“What about our future?” an 8-year-old member of Earth Guardians, an environmental youth group, asked into a megaphone Saturday afternoon as more than a hundred protesters waved signs and chanted outside the Democratic Governors Association meeting at the St. Regis Aspen.
The Protect Our Colorado protesters, who are against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” gathered to make their voices heard by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was attending the meeting.
Fracking is a controversial method of drilling for natural gas that injects water, sand and chemicals into rock formations with enormous pressure to release usable fuel. Hickenlooper has supported fracking, and, as of now, he says that 96 percent of all wells in Colorado use the method.
But some claim that fracking poses problems for the environment — air pollution, contamination of drinking water — and can be detrimental to the health of those who live near the drilling site. Consequently, dozens of protesters toted signs demanding, “Slow the frack down!” and “Don’t frack my mother!”
Thirteen-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a leader of Earth Guardians, feels passionately about making citizens and the government alike aware of the dangers of fracking.
Because of air and water contamination, fracking can lead to high levels of cancers near drilling and other health problems.
“This is polluting the water, polluting the air,” Martinez said. “It’s making animals and people sick. It’s really scary knowing if you live close enough to a well you can get really sick. You can have nosebleeds or headaches or blackouts, and it can build up to worse stuff like lung cancer.”
Micah Parkin, of Boulder, helped organized the protest and hopes that the governor will hear the protestors’ message loud and clear.
“We want the governor to know that fracking is very unpopular with people,” Parkin said. “There is a ground swell of parents and youth and people across not only Colorado but our whole nation that are very concerned with fracking, and we want to see it stopped until it can be proven safe.”
Parkin said that previously people believed that natural gas was a positive alternative to less clean energy sources like coal.
However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that natural gas is bad for the environment and could be contributing to climate change.
Rick Blotter, of Elbert County, agrees with Parkin and hopes that the governor will stop oil wells from fracking until more research can be done to prove that the method is safe.
“(Hickenlooper) has admitted, and his administration has admitted that we don’t know the full long-term impacts from air emissions due to fracking,” Blotter said. “As we start to look more at those air emissions, we may discover that it’s too dangerous to be done in Colorado. We need to wait at least until studies are completed ... before we risk people’s health.”
Kaye Fissinger was among the protestors. She is a resident of Longmont, the first city to ban fracking, which then was sued by the state. “(Natural gas) is not a bridge fuel,” she said. “It’s a bridge to nowhere.”
Isabelle Chapman is an editorial intern working for The Aspen Times through July.