In early 2012 I participated in my first act of nonviolent direct action when the Boulder Earth Guardians and I shut down a Commissioners’ hearing to permit fracking in Boulder County. At 12 years old, I was the oldest kid in the group that day. We interrupted the meeting with a “people’s mic” causing the Commissioners to leave the room and we took their empty seats. Sitting in the center chair I polled the crowd on how many people wanted a ban on fracking. As the room erupted into celebration, I struck the gavel and the movement to resist fracking in Boulder County began to take off.
Ever since fracking was first proposed in 2011, we the people of Boulder County have made it abundantly clear that drilling is not welcome. At every single hearing held by the County Commissioners on the subject, the room would overflow into the hallway and overflow rooms. Almost unanimously, everyone who appeared at these hearings spoke out against this destructive and dangerous industry moving into our community. Grassroots groups like Boulder County Protectors have trained hundreds for nonviolent direct action.
Our efforts have succeeded in keeping industrial hydraulic fracturing at a distance as we’ve seen and felt the devastating impacts on the rest of the state and country. In just the last nine months, Colorado has experienced 14 oil and gas explosions, with several proving deadly. We’ve seen Colorado’s air turn sour, as ozone days become more and more common; now every county on the Front Range has been rated an “F” for air quality by the American Lung Association. We’ve seen peer-reviewed studies from prestigious universities show links between leukemia, asthma, low birth weight and birth defects living near fracking wells. According to NCAR and NOAA, we now know that fracking can have just as bad a climate impact as coal, if not worse. This isn’t just about politics or the environment, but about our families, our home and the future of Colorado.
Now after five years of holding off the bulldozers, the chemical trucks and heavy drill equipment, Boulder County Open Space is under the most significant threat ever, with hundreds of permits being processed as we speak. With so much at stake, we are calling on our friends and community to respond with the strongest showing yet. This Earth Day we are bringing together everyone who cares about clean air clean water to join us on Boulder County Open Space near the location of 140 proposed wells by Highway 52 and East Boulder County Road.
In the Jan. 25 issue of Boulder Weekly, Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones reflected the sentiment of her constituents: “I think 99 percent of Boulder County residents don’t think open space should be drilled and that’s not why we pay tax dollars to protect open space.”
Despite this acknowledgement and the more than $100 million Boulder taxpayers have extended to protect open space, we are being told there is nothing we can do to stop this fracking invasion. But we’ve heard this all before. They tell us it’s impossible before we prove them wrong.
It’s what indigenous pipeline activists heard before launching movements against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. With prayer and persistence the water protectors who inspired these movements helped awaken the world to the fossil fuel infrastructure that is endangering our valuable drinking water and making climate change worse. In addition to inspiring millions around the world at Standing Rock, the Keystone XL pipeline was halted when Obama, after sustained pressure, rejected the northern leg. We draw inspiration from the strength of indigenous peoples fighting to protect their ancestral lands, and we are calling on all water protectors to join us now.
We don’t have to look very far to find inspiration in people overcoming the odds to awaken the world to nearby danger. The legendary Rocky Flats protest brought 15,000 people together to bring awareness to the toxic toll of the nuclear plant between Boulder and Golden. It took more than a decade, but their courage, lying on the tracks and encircling the nuclear plant, eventually led to its closure. The action had a far-reaching effect, helping people across the country understand the dangers that facilities like Rocky Flats pose to human health.
To prevent the toxic and explosive threat in Boulder County, we need a response that mirrors these powerful movements. We need a chain of solidarity that connects from Standing Rock to Nebraska to Rocky Flats and all the people around the world suffering the impacts of climate change. If we succeed it will not just mean protecting our region from the hazards of fracking, it will mean hope for frontline communities everywhere.
Join us this Earth Day to send a message that no matter how wealthy and powerful the opposition is, we the people will always prevail. It’s up to us.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.