On Friday March 6th, the UCLA chapter of the California Public Interest Research Group, also known as CALPIRG Students, took part in a statewide event called the UC wide Human Oil Spill.
In conjunction with several other CALPIRG chapters, including UCD, UCSB, UCR, and UCI, the UCLA chapter educated students on its campus about the dangers of oil drilling and the necessity of banning oil drilling in California. Beyond merely educating, this event demonstrated student support for banning oil drilling. Across the state, over 120 emails were sent in to Gavin Newsom's office, and here at UCLA over 120 students either signed petitions or took photos in support of banning oil drilling. Students also participated in a "human oil spill" demonstration by dressing up in all black and laying down to emulate an oil spill.
Fracking, the primary aspect of oil drilling discussed at this event, is the high pressure injection of water, sand, and chemicals into underground shale rock formations in order to extract the oil or natural gas trapped within the shale. The problems this presents are multitudinous, polluting our water, our land, our air, and has even been shown to cause earthquakes. Due to all these negative impacts, there really is no way to justify fracking.
Katrina Herrera, a member of the Navajo tribe, spoke about the environmental racism component of fracking, stating that "oil drilling disproportionately impacts marginalized communities".
Herrera also discussed the impact of fracking on tribal lands, where it is unfortunately common, often without the consent of the tribes living there. "Our tribal lands define our history and culture and we must keep them protected from the dangers of fracking that harms our environment, our people, historical landmarks, and natural habitats" said Herrera. After citing a study done by Clark University, Herrera delved further into the health impacts, mentioning that "oil drilling can cause many health effects, ranging from high-risk pregnancies to asthma". Finally, she stated that "this impacts people that don't have the same resources or ability to advocate for themselves" to drive her point home about environmental injustice.
CALPIRG advocates for a few steps to be taken. First and foremost, they believe California should phase out oil and gas drilling. Secondly, they want to create a public health zone around current drilling sites. Finally, they want to create a transition for workers to move from fossil fuels to clean energy.
Fortunately, our Governor Gavin Newsom is already looking towards these solutions. He has historically been a leader on environmental issues, and recently, Newsom has imposed tighter restrictions on fracking. While this is the strongest stance a California governor has ever taken on the issue, it's only the first step towards a solution. We would be so excited to see him follow Vermont, New York and Maryland in banning fracking completely.
CALPIRG's Ban Fracking campaign will continue to build student support for a ban to encourage our governor to lead the state into a green future.