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Sonoma County Joins the Anti-Fracking March

Sonoma County Joins the Anti-Fracking March

by Tish Levee

The largest anti-fracking event in the country was held in Oakland on February 7th. An estimated 8,000 people gathered to protest fracking—hydraulic fracturing—in California. Coming from all over the state, they carpooled, took public transportation, and came in chartered buses, with two large buses coming from Sonoma County.

One of those marching was Woody Hastings, the Renewable Energy Implementation Manager for Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa. For Woody, “It was a family reunion of sorts,” as he met people he had worked with in the climate movement in Southern California. “It was edifying to see so many people,” although it was hard to find all the folk from Sonoma County, as there were so many people there. The diverse group of different ages, people of color, and members of many communities was sponsored by over 120 sponsors, including labor groups, faith communities, and environmental organizations.

Leading the march were frontline community members and youth—those most heavily impacted by climate change and fracking, including indigenous leaders, and farmers and ranchers from Kern County and the Central Valley, where fracking wells are often right alongside their agricultural land.

The march emphasized creativity with music and many artistic renderings, lots of fun things (including the “dancing bugs” that greeted Woody on arrival), and good spirits—not all “doom and gloom.” Even with such a large crowd, there were no incidents, “nothing bad happened,” Woody said. Color was everywhere, especially the blue and yellow shirts and banners that gave the march the appearance of a mighty surging river of blue water speckled with sunlight. Throughout there was a sense that “all the critters are in danger;” we are all endangered species—humans, too.

Billed as the “March for Real Climate Leadership,” it took place in Gov. Brown’s hometown to draw attention to the need for him to be a “real” climate leader. Seen as an environmental leader during his first terms as governor in the 1970s, Brown has declared that, “Nothing is more fundamental than water.” However, his support of fracking over the last four years is in marked contrast to that statement. In the midst of a mega-drought—fueled by climate change—allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water to be injected, along with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure into the earth to break up rock formations and allow oil and gas extraction, is anything but climate leadership.

Besides the massive quantities of water it uses, fracking often releases large amounts of methane, which is at least 86 times more effective that CO2 in trapping heat over a 20-year period; the process is also believed to be responsible for the large number of earthquakes occurring in places where they haven’t been previously. (The first six months of 2014 saw 250 quakes in Oklahoma; nearly one-half of all magnitude 3+ quakes in the continental U.S.)

However, while ending fracking in California—or at least enacting and enforcing much stricter regulations—is absolutely necessary, long term we have to find ways to reduce our incredible appetite for fossil fuels. As long as Californians drive 332 billion miles a years, consuming 14 billion gallons of gasoline and 4 billion gallons of diesel, we are going to either have to produce oil here (largely by fracking) or import it from elsewhere, often on “bomb” trains. That is why we must work harder than ever on such things as low and no emissions vehicles, car sharing, public transportation, and housing options near our work. These won’t solve all our problems, but each small step we take can help.

People may question the value of marches and rallies such as this, Woody said, but it is “going to take everything” to make changes. We just have to keep doing all the things that make a difference, over and over. On the first Earth Day in 1970, there was a sense “that people in the street didn’t matter. It may appear that they were being ignored but “it does matter,” and now we know it.

Last September 400,000 people—including Woody—marched in Manhattan; since then the President has spoken out on climate change, especially at the U.N. Climate Summit, and the G20 in Australia, made a historic climate agreement with China, and today, he vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline. People in the street do matter!


©Tish Levee 2015