As part of FracTracker’s staff spotlight series, learn more about Shannon and her passion for environmental justice and public health that led her to FracTracker
Staff Spotlight: Shannon Smith
Time with FracTracker: I just started in May 2019!
Education: BA in Cultural Anthropology from Reed College in Portland, OR
Office Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Title: Manager of Communications and Development
What will you actually do in that role?
FracTracker’s mission is to “study, map, and communicate the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation.” I’ll be focusing on the “communicate” part of our mission!
This is my very first post for FracTracker, but I will be writing many more in this role. I’ll also be maintaining the website, acting as a media liaison, managing the internship program, and supporting the Executive Director with fundraising efforts.
Essentially I will be learning as much as I can about ongoing issues around fracking, regional oil and natural gas projects, and FracTracker research, and then sharing what I find in educational, useful, and compelling ways. I’m very excited to get started!
Previous Position and Organization
During the past five years, I worked with several environmental public health nonprofits in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I primarily worked as the Marketing Adviser for SOIL, an R&D organization that operates fecal waste management services and is globally recognized for their work in urban ecological sanitation. More recently, I was working as a Communications and Development Consultant for Second Mile Haiti, an organization that collaborates with Haitian public health institutions and provides research-based holistic medical services for families who face severe food insecurity and malnutrition in rural Northern Haiti.
How did you first get involved working on oil and gas issues / fracking?
It’s part of my personality to be concerned with justice — even in elementary school, I was writing letters to my school principal concerning issues that I found to be unfair to the student body. And I grew up spending a lot of time outside in a rural area in Northwestern Pennsylvania. So I think my passion for environmental justice came together naturally at a relatively young age.
Before my time in Haiti, I was a environmental justice activist in the Pacific Northwest. The group I worked with was largely focused on preventing companies from obtaining permits to turn the beautiful bioregion into a fossil fuel corridor that would lead to a series of coal export terminals. The movement against these coal export terminals was quite successful, which inspired me and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities for futures that are more firmly grounded in ecological sustainability and social justice.
I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from community organizers and activists in the Pacific Northwest who come from a long lineage of inspirational environmental and social movements. I’m also thankful for my peers who helped me to connect the dots between structural racism, settler-colonialism, employment and housing issues, public health, and climate change.
Fracking is an issue that can be found in these intersections, so when moving back to my home state of Pennsylvania after over ten years of study and work, it was on the forefront of my mind. Climate change and our relationship to fossil fuels are fundamental issues that define this period of time on Earth, and I want to be part of the solution.
What is one of the most impactful projects you are excited to be involved in with FracTracker?
Together, the FracTracker team has an astonishing level of expertise around fracking. I’m excited to learn from my fellow staff members and to make all of that knowledge accessible to others who want to take action in their own communities.
Fracking is dangerously under-regulated and therefore unaccountable. FracTracker is creating tools, maps, and knowledge to equip individuals, local organizations, and communities with more power to hold industry accountable. I am excited to network with people who find FracTracker’s work useful and see how we can create powerful synergies and alternative futures.
By Shannon Smith, FracTracker’s Manager of Communications and Development