Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Make a Perfect Cup of Tea: Testing the Water

Cup of the Day #79
Fountain Cup by Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on white cup
Drawn in the window studio, March 2011

After my recent experiences trying to reuse paper cups in coffee bars, I decided to make my cuppa at home, pour it in a paper cup and carry it with me to the window studio. I held the kettle under the faucet and turned the tap. It filled with clean, clear H2O. This is a daily miracle which I never take for granted. In this crowded, impossible metropolis, over 8 million people have access to the finest tap water in the USA. It comes straight from scintillating mountain reservoirs in the Upper Delaware Valley watershed and the Croton Highlands, carried by gravity through cavernous water pipes which are a marvel of engineering. My favorite tea is Scottish Blend which, in Glasgow, we brewed with excellent water flowing from pristine Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands. Here on West 47th Street, that tea tastes just as good made with New York City's plain old tap.

Food Plan/ Food Plain
by Christy Rupp

So knowing this about our water supply, I expected a lot of excitement over at Exit Art on 10th Avenue and 36th Street where the exhibition "Art and Activism Against the Drill" has been running since December with an extension through this Saturday, March 26th.  The group show organized by Lauren Rosati, Exit Art Assistant Curator, with Peggy Cyphers, Ruth Hardinger, and Alice Zinnes,  comprises paintings, drawings, installation, videos and printed materials alerting us that our drinking water supply is under imminent threat from hydraulic fracturing, a natural gas extraction process which has spread right across they United States in a frenzy of energy exploration dating back to just 2005. A clutch of documentaries and articles has been letting us know the dangers to air, ground water, watersheds, our health and our safety from this unregulated industry. And yes, fracking, as the process is called, has reached a watershed very near you. Thousands of sites have already been leased for fracking all through the Upper  Delaware Valley watershed, which sits atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale and a moratorium on the process in New York State is set to expire this summer.

 Postcard Wall

There is much to know and much to be concerned about. The artists have made thought-provoking artworks underscoring the risks in, as Mike Newton says, "an honest and insistent voice of concern"

And yet every time I went to see the exhibition (apart from the mass of people who came to the opening reception and to a panel talk in January) the gallery has been empty.

Fracked Venus
By Chris Twomey, 2010

Having studied the show, seen the documentaries and read a bunch of articles, here is what I still don't know. If they extract this gas in the Delaware watershed, where will it go? Who uses it? How long will it really last? I have read that the whole Marcellus Shale has enough natural to last 10 years. 10 years? That's it? All this impact and long range damage to the landscape and threat to human health for 10 years worth of gas? Couldn't we just make some changes, conserve a little, turn off the lights at night and leave the Marcellus Shale alone? I do not want the quality of my drinking water, not to mention my coffee or tea compromised in any way!

My kettle is full. I turn from the sink, put it on the stove, and after a moment of hesitation...I turn on the gas.

Lois Carlo
Drinking Water Test Kit, 2010
Educating about gas drilling issues and seeking solutions including legal, regulatory and government reforms
The NYC sister group to Damascus Citizens
Advocate of clean water in New York State and New York City
Affiliated with Riverkeeper
A 22-year-old environmental advocacy, stream restoration and education organization that operates throughout the Delaware River Watershed  
Active in NY State; focused in Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties 
Centralized source tracking and visualizing data related to gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region
Active in the Upstate NY and Finger Lakes region  
A national organization for the education, organization and protection of communities from the devastating impacts of oil and gas development 
Active in the Catskills region
About the movie and about getting involved in the issues
This compelling Emmy Award winning documentary shows the dirty side of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas, an energy source the industry touts as a clean alternative to fossil fuels.  

"Everyday Tablecloth Pre-stained 
to Match Tainted Well Water"
By Pat Bellant Gillen


  1. Hi Gwyneth, First - Love the installation with the paper cups. And, each cup is given so much attention. They are quite intriguing. Maybe you could "travel" the show out west so more of us could see it? :)

    And, Second, the Fracking is a big concern to us out this way, as well. We spend a lot of time in the Mountains - where some fracking just started this past fall. It's scary. We do have a Congress woman that fights for the people's rights out here - Diana DeGette. We almost never hear about it on the news, and I don't think most people even know about it. The whole controversy saddens me.

    Best Wishes & Thanks for talking about it!
    - Jennifer Ressmann, Golden, Colorado

  2. Thank you Jennifer,

    I would love to travel the cup show. Let me know of any suitable venues in you area.

    Regarding Fracking, watch the documentary Split Estate to learn what is going on in the Rockies. We all need to informed. Let's not be sad, but active!