Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America is the story of one American family and their plight when they try to improve their lot by allowing an energy company to use their land as part of their fracking operation in Pennsylvania. Within weeks of signing the deal, the family’s animals and they themselves become ill.

Eliza Griswold tells the Haney family’s story over a seven-year period as the head of the family, Stacey Haney, tries to get back what an energy company has taken from them. Haney is a reluctant hero, but she is compelled to take action or lose everything. The other heroes are Haney’s lawyers, John and Kendra Smith, who take on Haney’s and her neighbours’ case, doggedly seeing it through to the point where their clients get compensation. I was so inspired by these lawyers sticking to their plan to help when when it would have been so much easier to abandon it.

What makes Haney’s situation so tricky is that many of her neighbours had made money out of the “fracking boom”. They oppose her efforts to get compensation. Haney and the Smiths press on – Haney because she has no choice and the lawyers driven by moral principles.

While Stacey Haney finally receives a settlement, her victory is bittersweet. The deep pockets of the oil industry outlasted Haney’s resolve to go on to a jury trial. In the end, however, Stacey Haney and the Smiths raised awareness and they won a victory for the rest of us as fracking began to be banned by jurisdictions in both the United States and Canada.

In this era of climate strikes when young girls seem to be the only ones leading the quest for environmental protection, this story gave me hope that we will be able to succeed in bringing corporate polluters to account.


(I read the 2018 Farrar, Straus, and Giroux edition of this book.)

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