Courage Under Fire

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These days people’s courage is surely being tested.  It’s under fire.  Courage could be one of the least appreciated leadership principles.  I am truly inspired by how the citizens of the world are mustering up their courage on a daily basis to make change that impacts all of us.   If you are in Egypt, you need courage to stand up for what you believe against the government. If you are in Tucson, you need courage to meet your Congressperson. If you are working in a corporation, you need courage to face each day, not knowing what  business decisions are being made behind closed doors that will affect you, your family and your coworkers. If you are a business owner, you need courage to change your business model to meet the faced paced changes of today. If you are out of work, you need courage to get up each morning and put forth the energy and motivation to look for a job or determine what your next career will be.   Last night I was struck dramatically by more courage.   I saw the film "Gasland".  I knew nothing about this film before I entered the doors of the Irvington Town Hall Theater, a turn of the century theater, up the road a piece from the Hudson River, in one of New York’s beautiful river towns, just a mile or so from my home.  I had no plans to see this film.  As fate would have it, a new friend and neighbor Carolyn Whittle, a courageous woman who breathes activism as most breath air, invited me to be part of a stimulating evening which included viewing this film.   I knew I was in for something important, when Debra Winger, the actress, who produced the film, welcomed everyone before the film began.  "Gasland" is no ordinary film.  It is a documentary that tells the story of how the water and air of our country is being dangerously polluted in the name of replacing our dependency on foreign oil by natural gas.  Just like ‘natural cosmetics’ turned out to be NOT necessarily good for one’s skin, this film tells the story of how the drilling technology of  hydraulic fracturing or fracking, to unlock the natural gas beneath us, is NOT GOOD – in fact,  out right dangerous -  to our health.  Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and other states have permitted it, and citizens even welcomed it to their land, not knowing the dangers hidden behind the process.     "Gasland", which has been nominated for an Academy Award,  was created by Josh Fox, who recorded his  road trip around the country interviewing affected families and experiencing himself the environmental changes occurring in the states prevalent with fracking.  Fox first became interested in the subject of natural gas back in 2008  after the Pennsylvania native was asked to lease his land in Milanville for drilling and earn $100,000 in return.  Instead of signing, he began investigating.  The film shows people and animals who have become sick all over the country due to this process which has made the water unsafe to drink –  and the air, often putrid to smell.  We can anticipate the long term affects of drinking and breathing the water and air  which is infested with dangerous chemicals that are used in the fracking process.  It’s just to soon to see the ultimate impact.   To date neither most governments nor the EPA has protected us from this process.  As of today, New York is the only state in the country to establish a moratorium on horizontal hydrofracking.  There is no doubt that without Fox’s documentary which has been aired on HBO, featured at the Sundance Film Festival (even won an award) and viewed by citizens all around the country in little cinemas, similar to the Irvington Town Hall, fracking would be taking place in more states and impacting more people.   Not only do I recommend you see this film, but read the article in Scientific American  - to gain insights into the situation.   Uncovering truths that the big natural gas companies like Halliburton, don’t want us to know, takes enormous courage.  It takes courage for the individuals whose health, homes and families have been affected to speak out and be interviewed.  And it will take even more courage on the part of all of us to ensure that we stop this ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ – natural gas drilling replacing our dependence on foreign oil.    Hats off to Josh Fox, Debra Winger and all the brave people who ‘starred’ in "Gasland".   I hope this film wins an Oscar, because it will bring this issue to the forefront.  And again, it shows how the courage of one person can impact us all.  Citizens of the world:  arm yourselves!  Arm yourselves with your courage.  For it is the most powerful weapon of all – Leslie Grossman, cofounder, and Please note: Leslie Grossman’s blog is now featured on, the best content on leadership and management.      

Reader Comments

Posted: February 24, 2011, 09:04 AM by Cheryl Alexander Stearns

In a recent  womens executive roundtable our topic was courage. We shared our stories of personal and leadership courage. It may come in the form of simply showing up each day and doing what you believe is right in the face of opposition, or a lack of respect for a different mindset. One woman spoke of looking herself in the mirror  and asking herself whether she was adding measurable value, and how she would do that today. Another spoke of personal physical courage, but losing confidence in the presence of people in power and what it takes to speak boldly and be heard.  Two women spoke about the courage it takes to lead a major change intiative, assessing  the toll on colleagues, while knowing that survival calls for transformational change. We talked about idea generation at all levels, human  implications and the building of collective courage, especially in these times when fear is so pervasive. How do we as women hold and model courage and vision,"fight" for what we believe must be done, and a build collective courage? I'd love to hear your stories.

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