Reviews | SF’s Bay Area resists new oil and gas drilling: Interview with youth organizer Alexi Lindeman

Plans to expand fossil fuel production in the San Francisco Bay Area have been met with resistance, which has just escalated from petitions and a lawsuit to a mass protest organized by high school students. CalGEM, California’s Geological Energy Management Agency, has approved a Class II injection well across from the active oil drilling site in unincorporated Antioch, half a mile from Dozier-Libbey High School, the Kaiser Antioch medical center and a waiting accommodation for elderly people.

“As people, we can demand the changes we want to see without a vote and our money, our industries and our governments will have to respond to us accordingly.”

The first resistance to take to the streets against these plans for new oil and gas drilling in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area took place on Saturday, March 12. 300 people marched along the busy 6-lane Lone Tree Way, amidst verdant hills covered in bright yellow flowering mustard. The marchers then gathered at the Antioch Community Center across from Antioch High School.

Alexi Lindeman lives in the city of Antioch, which is in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It’s an hour’s drive east of Oakland and San Francisco. Alexi is the lead organizer for Sustainable Leaders in Action who led the organization of this action, working closely with high school clubs and climate justice groups in the Bay Area. I asked her to talk about the drilling her town is facing and the organization she hopes will stop it.

First public march against new oil and gas drilling in Contra Costa County. (Photo. March 12, 2022, @kellyjohnsonrevelationaryphotography)

David Solnit: Why are you concerned about new oil and gas drilling near your town of Antioch in Contra Costa County?

Alexis Lindeman: I am concerned about new oil and gas drilling because of the health and environmental consequences. A 2021 Stanford study indicates that people living within 2.5 miles of drilling sites face serious health problems such as heart disease, asthma and premature births due to air pollution. air. East Contra Costa, being downwind of four refineries, is already impacted by the fossil fuel industry, as our asthma rate is in the 80th percentile. Also, I’m really concerned about the state of our constantly warming climate. At the time I heard about the new borehole project in Brentwood, my community was directly affected by climate change. California’s now annual wildfires were raging, and our mandatory masks served a dual purpose. Suffocating smoke routinely canceled outdoor events and sports practices and games. At one point the “cancellation” air quality level went from 100 to 150. I specifically remember thinking “why is our health being sacrificed to maintain ‘normalcy’ in this crisis climate,” walking to practice cross-country as the hazy skies dusted off the cars. I remember the 13 years of my life when the skies remained smoke-free all year round. I don’t want this extreme fire season to become normal, but deep down I have a feeling that the kids are going to grow up never having a year where the skies aren’t orange for weeks. So yes, we were quite upset and worried to hear about the resurgence of oil and gas drilling when we should be moving away from finite fossil fuels to escape the insidious hand of climate change. It was like a slap in the face, and a slap in the face of our future.

The Heritage Art Loft High School Art Club creates a chalk mural to salute the march and rally the next day. (Photo: David Solnit)

DS: What are you and other young people doing about it?

AL: Others and I refuse to sit idly by, watching these drilling sites pollute my community, undermine our health, and further accelerate our world into a climate crisis. We collected nearly 3,200 signatures for a petition against Contra Costa’s new oil and gas drilling by letting our community know what’s happening at school, at the farmer’s market, and on social media. To take a direct stand, we also made public comments at city council meetings and helped ban oil and gas drilling in Antioch by making our voices heard. This past Saturday we are helping a No Drilling Contra Costa march and rally to protest the new drilling happening in our community and inspire others to take a stand with us.

Group photo at the No Drilling rally at the Antioch Community Center. (Photo: PegHunter @RawEarthWorks)

DS: Can you describe some favorite parts of the walk and rally you co-hosted?

AL: I loved seeing how everyone came together to stand up for what they think is right. When I was leading the chants, I looked back and just saw a long, long line of people stretching all the way, waving the beautiful posters and signs. The participation, the art, the songs and the rhythm of the percussion make it spectacular. It was empowering to see that we can raise our voices and use our voices and actions to fight together for change. In the eyes of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, I am small as a single person, but if we can unite hundreds of people, we become impossible to ignore.

Screen-printed and hand-painted fabric patches were given to participants. (Photo: PegHunter @RawEarthWorks)

DS: How do you think we can change things to fight climate chaos and injustice?

AL: One of my favorite quotes is “the climate can change, can we?” To deal with climate chaos and injustice, we will need to make many changes, big and small. The good news is that we have already started to move in this direction. In the years to come, the world will have to shift its dependence from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources. Granted, they are expensive and honestly not yet ready for the mass market, but in the years to come there will be technological improvements making these power sources cheaper and more efficient. Agricultural and transportation systems can be improved to reduce waste and inefficiency. This may include switching to more plant-based meat alternatives or installing better forms/incentives for public transit. Individuals, governments and businesses are all responsible for this transition. As people, we can demand the changes we want to see without a vote and our money, our industries and our governments will have to respond to us accordingly.

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