The fossil fuel industry’s hold over our politics is often subtle, based in campaign contributions and shadowy lobby meetings. Today, I attended an event that chose to instead put their control on stage — an energy policy panel that was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute. Being the climate youth activist that I am, I was attending to help disrupt that control.
Several activists, many from frontline indigenous communities in Colorado, staged interruptions throughout the panel, targeted specifically at Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s support of fracking in the state. Hickenlooper — who has taken over $100,000 from oil and gas — claims to advocate for the land rights of those who want to sell gas leases on their land. The specific example he used for this was that someone’s “second home” on rural property should not restrict fracking in that area.
That example is not only oddly specific, but woefully removed from the struggles of frontline communities being poisoned by fracking. The disproportionate effects of natural gas extraction on indigenous communities is environmental racism at it’s worst, and is one reason of many that the use of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” must be rejected. Hickenlooper deserved to be interrupted for giving the oil and gas industry a platform to espouse their rhetoric — and we need to have conversations on energy that aren’t funded on every level by fossil fuels. Today, activists fought to take back that conversation by using their voices to drown out the API’s rhetoric.
The activists fighting in Colorado have a chance to reject that control by fighting at the basic democratic level for the interests of the people. Fossil fuel extraction must be stopped, and it is our collective responsibility to make sure that the industry we’re waging a war against isn’t given the chance to drown out our story.
Drew Shannon is a student at the University of Mary Washington and a fellow with 350 Action.