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8,000 people march for “real” climate leadership

The Feb 7 march about climate concerns to Lake Merritt began at 14th and Broadway in Oakland.
The Feb 7 march about climate concerns to Lake Merritt began at 14th and Broadway in Oakland. (All photos by Sarah Hoenicke)

January saw no rain, and in the midst of the Bay Area’s first storm of the year, 8,000 people from across California marched through Oakland calling for “real climate leadership” — something they feel that Governor Brown has not delivered since he signed Senate Bill 4, which authorized fracking in California.

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is a drilling technique used to increase the flow of oil or gas from a well. Liquids are pumped down a well into rock below the surface at pressures high enough to fracture rock. The end product is a web of interconnected fractures that can aid in the movement of oil and natural gas to the well bore, according to

The Feb 7 march to Lake Merritt began at 14th Street and Broadway, outside the 12th Street BART station, at 12:45pm. People bused in from 21 different locations across the state, and 134 organizations participated, according to the march organizers’ website. Representatives from Hawaii and Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, were included in the march. 

“We can see the lagoon from the ocean side of our island. Our island could totally disappear because of the ocean rising. If a storm comes in, we’re gone,” Fili Pedro Epati of Tokelau said.

Among the thousands of people marching was an energy-generating, mechanical tree perched atop a bicycle being pedaled through the crowd by a man who was also leading the crowd in raps of, “California’s in a drought, fracking’s got to go no doubt.” There were dance troupes, a group doing hula and a team of elderly people singing hymns with the lyrics changed to the likes of, “Solar power in that land that I love.”

The signs people carried and their verbal chants made their message clear.  They wanted to call Gov. Brown’s attention to what they feel is a harmful practice — especially during the drought — hydraulic fracturing.

According to the latest press release made by climate march organizers the affects of fracking are widespread and dangerous.  

“Numerous studies and reports have shown fracking worsens climate change, exacerbates the state’s historic drought and jeopardizes the health of residents,” said the press release. 

Multiple organizations supported the march. Breast Cancer Action representative Sahru Keiser held up New York, Vermont, Scotland and Wales as examples of regions that have halted fracking.

New York Governor Cuomo banned the practice per a New York State Health Commissioner recommendation due to scientific studies which have shown that fracking puts people’s health at risk and the environment in jeopardy, according to the Huffington Post.

“Climate leaders don’t frack,” said Tia Lebherz, of Food & Water Watch, a statement directed at Gov. Brown’s recent push to make California a climate leader.

Yulisa Elenes, of UNITE HERE Local 2850, said that she hopes Brown responds to the march with legislation to ban fracking. Others have hoped for a moratorium on the practice, if an immediate halt is not possible.

Students attended the march, with Eva Malis of U.C. Berkeley speaking at the press conference. She said afterwards that she hopes Gov. Brown notices the outcry and that he realizes how many people in California are against fracking.

“People are dying,” Malis said, citing statistics displayed on Breast Cancer Action’s website which state that fracking exposes people to endocrine disrupters and carcinogenic chemicals, both of which are linked to breast cancer.

The Colorado School of Public Health has said that those living near natural gas drilling sites may experience accute and chronic health problems.

Gov. Brown has yet to issue a response to the march.

For more information about the march and about the organizations which oppose fracking in California, visit