by Tia Lebherz, California Organizer
Fresh off a victory in New York State, which banned fracking in December, 8,000 Californians came together in Oakland on February 7 to send Governor Jerry Brown a simple message: Climate Leaders Don’t Frack. The March for REAL Climate Leadership was a historic moment for our movement in the Golden State as it brought together frontline community members, indigenous people, nurses, labor unions, students, environmentalists and concerned Californians from across the state. We marched together in the town Governor Brown calls home because it is past time for him to step up and protect our health, our water and our communities by banning fracking now. I’m proud of Food & Water Watch’s role in creating what was the largest anti-fracking rally in U.S. history; two weeks later, as we work to water the seeds we planted with this event, it’s a pleasure to pause to reflect on what we’re growing with our partners.
Governor Brown fancies himself an international leader in the fight against climate change. When he was inaugurated in January for his fourth and final term, he indeed committed to some notable renewable energy goals. But, as Brown focuses on the consumption side of our energy use, he fails completely to address production and extraction. California is the third largest oil producing state in the nation. Surprised? And here in the land of all-things-eco, oil companies are expanding extreme extraction techniques like fracking all the time. So, sorry, Governor Brown, you cannot control one of the nation’s largest fossil fuel extracting states and be a climate leader at the same time.
Californians demand and deserve better. Our state is in the midst of a historic drought that research shows is exacerbated by climate change. Our agricultural industry is suffering and farm jobs are being lost. Here’s another surprise for readers outside California: cities here are literally running out of water. Still, our Governor allows the oil and gas industry to permanently contaminate two million gallons of water every day in extreme oil extraction operations in California. Even more unsettling, recent reports show that under Governor Brown, billions of gallons of wastewater from oil and gas operations have been dumped illegally into protected aquifers in the state. Governor Brown’s unwillingness to tackle the real threat to our water and climate – his refusal to stand up to Big Oil – is what compelled thousands of Californians to march on February 7.
But the march was also an opportunity to spotlight the REAL climate leaders that work everyday to protect their communities and our planet by fighting the most powerful industry in the world. Leaders like Dianne Thomas from Carson, who along with a fierce coalition of her neighbors recently stopped 200 new wells from moving into their community. Or the busload of community warriors who traveled to Oakland from Kern County, where over 90 percent of the fracking is occurring in California; people here are already overburdened with the worst air quality in the nation and pesticide drift from Big Agriculture’s monocultures – who are literally fighting for their lives. And the leaders from San Benito who last November banned fracking through a ballot initiative despite being outspent nearly twenty-to-one. These are the REAL climate leaders in our movement; until Governor Brown steps up and puts an end to fracking, he has no claim to their ranks.
The action didn’t just end at the March. Afterward, Californians Against Fracking held a convergence where nearly 300 people talked about how they would take the energy from the march back to their communities to continue fighting for local and statewide bans on fracking. The following day, 50 grassroots leaders from across the state stayed in Oakland and together mapped out our work for 2015.
Working on the March for REAL Climate Leadership and the Californians Against Fracking convergence was one of the most powerful and incredible experiences of my life. From the start, it was clear that Californians are hungry for change and feel more urgently than ever the need to ban fracking now. The 130 partner organizations that came together for this event represented labor, faith, social justice, climate justice and other movements. This breadth and depth proves that the movement to ban fracking is not limited to a small group of environmentalist – it is united and strong and it touches every corner of California.
Need some inspiration? Check out the March for Real Climate Leadership wrap-up page, featuring an outstanding video, along with pictures, press hits and important numbers.
Keep your eye on California: the momentum is with us we’re not stopping until we’ve banned fracking for good.