(Photo by Tom Haller. Copyright Yoko Ono.)
February 18 is Yoko Ono’s 80th birthday—it’s a day to celebrate her art, music and activism. She’s done more in the last year than most of us do in a decade: campaigned against fracking and honored Julian Assange; mounted a major retrospective of her art in London last summer at the prestigious Serpentine Gallery, and another, bigger one in Frankfurt in February at the celebrated Kunsthalle Schirn; and made music with the Plastic Ono Band.
The anti-fracking campaign has been her biggest political undertaking in several years. First there were the billboards and full-page ads in The New York Times (and also The Nation): “Imagine There’s No Fracking”—addressed to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, signed “Yoko and Sean” (her son, Sean Ono Lennon).
But the anti-fracking campaign involves a lot more than billboards. She organized Artists Against Fracking, and signed up more than 200 people, including Salman Rushdie, Jeff Koons, Alec Baldwin, Martha Stewart, David Geffen, Anne Hathaway, Jimmy Fallon—and Lady Gaga, with her 34 million Twitter followers. In Albany in January she delivered an anti-fracking petition to Governor Cuomo with more than 50,000 signatures. Also in January she and Sean and Susan Sarandon led a bus tour of Dimock, Pennsylvania, where the local water supply has been contaminated by fracking. And now she is running a new TV ad.
She explained the problem with fracking concisely in The New York Times letters column in December: “Evidence shows that there is no amount of regulation that can make fracking safe.… 6 percent of the wells leak immediately and 60 percent leak over time, poisoning drinking water and putting the powerful greenhouse gas methane into our atmosphere… We need to develop truly clean energy, not dirty water created by fracking.”
And the campaign had a victory last week, when Governor Cuomo announced a delay in the decision on fracking for more study of health effects. The New York Times story quoted Donald Trump as spokesman for the pro-fracking forces, and Yoko as the voice of the opposition.