Gauchos Participate in Oakland March for Environmental Leadership


Sirarpi Topchyan

Students from the University of California, Santa Barbara and members of the Santa Barbara community attended The March for Real Climate Leadership: Our Water, Our Health, Our California in Oakland, California on Feb. 7 to demand action from Governor Jerry Brown concerning policies and legislation pertaining to environmental awareness and climate change.

The march’s main focus was to try and impress upon Brown the importance of addressing climate change and to call him to action, as he has been supporting movements to permit fracking California.

“There was a strong sentiment among many that the Governor was not taking proactive steps in protecting Californians from harmful pollution and health risks that result from oil extraction, such as fracking,” said third-year Andrew Urena, who attended the march. “Demanding proactive climate leadership is critical for our state’s future, and vital in protecting Californians’ health and well-being.”

Fracking stands for hydraulic fracturing, and it is the process of making fractures by injecting high pressured water and industrial chemicals underground, to make it easier to access natural gas. In the last November election, Santa Barbara voted against Measure P—an initiative to create a fracking ban. Those in favor of the ban claimed the fracking process could have a negative impact on the environment, and those who opposed the ban claimed that suspending the process could lead to loss of revenue and jobs in the Santa Barbara community.

Two busses filled with 120 participants from UCSB and the Santa Barbara and Ventura communities attended the protest, and students and citizens from all over California attended. UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board and Gauchos Against Fracking also participated in the march and sent student attendees. Estimates from the environmental organization placed attendance of the march at over 8,000 participants.

“I felt participating in the march was an important step towards a positive change in climate leadership in California,” said Urena. “I felt that the march was a great indication of the strength that comes from collective action. “

President Obama recently addressed the issue of climate change during his State of the Union address, stating that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

“Climate change is an issue that can be seen as far off, so it can feel difficult to understand,” said Arlo Bender-Simon, a grassroots organizer with California Student Environmental Coalition and UCSB alum. “But climate change is an important issue that affects everyone.”