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Christmas Came Early for Environmentalists by Yessenia Funes

Today has been a day of heavy breaking news. Not only are the United States and Cuba on again, but North Korea is pretty pissed at Sony too. The whole North-Korea-hacking-Sony thing sucks, but the United States and Cuba being cool again? Sounds like good news to me. But neither of those amounts to the kind of magic Santa would bring — at least not for environmentalists like me.

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Santa must've talked it out because, boy, did joy come to the world (literally). Cuomo declared an official ban on hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, in the state of New York today. If you don't know what fracking is, ProPublica breaks it down beautifully. But yeah … this is a huge deal. Fracking has been the hot topic for New York environmental groups like Riverkeeper. What will they do now? I don't know. Probably party. And effing rage! (LOL, JK.)

Like I said, this is a big deal. The only other state to ban fracking is Vermont, and well Vermont is freaking awesome, so that's no surprise. But that wasn't as big a deal as New York. You see, Vermont isn't full of oil and natural gas the way New York is. So New York is the first state with mad oil and natural gas to say, "Stay out, fracking." The Marcellus Shale, which is Pennyslvania's fracking target, reaches into the upstate New York region.

Sure, this would bring in major bank for small upstate communities. But, dude, is it worth it? Why not highlight tourism more? Upstate New York is beautiful and encapsulates a culture that can't be described in words. Well, maybe it can. Earthy. Organic. Nurturing. Sometimes small-towny but homey. And it's so beautiful up there. The Catskills and Adirondacks surely can't be put into words. Let's make more bank on that. DoNorth, a student-run publication I ran this fall, sure takes advantage of its surrounding beauty.

I called for a ban on fracking for my public speaking persuasive speech, which I aced with an A by the way. (Not bragging … OK, maybe just a little.) My reasons? Fracking can contaminate water, which not only affects humans but the animals who drink it, and fracking has shown to increase earthquake activity. Water contamination has happened in homes surrounding the Marcellus Shale. There's a whole study about it. And Geology also published a study that connected the liquids injected during fracking to one earthquake in particular.

It is important to keep in mind that just because these events happened before, it doesn't mean they'll happen again. But again I ask: Is it even worth it? Why risk contaminating our water? Why even waste time continuing the consumption of fossil fuels?

Our planet is in a grave, grave state. It's time we transition out of fossil fuels and into renewable, safer energy sources. Earth can only handle so much more greenhouse gases to its atmosphere. Though we've come a long way, we've still got a long way to go. New York state is plagued with oil trains, and they'll probably stick around until the Keystone XL Pipeline passes or communities demand that they go away.

Fossil fuels are an addiction that the United States just can't shake off. Sure, our country's doing better than it once was. Coal isn't its go-to anymore. But oil and, increasingly, natural gas continue to be an issue. New York state has taken a brave step.

Who's stepping up next?

Photo courtesy of Adam Welz // CREDO Action