to use each of those passions to make a difference.
I have often wondered what it would feel like to know I am making a difference. I still don’t know if I can define a feeling of making a difference, but I have definitely learned a bit about what making a difference looks like.
Since I started my internship as a media and outreach intern at Protect PT, I have learned a lot about what it means to stand up for what you believe in, even when the odds are not in your favor. Each day, I work alongside people who are passionate about serving their community and fighting battles that many don’t know how to. Yes, fracking is a mammoth industry, but it is not impenetrable.
Many of you, like me, may have experienced or may be experiencing some fears about fighting such a powerful industry. After all, you may be wondering what a few people can do against so many.
While I am very new to this fight and still have so much to learn, I hope I can encourage you by sharing a few of the things I have learned so far along the way.
Before I started my internship, I was completely ignorant on the subject of fracking. If you had asked me what fracking is, I probably would have answered that it was some process of extracting gas from the earth. I was clueless about the complications and ramifications of the process.
My first day at Protect PT was a rude awakening to the consequences of allowing a heavy industrial process to operate near people’s homes and schools. The damage to people’s health and property completely overwhelmed me. Even if the physical damage could be repaired, which it often cannot be, the psychological damage goes much deeper.
However, the feeling of being completely overwhelmed did not last long. As I began to understand Gillian and Anne’s passion for the fight against the damage caused by fracking, I also began to understand just how much they have learned in this fight and just how powerful that knowledge is.
Many of you have heard the expression that knowledge is power. I personally believe that knowledge gives power. During my brief time at Protect PT, I have already seen how both Gillian and Anne use their knowledge to decide how to best challenge the oil and gas companies in the area and how they learn more through each battle - in court, on the phone, in letters and in other ways. Even when their efforts do not achieve the result they were looking for, they refuse to throw in the towel. Instead, they regroup and ask themselves what they could have done differently and what they can do better next time.
That brings me to the most important lesson I have learned, perseverance. I do not merely mean perseverance in continuing the challenges against the industry, but also perseverance of attitude. I have learned that maintaining a positive “can do” attitude goes much further in this fight than an “I’m just one person” or “We’re just a little group” attitude.
The hardest part of the fight is not actually fighting against the industry itself. The toughest challenge comes from within. We need to get over our fears of failure if we hope to accomplish anything. Each of us has a choice when it comes to our attitude.
This fight is not easy. We will not win every battle. Yet, I believe that we can win this war. I believe that if enough of us say “This isn’t worth it”, someone with the power to make decisions about this industry will realize the importance of enforcing restrictions that will better protect people. And maybe, someday, we will be able to say that we were a part of ending a harmful industry and ushering in a brighter future.