It was business as ususal for Steve and me last week but Valerie who is home from college for the summer did something out of the ordinary when she participated in a protest against oil drilling in sea turtle habitats. Initially I thought she was just going to keep her friend company but her willingness to get up at 4:00 a.m. so they could be at the Chevron headquarters in San Ramon by 6:00 a.m., proved to me that her commitment to the cause was genuine.
So this week I have a guest blogger as Valerie tells about why she took on the man. Please read on…
Ever since I was young, I was always been concerned about sustainability and the effect of industrial activities on the environment. I think it started in first grade, during “Recycling Week,” when I watched an animated video of an anthropomorphic planet Earth singing, “You’re really makin’ me sick…one day you’ll be sorry…” Say what you will about scare tactics, but they work. Whatever environmental concern I fostered after that point, however, only manifested into a deep-seated worry in the back of my mind, where images of landfills and oil-covered penguins were nestled among various other worries.
Recently, I took Environmental Science 101 to fulfill my science GE at Chapman University. My professor was not a wheatgrass-drinking hippie extremist, but a regular, nice guy who frequently incorporated photos of his kids into his powerpoint lectures. What I learned both alieviated and increased the unspoken worries I had about the environment and pollution. Even though I learned more grim statistics, I had solid facts to adhere my worries to, which actually helped. In a spur of eco-consciousness I became a vegetarian (the second law of thermodynamics states that energy transfers are inefficient, so eating lower on the food chain saves water, land and energy that would have gone in to raising meat-producing livestock) and in the past six months I have only eaten meat a few times, albeit accidentally. (You’d be surprised how much food bacon hides in).
Several days ago, my friend Kayla, an intern at the Sea Turtle Restoration Project invited me to join her in a protest against oil drilling in sea turtle habitats. The Seat Turtle Restoration Project is an international environmental organization that works to protect endangered sea turtles and address the causes of their decline; the protest was held in front of Chevron’s corporate headquarters in San Ramon, representing the Kimberley region of Australia, where numerous species of endangered sea turtles would be threatened by Chevron’s likely drilling.
Early in the morning of Wednesday the 25th Kayla, my fellow protesters and I drove to San Ramon. We met up with the head of the STRP who provided us with picket signs and cardboard turtle costumes; we joined up with dozens of other protesters in front of the Chevron headquarters. Along with sea turtle conservation, protesters were rallying for justice in the lawsuit filed by Ecuadorian citizens after the Amazon jungle of Northeast Ecuador was contaminated by the effects of drilling, leading to cancer and contamination.
For three hours, the other protesters and I waved our signs as drivers of passing cars either honked in enthusiastic agreement or angrily flipped us off. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the dramatic display of activism only served to further alienate the anti/pro drilling populations, but the protester’s passion was undeniable. At the cost of preserving the stereotype of the hippie environmental activist, the protest gave voice to endangered species and communities affected by drilling.
I personally feel a sense of accomplishment at whatever affect, either small or great, I had by participating in the protest. When I see the enthusiasm the activists demonstrated I feel hopeful that he future legislature will not just be less dependent on fossil fuels but that the oil companies can be encouraged to be more responsible in the acquisition of oil; industry is still heavily dependent on oil, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. But, if we can learn to lessen the effect we have on other communities, whether they be undeveloped villages or populations of sea turtles, we can begin the process of transitioning to a more sustainable future.