LOCK HAVEN - How many nuns does it take to change corporate greed?
In this case, just one. Sister Nora Nash, director of corporate responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis in Aston, spoke out against corporations that violate human rights this week at Lock Haven University. Sister Nash is internationally recognized for her advocacy work and has worked with over 50 corporations throughout her 30-year battle against corporate greed.
She particularly vocalized the importance of holding natural gas exploration companies to their environmental responsibilities. Sister Nash explained the dangers of hydraulic fracturing through stories of families across Pennsylvania who lost their abilities to cook with and bathe in the water they formerly relied on.
The child of one family she spoke of suffered from "frack rash," a rash caused by fracking chemicals that had been deposited in the water. Now, some families rely on jugs of water provided by gas companies.
While fracking has become safer since gas companies first came to Pennsylvania, Sister Nash said she would not be satisfied until fracking is done with "green frack fluid."
"You can't sit back and say it's safe," she said. "We don't know that."
Over 100 students, faculty and staff members attended Sister Nash's presentation in the Health Science Center. While some attended for class assignments, many were simply interested in what Sister Nash had to say.
"I'm very involved in the topic of hydrofracking," freshman Kim King, a political science and international studies dual-major, said. "But Sister Nash's presentation makes me wonder how much I've been missing out."
Sister Nash's presentation, entitled "What are your guiding principles? Human rights, community rights, hydraulic fracturing, sustainability and social justice," focused greatly on "challenging corporate culture to be more responsible."
She cited Article One, Section 27 of Pennsylvania's constitution:
"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."
Although this Article has been in place since 1972 according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, few, if any audience members, were familiar with the statement.
"You need to be a little more active," Sister Nash said. "That statement is something every one of us should know."
Her presentation went further than just the environmental responsibilities of the gas drilling industry. She also questioned corporations' level of sustainability.
While officials say the drilling has been good for Pennsylvania's economy and is providing jobs for many, how long will this last?
From January to August of 2011 alone, 32 permits for gas well pads were issued in Clinton County. During that amount of time, 26 pads had started drilling.
By the year 2030, there will be an estimated 50,000 wells in Pennsylvania.
"There's no way the state could be monitoring this expansion," Sister Nash said.