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Tuesday, September 22, 2015


by Clara B. Jones

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I am twenty-nine years old, an environmentalist, and a tool of Big Business. In the eyes of my parents and my pastor, I am a success, a good girl who can do no wrong. Though I have an uncommon amount of support and encouragement, I feel like an imposter. Dad always told me to do the right thing, but that is easier said than done. I grew up in Haywood County without the means to be idealistic. Some of my friends in graduate school were from Chapel Hill and Davidson, never forced to eat chicken wings and dumplings at the end of every month. Doing the right thing was always a practical matter. I was cut out for a career in Science, taught to weigh costs and benefits from an early age. But, I didn't know it would turn out like this. Doing the right thing is a complex matter, something Dad never pointed out. I wrote my dissertation on long-leafed pine, taking a job with the Forestry Department, hoping to continue my studies on endangered trees. But, my boss had other plans, assigning me to survey all the conifers in a five-hectare plot in Lee County. At first I was told that Forestry was revising their species lists. But, when I spotted trucks from the Mining and Energy Commission, it was obvious that I was part of an environmental impact study. Who might have imagined that Raleigh would favor hydraulic fracturing in the Great Smoky Mountains? Any high school Physics student could tell you that shattering shale deposits causes toxic leaks. Raleigh wants to be part of the gas drilling boom. Frack Free NC says fracking is an environmental justice issue, but my boss says NC needs to be free of freaks. “You can't stop progress.” is his favorite mantra, and maybe he's right. I considered asking for a transfer to the Conservation Department but decided I would stay on the job to be the voice of reason. At least natural gas is cleaner than coal.

Clara B. Jones is a retired scientist, currently practicing poetry in Asheville, NC. As a woman of color, she writes about identity and power. Erbacce, CHEST, Ofi Literary Magazine, Transnational, Quail Bell, Bluestem, The Review Review, and 34th Parallel are among the venues her poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in. In the 1970s, Clara studied with Adrienne Rich and has studied recently with the poets Meghan Sterling and Eric Steineger.