220px-Neil_Young_-_1983Last week I got an incredible opportunity to work with my fellow 350 Denver and 350 Colorado team members tabling at the Neil Young Red Rocks concert. We were there because of a personal invitation from Neil Young himself, who supports 350’s activist efforts, especially those pertaining to issues such as fracking.

This experience was valuable for a number of reasons, including connecting with my fellow team members, building petitioning skills, helping to get our name out there and of course getting to see Neil Young for free. But this experience was especially valuable because it opened my eyes to the many faces of environmental action supporters.

At the concert we were asking people to take the time to sign a symbolic petition to ban fracking in Colorado. Fracking, especially in Colorado is a divisive issue with passionate supporters on both sides. Petitioning can really put you out of your comfort zone. You never know how people are going to react, whether they will simply ignore you, be open and positive, indifferent, or down right negative. I am usually a person who avoids conflict at all costs so gathering signatures is never my favorite activity.

If you have ever been to a Neil Young concert you may have noticed it is a diverse crowd. There are people who look like they have never left the 60s; there are also cowboys with long braids and ten gallon hats. There are millennials, boomers, and people from all over the country. I even met a man from Venice, Italy who said he was Neil Young’s “biggest fan.” All of these people had something in common. They understood the dangers of fracking. They applauded our efforts and eagerly signed our petition.

Now, not to make this seem like it was a perfect scenario and everyone I came across signed the petition, I did get the occasional, “no thanks, “ not right now,” or “ I support all forms of energy.”  However, if I had to put a percentage to it I would say about 90% of the people I asked to sign our petition were more than happy to. I received positive feedback such as, “Get as many signatures as you can!” and “I really appreciate what you are doing; your organization is great.” People from Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, and Utah all signed (because it was a symbolic petition it was fine to get out of state signatures). They knew what fracking was and had strong opinions against it and concerns about the health and environmental effects.

This was a dramatic change from four years ago when I did the same petitioning process in Maryland. Hardly anyone I asked knew what fracking was. Most were confused about the facts, some were in agreement that it should be studied but not outright banned. I strongly believe people are more knowledgeable today on climate issues because of organizations like 350 and role models such as Neil Young who can bring together a crowd — from farmers and cowboys to city slickers, and college kids — to get across the message of climate justice. The face of the environmental movement is always changing and becoming more and more inclusive of every type of person. This was perhaps the most inspiring thing I witnessed that night.

By Katelyn Hasz