#ForwardOnClimate rally pipes issues to the surface


Posted Wed, Feb 20, 2013


DENVER — Several hundred people converged on the Auraria Campus Feb. 17 and marched to Civic Center Park with the #ForwardOnClimate Solidarity March and Rally that took place in Feb. 16 in Washington D.C. and in several other major U.S. cities..

The rally piped issues to the surface that have the potential to fracture society, and called to question society’s underlying values as profits from the fossil fuel industry are weighed against environmental and other impacts.

“Students are the young people who are going to be alive longer than the rest of us and they’re going to experience the worst of the climate impacts that are coming,” said Micah Parkin of 350.org. “There is a moral obligation for our leaders to do something about it.”

Protestors called for governmental action against fossil fuel induced climate change and underscored President Obama’s key role and duty to reject TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project which would transverse U.S. soil and Native American tribal properties.

TransCanada’s website posted the Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline project is an 1,170 mile pipeline, which would run from Canada to Texas. The project requires U.S. presidential approval, which is anticipated in the first quarter of 2013.2013_0217_OilProtest_0080

MSU Denver student organization Social Activism Through Art was responsible for bringing the rally and march to the Auraria Campus, where the event kicked-off at 11:30 a.m. with a student-led rally. The campus rally was part of the Go Fossil Free campaign, where students from across Colorado are calling for colleges and universities to stop investing in and profiting from the fossil fuel energy.

Simon Mostafa, CU Boulder grad student studying environmental engineering, said there is a conflict of interest between universitys’ environmental research and the same schools’ profits from the fossil fuel industry investments.

“Essentially, as students, we’re stockholders in oil and gas companies,” Mostafa said.

When the marchers flowed into Civic Center Park many who were dressed in black lay down on the ground to create a human oil spill.

The rally at Civic Center Park was emceed by 12-year old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians, a non-profit environmental group for youth. Event sponsors include The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, 350 Colorado, Go Fossil Free, Greenpeace, Environment Colorado, Protect Our Colorado and other groups. It drew together people from faith-based, indigenous, student activist, environmental and political groups.

Speakers cited negative impacts of the fossil-fuel industry, including impact to the winter sports industry, drought, wildfires, super storm Sandy and violation of treaties with Native American nations and destruction of Native lands.2013_0217_OilProtest_0255

“Threats against the environment and pollution don’t stop at the border,” said Taryn Soncee Waters, member of Idle No More – Denver, an indigenous peoples group that advocates for treaty rights and environmental issues.

Like the proposed pipeline, the issues cross national borders and extend beyond environmental concerns, raising issues of centuries old land disputes and Native sovereignty as well as the U.S.’s long history of broken treaties with indigenous peoples.

“They’ve always pretty much just taken our land back; said here’s your land, oh wait, we want it now. Oh, here it is, oh wait, we want it back again,” said Cheyenne Birdshead, also of Idle No More – Denver.

Bringing it close to home for many Coloradoans, Jodee Brekke, one of the speakers and member of The Mother’s Project and Protect Our Colorado said, “There is a sixty-six percent greater risk of developing cancer if you live within a half mile radius of a well.”

However, not all Coloradoans support this approach. Proponents of the oil and gas industry in Colorado say it brings jobs to a struggling economy and that the operators take due precautions to protect the environment.

Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for COGA – Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said that Colorado has some of the most comprehensive oil and gas regulations in the country. 2013_0217_OilProtest_0128

“In Colorado, oil and gas is regulated at every level – local, state and federal, ” Flanders said.

The oil and gas industry has long and deep ties to Colorado and has been a boon to the regional economy. Passions surrounding related issues run just as deeply in the hearts of Coloradoans. Critics say the industry seeks profits at the expense of the environment and public good, citing incidents such as the recent fracking fluid spill near Windsor.

In an archived webcast of Gov. Hickenlooper’s Feb. 12 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Hickenlooper said he drank fracking fluid made of food additives, calling it “a benign fluid.” Hickenlooper could not be reached for comment and it is unclear if this fracking fluid is the same fluid currently in widespread use across Colorado. Hickenlooper has called for state, rather than federal regulation of the natural gas industry, saying natural gas fuels the economy.

Emphasizing the role of the oil and gas industry in the Colorado economy, Flanders said, “Coloradoans generally don’t expect energy to be developed elsewhere when we have the capability to contribute to domestic energy production ourselves.”

The issues raised at the #ForwardOnClimate rally span generations and cross cultural boundaries; the generations of the future will inherit the outcome.

“Our grandparents, our ancestors have always fought to keep the planet safe for us and we just want to keep doing that,” Cheyenne Birdshead said.

[Photos: Melanie Rice]

Gov. Hickenlooper’s address before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources can be seen in full at this site:


About Melanie J. Rice

Melanie Rice is a journalism student at MSU Denver, with an emphasis on both visual and written content.

View all posts by Melanie J. Rice

One Response to “#ForwardOnClimate rally pipes issues to the surface”

  1. S.L. Alderton Says:

    Great job on this article! I love the pictures and quotes.


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