Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold is an excellent, balanced exposition of the history of the fossil fuel industries in southwestern Pennsylvania and the recent effects that one of those industries , the natural gas fracking industry, had on a couple of families in the area.
Stacey Haney and her two children, Harley and Paige, live on a small farm in Amity, PA, next door to Beth and John Voyle, and their daughter, Ashley. Both families enjoy hard work, the outdoors, and working with animals. Stacey also works as a nurse at the regional hospital. When the natural gas boom arrives in their area, Stacey and the Voyles decide to get involved to make some money off of their land, and also do the right “Patriotic thing” for the country.
It doesn’t take too long before they have to consider whether they’d made a deal with the devil. A nasty odor permeates the air, animals and the children become sick, and their water becomes foul and unpotable. When they complain to the gas company, Range Resources, the company denies any responsibility, even claiming there isn’t even a problem.
Griswold covers the struggles of the Haney’s and Voyles, a few other neighbors, and a heroic husband and wife legal team as they battle for their health, their homes, their land, and their reputations in the community. Their foes are a company with deep pockets and government bureaucracies, local, state, and federal, seemingly aligned against them. Griswold unfolds the narrative in a straight-forward way, providing an in-depth examination of the legal and emotional aspects that guide industry practices in the United States, often at the expense of the people they’re intended to help.
Griswold does a wonderful job showing the spirit and industriousness of the people of southwestern Pennsylvania. I grew up in SW PA. The people there are a proud people who enjoy working. They’re a communal people who support each other. My dad and most of my friends’ dads worked in either the coal and the steel industries as they faded and left thousands of families wondering where their next job or meal was coming from. After decades of work, some employees found they didn’t even retain the pensions they were relying on. Griswold shows that pain.
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