MichaelaSteiner_FossilFreeFellowshipThis post is by Michaela Steiner, a student and divestment organizer at Fort Lewis College in Colorado…   

I decided to attend college in Colorado because of its pristine beauty and great hiking opportunities. I’m a native Coloradan and have always enjoyed taking walks through the mountains; the natural scenery here provides a landscape for so many amazing outdoors activities—from mountain biking to backpacking to ice climbing and beyond. I first learned about fracking in an environmental biology course and became disgusted when I realized what it prescribes for our collective future.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a high-pressure process of injecting millions of gallons of water and toxic, radioactive, and carcinogenic chemicals into the ground to release natural gas. Since this process is federally unregulated, methane and toxic chemicals contaminate groundwater and drinking water.

I was so disturbed seeing this destruction of Colorado cities and landscapes that I devoted my summer to working with Colorado communities to ban fracking. To do this, we’ve been advocating for a ballot initiative that gives power back to the people, by granting citizens the right to ban fracking and other dangerous corporate projects in their local town and city governments.

Over and over, I’ve observed that the solution is simple: we need to put power back into the hands of regular citizens and ensure their right to local self-government. If we successfully achieve this, we can create a unified movement that works to transition our society to a renewable energy future. That’s why I’m really excited to attend the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21st. I’m going to join together with hundreds of thousands of people from across the country to unify for climate justice and build power that can overcome the fossil fuel industry. We are taking to the streets to challenge this industry that expects us to stay home, and we are going to show the world the power of people.

With all the work that’s been put in place, you’d expect Colorado to already be fully solar powered; with our 300 days of sunshine, it’s a wonder why we haven’t transitioned to a renewable energy future yet. It’s because the the oil and gas industry, the main opposition, has a stranglehold on our local and state government. When Colorado counties like Longmont passed a democratic vote to ban fracking, they were sued by the oil and gas industry. Soon, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper sided with the fossil fuel companies and filed a lawsuit against Longmont. This shows the immense power that these corporations have in government. Such power dynamics prevent Colorado citizens from their right to make decisions about their own health and safety. On a larger scale, the power that the oil and gas industry holds in federal and global decisions about the environment prevents the climate crisis from being addressed in a way that ensures a livable future.

The People’s Climate March is being organized by the people and it is for the people, to redefine our ability to claim power in government. It’s time for frontline communities, from Colorado to Appalachia to the Gulf Coast, to centralize their community power before it’s too late. This march comes at a historic and influential time as global leaders, including President Obama, are in New York to attend the Climate Summit. It’s the perfect opportunity to create the largest mobilization on climate change in history and to bring power back into the hands of the people. It’s the best chance we’ve got for Colorado and the rest of the United States to come together as a unified movement of people power and claim our own voice. Though the march is in NYC, I will be joining from Colorado in solidarity—wherever in the world you are you can take part in the March and demand climate justice.