In 2014, volunteers in Santa Barbara County, California, collected over 20,000 signatures in three weeks to qualify an anti-fracking initiative for the November election. The initiative, Measure P, met over six million dollars in opposition from oil corporations. Despite mobilizing 1,000 volunteers, the proponents of the measure failed to garner enough votes for success. Drawing on 43 in-depth interviews and participant observation with environmental groups before, during, and after the campaign, this article examines the strengths and weaknesses of grassroots organizing behind Measure P. Organizers, especially during the signature drive, successfully garnered broad-based support in the southern part of the county, an affluent and tourist-dependent area with no onshore oil drilling. Messages based on water, made more salient by California's historic drought, resonated with many residents. Yet, after qualifying for the ballot, proponents of the campaign allied with the local Democratic Party, changing their organizing practices and forestalling bipartisan support. Outreach to Latinos in all areas of the county, and particularly in the northern part, where onshore drilling takes place, was limited. Finally, the overwhelming inequality between the financial power of proponents and the oil industry influenced the outcome. Based on this case, I argue that coalition building and groundwork to develop support within all sectors of communities, especially those most dependent on fossil fuel extraction, is critical to strengthening grassroots efforts that challenge the energy status quo.
From 2011 to 2014 fossil fuel corporations trucked tar sands processing machinery along rural Idaho highways. The machinery was bound for the world's largest deposits of tar or oil sands, a heavy crude oil substance called bitumen, located in the western Canadian province of Alberta. These loads of machinery, what became known as megaloads, encountered much resistance. Throughout Idaho and the surrounding region, a network organized opposition. Neighbors, grassroots organizations, nonprofits, and the Nez Perce and other tribes all collaborated. They held information sessions, protested, waged legal battles, monitored the loads, and blockaded highways. What oil companies hoped would be a cost-effective solution for transporting their megaloads became a David versus Goliath, Coyote versus the Monster—to reference the Nez Perce creation story—struggle to protect rural and indigenous ways of life and sovereignty, and the planet.
These slides are intended to help students develop a justice-based lens for analysis of the relationship between energy and society. In particular, they explore the concepts of environmental justice and climate justice, drawing on the case of the No Dakota Access Pipeline movement by the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies. These slides were created by a sociologist to serve as an introductory set of slides for an environmental studies course on energy and society. They would also be well suited for a class period dedicated to themes of environmental justice and climate justice, especially for how these relate to energy extraction. To illuminate the social justice implications of energy extraction and resulting climate change, the slides include brief examples from the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, who are climate refugees from Louisiana; women resisting mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia; and Nez Perce experiences losing traditional food sources because of climate change. These slides include an 8-minute video on Standing Rock and 15-minute discussion-based activity.