Inspired by California’s worst drought in 500 years, record melt of Arctic Sea ice, and worldwide extreme weather events, climate and clean energy marchers have gone into the streets twice this month to demand urgent action on climate change.
From the Port of Los Angeles to Sacramento, thousands of activists have exercised their power as a united movement of organizations and individuals from faith, labor, environment and communities calling for an end to extreme energy proposals like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
On March 15th, thousands of Californians converged on Sacramento to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to ban fracking, driven by growing concerns about earthquakes, air and water pollution, drought and climate change.
Organized by the statewide coalition Californians Against Fracking and more than 150 individual environmental and public health organizations, the protest and march featured speakers from around California forced to live with fracking in their communities and organizing to end the use of this toxic way of producing oil and gas.
Two busloads of activists made the trip from Orange County, as well as support from local-affiliated organizations such as the OC Interfaith Coalition for the Environment; Residents Organized for a Safe Environment; and Tar Sands Action SoCal.
"What's clear from Saturday's rally in Sacramento is that the movement to stop fracking in California is something the governor would be foolish to ignore," said David Turnbull, campaigns director of Oil Change International. "Big Oil may have lots of money to throw around the state, but as we saw on Saturday at the rally, this movement is energized, committed and not going anywhere. The governor can choose to stand with these concerned Californians and stop fracking in our state, or he can continue to stand with Big Oil. The correct choice was made abundantly clear on Saturday."
Fracking is an intensive process to release and extract oil or gas by blasting water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into deep underground rock formations. Its evil twin, high-volume acidization, uses hydrofluoric acid, one of the most dangerous chemical solvents, to dissolve the Monterey Shale formation and get the oil flowing. From the Sacramento Valley to off the coast in Huntington Beach, hydraulic fracturing or fracking is taking place across California, polluting local water and air, accelerating climate change, eroding property values and creating tremendous amounts of waste, the disposal of which has been linked to earthquakes.
Additionally on March 1, hundreds of people rallied for clean energy and healthy communities in Wilmington-Port of Los Angeles, one of the most fossil fuel-polluted communities in the country. As part of a coast-to-coast Great March for Climate Action, demonstrators braved much-needed rain showers, marching from the port through the streets to downtown LA, speaking out to impacted communities and demanding government action against climate change.
“We’ve seen climate change coming for a long time, but now it’s here, and it’s getting worse faster and causing greater harm than we ever expected,” retiring Congressman Henry Waxman wrote in a statement read at the rally. “It is absolutely critical that we address our ever-increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the development and use of more efficient and cleaner energy alternatives.”
Organized by SoCal Climate Action Coalition 350 and the Sierra Club, over 100 organizations supported that effort, including from Orange County: Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks (FHBP); Canyonland Conservation Fund; Women for: Orange County; Brea Congregational UCC's Social Action Leadership Team; and the North OC chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.
The march started in Wilmington because it has the largest concentration of dirty oil refineries in California. They process 650,000 barrels of crude oil every day, pouring pollution into the local, regional and national environment. This, coupled with air pollution from the Ports of LA and Long Beach and the trucks moving to and fro on the freeways, impacts the local neighborhoods, primarily working-class people of color, who suffer disproportional rates of asthma and cancer.
Moreover, there is a recent proposal to ship in tar sands bitumen via rail, a toxic and corrosive form of crude from Canada, into the Valero Refinery in Wilmington, with risks of spills and accidents.
California has signed on to an 80-percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, part of its Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill 32). Scientific studies have shown this is achievable through energy efficiency and conservation as well as a transition to clean electricity. Instead, we keep pumping the earth dry of its stores of carbon, all for the burning for electricity and transportation. We thus heat the atmosphere, waste and pollute ground and ocean water, industrializing rural landscapes and causing earthquakes from disposal of wastewater in deep wells.
The vast majority of scientific academies agree that the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to more intense heat waves, extreme weather, rising of sea levels, ocean acidification and the melting of the glaciers. In Orange County, we can expect more heat waves, wildfires, droughts and dangers from rising sea levels on our beach communities.
By average people getting together and speaking out, the power of the oil industry is countered, and politicians and governmental officials must take note. Asked the other night: How do you expect to overcome the billions in lobbying dollars of Big Oil? Boots on the ground. Thousands in the streets. And Orange County citizens are making their votes count to ban fracking now, stop tar sands oil from being transported and refined here and to demand climate solutions now.
If you want to demand action from California decision-makers on climate change, please consider signing this petition: Great March Climate Action SoCal.