by: Ella Teevan
On Saturday, UC Berkeley students made history, marching alongside activists from across California in the largest rally against fracking the US has ever seen. Despite a spattering of rain, 8,000 people took to the streets of Oakland for the March for Real Climate Leadership, a direct call on Governor Brown to live up to his promise to make California into an international leader against climate change.
“We are here to ban fracking, to stand up to Big Oil, and to move California beyond fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy,” declared Tia Lebherz of Food and Water Watch, one of the march’s speakers and organizers, to roars and cheers from the Saturday morning crowd.
Protesters started arriving in busloads around 11:30 at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, from communities as far away as Chico to the north and the Los Angeles/Orange County area to the south. San Diego activists made the longest trek, boarding their bus at midnight to arrive in the morning. The march wound its way north up Telegraph Ave. and across to Lake Merritt, led by a contingent of Native Americans, First Nations, Pacific Islanders, and other peoples on the front lines of the climate struggle.
Photo from marchforclimateleadership.org
The anti-fracking, pro-renewable-future message holds a broad appeal for the diverse communities that make up California. The March for Real Climate Leadership included 134 partner organizations, which showcase the depth and breadth of the climate and anti-fracking movement in California: from health groups like Breast Cancer Action, to labor unions like a local chapter of United Auto Workers, to the Sunflower Alliance, who organized art and props. The march owed much of its success, visibility, and sheer numbers to the months of planning poured into it by organizers from statewide groups Food and Water Watch, 350.org, California Student Sustainability Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.
The march, full of joyful noise and chanting voices, stood out as sea of blue shirts and banners stretching from sidewalk to sidewalk in the Oakland streets. The choice of blue color, according to the march’s art coordinator, David Solnit, evokes one of its main messages: that fracking contaminates our water, an especially precious resource in this historic drought. When protesters reached the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, a 25-foot banner rose from the lake, bearing an Earth Mother and her child and the words, “Our Water, Our Health, Our California.”Amphitheater, a 25-foot banner rose from the lake, bearing an Earth Mother and her child and the words, “Our Water, Our Health, Our California.”
Photo from marchforclimateleadership.org
Students from Berkeley and across the state have been vital participants in the anti-fracking movement and the March for Real Climate Leadership. “There were at least 1,000 students from across the state representing 15 different campuses,” said Shoshanna Howard, an organizer of statewide Students Against Fracking groups with the California Student Sustainability Coalition.
Cal’s own Wes Adrianson, of Students Against Fracking, spoke in a fishbowl discussion at a convergence of over 40 Californians Against Fracking member groups on the day following the march. “Students involved with sustainability know that as long as governor brown allows fracking in California, he is undermining the state’s transition to renewable energy and jeopardizing our future,” Adrianson said. “We’re going to hold him accountable to that until he demonstrates real climate leadership by banning fracking.”
UC Berkeley student Kristy Drutman of Berkeley’s Students Against Fracking chapter traveled to Sacramento on Jan. 27th to speak at a press conference in front of the Capitol, where she and other activists hand-delivered a large puzzle piece to Governor Brown’s office, demanding that he be a “piece of the climate solution” for the student generation.
photo from marchforclimateleadership.org
Governor Brown, for his part, has maintained that fracking can be done safely. Senate Bill 4, which passed in late 2013, allows regulated fracking in California and mandates an Environmental Impact Report on its effects, due this July – before which, Brown has made clear that he will not act. March organizers and the Californians Against Fracking Coalition point out that Brown has the power to ban fracking in the Golden State, via an executive order. In Berkeley, Cal students continue to push for an Alameda County fracking ban, and they always welcome new people at Students Against Fracking meetings on Tuesday nights. Between now and July, activists in the SoCal communities of Hermosa Beach and La Habra Heights are working to pass ballot initiatives banning fracking, all the while pressuring Governor Brown to be a real climate leader.
“Claiming to be a climate leader while allowing fracking is like saying you’re trying to save money from inside a Louis Vuitton,” said Linda Capato of 350.org. “It’s far past time for Governor Jerry Brown to step up, truly and end fracking now.”
Featured Image from the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment