Citizen Resiliency – The Sautners on Self-Organizing in Local Disasters

At times Craig and Julie Sautner tried to work with the local natural gas drilling company to resolve their water contamination problem and initially felt isolated from the lack of government response.  Neighbors near their Carter Road home in Dimock, Pennsylvania wondered why drinking water was being shipped in ‘buffaloes’ and realized that their drinking water was contaminated, too by the ‘fracking’ process. The Sautners began meeting with neighbors and reaching out to other organizations that were sympathetic to their plight: the Sierra Club; Frack Action; Upstate New York politicians and activists, and Water Defense led by actor Mark Ruffalo.  With their homes on and around Carter Road uninhabitable without the delivery of of drinking water, the Sautners have become the “squeaky wheels” and unintended social network hub for demanding action.  They drew attention their cause through traditional media starting with an June 2010 article in Vanity Fair, speaking at rallies about the environmental dangers of fracking, and giving interviews to the likes of Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes and Robert Kennedy, Jr,, and independent filmmaker Josh Fox of “Gasland”

Although the Sautners have used traditional media for drawing attention to their cause and have had the advantage of physical proximity to the small group of neighbors, they do see the value for increasing the use of social media.  Craig and Julie have been featured in numerous YouTube videos which allow them to state their case with every new view.  Although they do most networking through their constantly ringing landline, they see the advantage of using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about meetings, rallies and fundraising events.  The bottom line according to Julie is that “we’re Americans, we have a voice” and Craig advises anyone in the position of David facing Goliath to “speak up” and fight back”.

What could the Sautners have done differently in the beginning to energize the creation and expansion of their ad hoc organization?


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