by Dan Bacher
As Governor Jerry Brown was getting ready to portray himself as a "climate leader" at the upcoming United Nations Climate Summit in Paris, faith leaders, environmental advocates, frontline communities and residents from across California rallied at the State Capitol in Sacramento on November 12 to call on Brown to halt all dangerous oil and gas drilling practices, including fracking.
They urged Brown to "remember his own religious studies, the moral imperative for planet stewardship, and need for climate justice when heading into global discussions around fossil fuel extraction," according to a news release from Californians Against Fracking.
Environmental groups joined forces with faith leaders coinciding with this year’s Global Frackdown to Paris, an annual international day of action to ban fracking and other unconventional oil and gas extraction techniques worldwide.
A group of over 50 people attended a rally on the south steps of the State Capitol during which leaders in the Native American, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and other faith traditions led a prayer and meditation.
Following the gathering, the groups delivered two letters—one signed by more than 150 faith leaders (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1IStSRqbGEBGl7UI92xiFxSwvuxD36ZIC8p0UbNUTI_E/viewform) and another signed by more than 1,200 environmental and health groups over 30 countries—to the governor’s office.
Faith leaders wrote, “We are mindful that the climate crisis places unequal burdens on the world’s poor, who are already suffering increased rates of sickness, death, and displacement as a result of human-induced climate change.”
The faith leaders said Governor Brown has "stood by as oil companies continue to employ dangerous drilling methods—like fracking, acidizing and cyclic steaming—despite mounting evidence of their harmful impacts to the environment and human health."
They cited a recent state-commissioned study by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) concluding that operations close to human populations present substantial public health concerns, including disproportionate risks on sensitive populations, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. More than 1.67 million Californians live within a mile of an active oil well in the Los Angeles Basin alone.(https://ccst.us/projects/hydraulic_fracturing_public/SB4.php)
In further analysis of the CCST report, Californians Against Fracking revealed that the study itself provides "numerous reasons to ban fracking outright." (http://californiansagainstfracking.org/top10/)
Ann Marie Sayers, Tribal Chairperson, Ohlone/Indian Canyon, and Director of the Costanoan Indian Research, Inc. opened the rally.
"Leave the oil in the ground - we don't have to squeeze every drop of oil out of Mother Earth," she said. "We need to ban fracking. Climate leaders don't frack. Governor Brown is supposed to represent us, not Big Oil.
Kristen Debler, Coastal Miwok and a member of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, said people must speak up for Mother Earth, pointing out the big threat to California's water resources that fracking represents.
"We can't live without water," she said. "It is our soul and life blood - and we must protect our water."
David Braun, with Faith Against Fracking, quipped, “If Jerry Brown thinks that being a climate leader means helping the oil industry get away with carbon intensive practices like fracking, then he clearly needs an intervention; today, we’re praying for him.”
“While Jerry Brown’s leadership on climate change has been admirable, we can’t help but notice how his policies, which enable the worst climate polluters and support fracking, undermine his best intentions," said Reverend Ambrose Carroll, with Church by the Side of the Road. "Half measures on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques won’t save the climate, or our communities.”
“As Governor Brown prepares for Paris, we are urging him to take bold action that will set an example for other world leaders," said Mark Schlosberg, a national organizer with Food & Water Watch. But Governor Brown will not be a climate leader as long as he continues to promote fracking and increased extraction of oil and gas here in California, which has resulted in pollution of our water, crops, and communities. Rather than focusing on Paris, Governor Brown should focus on California, reign in the oil and gas industry, and ban fracking now."
Food & Water Watch, a non-profit advocacy group, spearheaded the Global Frackdown to Paris letter: http://www.globalfrackdown.org/organizational-sign-on-letter.
Reverend Laurie Manning, with Skyline Community Church in Oakland, stated, “It is the moral responsibility of all people of faith to stand with those who are suffering as a result of these toxic enterprises, like fracking and extreme extraction.”
Shoshana Wechsler, with Sunflower Alliance, said, “As persons of faith and seekers of justice, we decry an energy system that mandates sacrifice zones, allowing entire communities to be poisoned and water and land contaminated. We call on Gov. Brown, himself a man of faith, to heed our call to end fracking and other extreme oil extraction now.”
Other speakers at the event included: Brother Mark Schroeder, Franciscan Friar; Rabbi Nancy Wechsler, Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael; Ayya Santacitta Bhikkhuni, Co-Founder of Aloka Vihara; Jaemie Abad, Health Professional; Rev; Gustavo Aguirre, Jr., Organizer with Central California Environmental Justice Network; Lupe Martinez, Assistant Executive Director of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment; and Jessica Wohlander, Rootskeeper and Faith Against Fracking. Groups represented at the rally include the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), United Native Americans and other members of the Californians Against Fracking coalition.
In September, Californians Against Fracking released a short documentary film in which faith leaders discuss the intersection of faith and environmental stewardship. Watch the full video at: http://bit.ly/1Op6cwK.
Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on extreme drilling including fracking. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.
In breaking news, the Paris Prefecture of Police has announced that due to the tragic events that took place on November 13, where over 150 people were killed by guns and bomb blasts, the Global Climate March planned for November 29 and the December 12 mobilizations planned will not be allowed to proceed in Paris.
Activists responded in a press release that "we are more determined than ever to make our voices heard on climate justice and throughout both weeks."
"We realize the gravity of the situation, but now more than ever, we need to find creative ideas to call on people to unite around climate action,” said Juliette Rousseau, coordinator of the Coalition Climat 21, the network of NGOS coordinating the mobilisations (http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2015/11/18/plans-mobilizations-paris-cancelled-authorities-french-activists-more-determined?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=email_this&utm_source=email)