Despite early rain, 8,000 Californians took to the streets of Oakland, CA yesterday for the March for Real Climate Leadership, the largest demonstration against fracking in U.S. history. This crowd count makes today’s event nearly two times larger than last year’s historic anti-fracking rally, Don’t Frack California. The marchers, representing a broad coalition of organizations including labor unions, local environmental justice groups, and national NGOs, demanded Governor Jerry Brown step up and truly lead in the fight against climate change by ending the use of fracking in California.
“Thousands of people are in the streets of Oakland today because climate change and fossil fuel extraction are inextricably linked,” said Tia Lebherz of Food & Water Watch.
According to March for Real Climate Leadership, “Numerous studies and reports have shown fracking worsens climate change, exacerbates the state’s historic drought, and jeopardizes the health of residents. The science has persuaded other state leaders, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, to step up and take action against the practice.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is an outspoken advocate for change on climate policy. In January, Gov. Brown’s budget proposal included $532 million to continue the implementation of a Water Action Plan toward sustainable water management and $1 billion to go toward cap-and-trade expenditures toward low-carbon transportation, sustainable communities, energy efficiency, urban forests and high-speed rail. Brown said, “The successful implementation of these projects and continued and even steeper reductions in carbon pollutants are necessary to address the ongoing threat posed by climate change.”
In a speech on Monday May 19, 2014 at the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, Brown stated, “California is committed to moving down that path of aligning our economy and our way of life in California with the demands of nature as we now understand them scientifically.” There is no doubt now about the evidence that climate change is taking place. It has been strong for quite a while and it is getting even stronger.”
But critics at the march point out that Brown’s ambition to make California an international leader in the fight against climate change is at odds with his unwillingness to take a stand against fracking. “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.
“The oil industry’s toxic waste stream has proven to be unmanageable and an immediate threat to California’s drinking and irrigation water supply,” said Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action.
Organizers chose Oakland as the site for the March for Real Climate Leadership because of Gov. Brown’s unique relationship with the city, which he once served as Mayor and has long called home. Speakers at the begining of the event laid out seven different arguments against fracking, then lead the march to Lake Merritt for a rally demanding action from Gov. Brown to end fracking in the state.
“The student voice holds a lot of power,” said Eva Malis, a student at UC Berkeley. “No matter how profitable a practice like fracking is, if it harms people, then there is absolutely no justification for letting it continue.”
The March for Real Climate Leadership was composed of a broad coalition of activists, including: indigenous communities, healthcare professionals, artists, clean water activists, parents, and families. Today’s march also continued building the deepening relationship between climate activists and organized labor, with an impressive contingent representing local unions.
“The facts are clear: fracking worsens climate change, exacerbates a historic drought, and harms public health,” said Capato. “It’s far past time for Governor Jerry Brown to step up, truly and end fracking now.”