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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A tale of two studies...on seeing and not seeing

 A statement to be made to the supervisors at this Thursday's public hearing at Ligonier High School, 6pm:

Fracking in Ligonier – two studies on perception

As you consider the proposed zoning changes that will compromise the exquisitely beautiful areas of this lovely valley - a valley that draws so many to visit, to spend money here, to want to live here - rather than me revisiting all the evidence against fracking that has already been presented to you, I will instead call your attention to a two studies, both related to what may be going on when you supervisors look at the evidence of this toxic industry:

The first study was an experiment by Lester Luborsky who wanted to test what people see when they looking something, anything...not just fracking data. His teams attached electrodes to peoples' eyes to monitor what the eye itself tracked when presented with an image. Luborsky found that if photos shown to participants contained morally objectionable material or something that threatened the participants' worldview - fracking-related pollution, for example - their eyes would not track, would literally not see, whatever that thing was during viewing. One example from the Luborsky study: Participants were shown an ordinary photo of an ordinary man reading a newspaper. In the foreground of that photo there was a very obvious silhouette of a woman's breast. Turns out, in the case of participants who found nudity objectionable, their eyes never once tracked over to the clearly visible silhouette and, when they were asked later, these people did not remember seeing a silhouette of breast. Their eyes would not take in what was clearly there.

Second, a study also from “A Language Older Than Words,” by Derrick Jensen: “A study of Holocaust survivors […] revealed a pattern of active resistance to unpleasant ideas and an acute unwillingness to face the seriousness of [Hitler]. As late as 1936, many Jews who had been fortunate enough to leave Germany continued to return on business trips. Others simply stayed at home, escaping on weekends into the countryside so they did not have to think about their increasingly perilous experiences. One survivor recollected that his orchestra did not miss a beat in the Mozart piece they were playing as they pretended not to notice the smoke from the synagogue being burned next door.”

So, in conclusion: Like the participants in the eye-tracking experiment, do you simply choose not to see what is right there among the half-truths and misrepresentation in the oil and gas industry's self-serving ads, what's right there at their conferences, right there in the information being hand-fed to township officials all across PA? Is it because it is so much easier and politically expedient to see only “jobs” and "property rights"...so much so that some of you will simply not see the silhouette of destruction that is right there, in the picture?

Or, and, like the German Jews (who distracted themselves from what they actually did see), despite the evidence presented to you, will you ignore the methane flarings like they did the burning of the synagogue, will you  ignore how fracking will compromise this beautiful valley - this valley that belongs to more than just humans - hoping that nothing truly awful will happen there?

Willful blindness and self-delusion, a dangerous cocktail for township supervisors facing a truly huge decision, gentlemen.

Fracking is destructive. See it, believe it.

Elizabeth Donohoe