Organizing against fracking in the Americas

Just a few weeks before the end of the 2016, Earthworks joined 18 activists and advocates from Latin America for the Pan-American Workshop. The two-day workshop, held in Little Rock, Arkansas, was organized by Jorge Daniel Talliant, Founder and Director for The Center for Human Rights and the Environment (CHRE), and Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor for Clean Air Task Force. The gathering included participants from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and from several organizations in the US focused in California, Oklahoma, Colorado, New York, and Texas.

Together we presented on and discussed the evolution of hydraulic fracturing in the Americas and the various strategies put in place to organize, ban, and/or regulate it. Although the geographic, social, political, and economic climate of the Americas is markedly distinct, the strategies for combating the expansion and impacts of hydraulic fracturing were similar to the struggles in the US. Organizations and activists across Latin America recognize the need for diverse strategies in communities:  where oil and gas has permeated into the culture and economy and normalized its presence,  and in places where industry is not yet present. Colombian activists referred to our petro-addicted society as a rooted problem with dependence on oil and gas. How do we rebuild a society that is not so dependent on fossil fuels?

Many feared how the Trump administration would negatively impact and exacerbate the presence of oil and gas production in Latin America. Working against many activist movements in Latin America is the idea that fossil fuels saved the US economy and created energy independence. Brazil’s Ministry of Mining and Energy, for example, has made a plan to expand energy production and create an energy dependent Brazil by 2024. In contrast, 72 cities in Brazil have banned fracking through municipal laws.

Sharing strategies, experiences, and perspectives at this Pan-American gathering shed light on the importance of solidarity across borders and disciplines. Indigenous groups in Argentina have a strong political presence while Agri-business in Brazil is well organized in Congress and the Senate. Captivating the media in local efforts, continuing scientific research, and promoting renewable energy are all strategies we all focus on and work towards.