The Orion

Students stand at California’s anti-fracking rally

Gary Nelson

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Chico State student Kevin Killion, of AS Sustainability, joins thousands of environmental activists in protesting in front of the state Capitol. Photo credit: Emily Teague


One issue brought together students, Buddhist monks, grandmothers, authors, farmers and brewers from all over California.

Fracking is happening in California, and they want it to stop.

Nearly 60 Chico activists boarded a bus bound for the state Capitol early on March 15 to demand a ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuels, in California.

The group included Chico State and Butte College students, small children and women and men in their late 70s. On the bus ride there, some students broke their guitars out and sang “Hit The Road Frack,” an activist’s rendition of Percy Mayfield’s blues classic.

Arriving at the Capitol building in Sacramento, the group met with thousands more like them, some holding picket signs for Gov. Jerry Brown to see. Signs with slogans like “Brown ain’t green,” “Don’t frack with us” and “Would you frack your own mother?” buoyantly bobbed above the passionate crowd.

All of the participants were crowded near the podium to hear the anti-fracking messages being bellowed over the group of cheering people.

Wes Adrianson, a first-year civil and environmental engineering major at UC Berkeley, was one of the speakers.

“Politicians make the mistake that students are apathetic, so we came out here today to show that that’s absolutely not true,” Adrianson said. “Our generation is not complacent.”

The grassroots movement against fracking has been growing rapidly over the last couple years in California.

In the summer of 2012, only 100 people showed up to the rally, said Andrew Grinberg, program coordinator with Clean Water Action.

“We’re thrilled to see this many people showing up,” Grinberg said. “In only a year and half, thousands of people are showing up, so the growth is amazing.”

Adam Scow, the California campaigns director for Food & Water Watch predicts there were at least 3,500 people at the event this year.

Speeches were put on pause to split the crowd into a single-file, shoulder-to-shoulder line, which encircled the Capitol.

Michael Fitzgerald, a backpack journalist and previous advisor to The Orion, was at the rally promoting his new book.

The book, “The Fracking War,” was published March 19.

“As a novelist, I can tell you this: you can’t make up stuff half as weird as what’s been going on,” Fitzgerald said. “I just wrote my book right off the headlines. I’m finding it’s more bizarre than I could ever imagine.”

While living in New York, Fitzgerald discovered that gas companies are polluting the water and simultaneously buying water companies all over the world, he said. When they’re done ruining the water supply, they’ll be selling the little water that is left at a premium.

Water may then cost more than a gallon of gasoline, he said.

The voice of David Braun, president and co-founder of United for Action, rings out into the crowd. He recently moved to California to help with the anti-fracking movement here after doing some early organizing for the effort New York.

“Fracking is when you have the oil mixed in with fucking bedrock,” Braun said. “They drill through it. They put off dynamite. They punch holes in it, then they inject the water back into the ground.”

The water is mixed with sand and chemicals then sent underground at 20-30 times the pressure it takes to break a bone, he said.

“They don’t even know what they’re doing down there. They’re just blowing it up with lots of chemicals,” Braun said.

Big oil companies such as ExxonMobil are running out of conventional oil, so they have to diversify and purchase large fracking companies, he said.

Braun goes on to share how big oil fights to stay in business.

“They have people who do industrial extraction of fossil fuels,” he said. “Their business plan is reliant upon fracking. They go out of business if they don’t continue this very toxic industrial practice.”

The fossil fuel companies are not nimble enough to change their practices, Braun said. They can’t compete with solar panels or wind turbines.

They’re fighting for their business,” he said. “We’re literally fighting for our lives.”

Gary Nelson can be reached at [email protected] or @thegarynelson on Twitter.

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Students stand at California’s anti-fracking rally