As Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Senior Research Director, Kathy Nolan, MD plays an important role in all of our work, with contributions ranging from providing scientific expertise on the health impacts of fracking and fossil fuels to identifying problematic land developments, and advocating for policies that protect pollinators and public health.
We met with Kathy to discuss her work, and how it has changed since she first joined the Mountainkeeper team.
When did you first get involved?
I joined Mountainkeeper in 2011 during the fight to win a ban on fracking in New York State. At the time, we were just starting to study the public health impacts of fracking, and I came on to share my medical knowledge as a pediatrician. With scientists and my peers in the medical field, I formed a coalition known as the Concerned Health Professionals of NY to document the extensive negative health impacts associated with fracking operations. We developed a compendium of emerging research and shared our findings with government officials and other decision-makers. Thanks to the joint efforts of Mountainkeeper, the Concerned Health Professionals of NY, and a broad coalition of advocates, New Yorkers now enjoy a state-wide ban on fracking. My focus at Mountainkeeper has shifted since then and now involves advocating for the use of clean, renewable energy to power our homes and infrastructure. We stopped oil and gas companies from fracking in NYS; the next step is to end our dependence on their toxic products.
What sparked your interest in advocating for pollinator protections?
When I first began researching how the fracking industry was affecting communities across the country, I discovered that frack wastewater is used to manufacture cheap fertilizers, plastics, and insecticides. These insecticides are devastating pollinator populations across the country and contaminating the food we eat. Realizing just how pervasive the dangers of the fracking industry are inspired me to advocate against the use of toxic, frack-based chemicals that are wiping out our pollinators. Unsurprisingly, I’ve found that just about every industrial threat to our region’s ecosystems also has serious implications for our birds, bees, and other pollinating insects–we’ve really got our work cut out for us.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
It’s inspiring to see communities in our region adopt sustainable practices as a result of Mountainkeeper’s advocacy. Thanks to our work, towns in Ulster County, as well as the County as a whole, have committed to planting pollinator gardens around municipal buildings, to eliminating insecticides, and to no longer using herbicides to control plant growth. Seeing beneficial insects thriving in healthy soils is proof of the positive impact we’re making in the Catskills. We’ve been successful in protecting New York’s forests and waters from fracking operations and greedy land developers, and we’re collaborating with other agencies that share our passion for expanding trail networks that help reconnect people with nature. My work at Mountainkeeper is ultimately to promote sustainable lifestyles that are in harmony with nature, and that’s really special.