One year ago, we did something pretty dang incredible. Over the course of a few months, we coordinated a massive march and rally to highlight that fracking is not only insane and dangerous, but that our water, our climate and our communities in California are in danger from fossil fuel extraction and suffering as a result. More than 8,000 people converged in Oakland for the largest-ever mobilization against fracking in U.S. history.
I spent the weekend reflecting on this action, the lawsuits, marches, hearings, rallies and press—and taking stock of our progress to move the governor of California to take a stand against oil and gas and to ban fracking.
We’ve built a strong movement and made some important progress, but we still haven’t reached our ultimate goal. I’m still scratching my head to figure this out, but part of me believes that we have an overwhelming problem and that maybe people still don’t know how bad it really is.
The governor of California, Jerry Brown, loves to talk a big game about climate change. We applaud him for that. Unfortunately, his half measures are in fact the most any governor has done on climate in the U.S. But just because we’re getting something, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold him accountable for his poor decisions on fracking, urban drilling and regulatory oversight.
The reality is, we’re not in a good situation in California. I’ve been told I’m not fun at parties anymore and that the quickness that I can drop the mood from happy to “Why are you telling us this,” is roughly 5 seconds. I’ll attempt to do that here to give you a sense of where things are and why I’m more motivated than ever to double down on the campaign to ban fracking California.
The Internet loves a list and so do I, so here it goes:
1. Oil Wastewater on Crops
We are irrigating our crops with benzene and arsenic laden wastewater left over from oil extraction. Wait what!? Yep, you heard me. California feeds the nation and right now we are feeding them poison. Here are some articles on it: NY Times, CCTV. Spoiler alert: those easy-to-peel mandarins you love to eat? Many aren’t grown using freshwater, but rather wastewater from the industry. And they’re not the only foods getting the oil wastewater treatment ... read more here.
2. No Area is Off Limits
A father in Kern County has sued Gov. Brown for putting his daughters in harm's way by allowing fracking at their public schools (more details of the case can be found here). The short version is that the governor and head of the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources are using Latino children as the test subjects for fracking and other drilling technologies. Students go to school next to fracking wells. They live next to fracking wells. Communities with some of the worst air quality in the country are playing on playgrounds right next to oil wells. And there is no legal limit on how close industry can drill from where people live, work and play. Kern county is home to about 99 percent of fracking in the state and is also the fruit basket for the rest of the country supplying a quarter of the nation’s foods and 1/3 of all agricultural land in the U.S.
3. Two Words: Porter Ranch
Two words our governor couldn’t bring himself to say in his State of the State address this year. The leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch is the worst gas leak in history. Many have said that the Porter Ranch disaster is worse than the BP oil spill. Yet our governor took months to declare a state of emergency and didn’t say a peep about it during his biggest speech of the year. The “accident” at Porter Ranch is another example of poor regulation and lack of enforcement of current regulations. It’s also, yet again, another reminder that fossil fuels are dangerous, dirty and cause climate change. Porter Ranch won’t just impact the communities who live in the gated communities closest to the leak. The reality is that the impacts will be felt by everyone near the leaking gas site and eventually, everyone is California and possibly even the world.
4. Poor Regulation
Texas has stricter regulations on fracking than California. I know I know, you heard Gov. Brown talk about how strong our regulations are, well, he’s not telling the truth. Here is a photo of those regulations in action. That’s an elementary school and that is a fracking well. Children are getting sick and dying, yet the leadership of California believe this is a necessary sacrifice for having more cars on the road than most countries. The majority of states around the country require setback distances for unconventional oil and gas extraction. Not California.
5. We Have No Water
We are in the worst drought in recorded history. Yes, I wish I had an umbrella last week. I know, it’s been raining, but that rainfall pales in comparison to the water we need in the state. Don’t believe me? Watch the film above. Why do you think agriculture companies are using fracking wastewater on crops? Counties in California are out of water. They rely on bottled water because their wells have run dry. We are running out of options and we need strong leadership. Fracking threatens to contaminate the little freshwater we have left.
6. Big Oil is Polluting Politics
Yes, we’re taking some strong actions on climate change. Did you see SB 350? That was awesome! We got two important measures passed in that package (50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings and 50 percent of state utilities’ power coming from renewable energy, all by 2030). Yes, but we lost another important piece of that bill, which would have decreased our use of petroleum in cars and trucks by half. Why did this portion get cut out? Big Oil flexed its muscles and lobbied our state senators to remove this portion of the bill. Even Gov. Brown was frustrated that the bill was gutted, but not angry enough to take action by executive order. The reality is that most people don’t know the impacts of oil extraction making it easy for Big Oil to buy politicians and weaken any efforts to reign in their practices.
7. Oil Production is Increasing
Since Gov. Brown took office, the amount of oil extracted in California has increased. Beginning in the 1980’s, oil extraction was in steady decline. When did it start going back up? 2011—the same year Gov. Brown was reelected. Why is this important? In my book and many others, you cannot claim to be a leader on climate change while allowing more drilling and fracking for the very thing that causes climate change.
8. Environmental Racism
Let’s be honest here. Who is being most impacted by California’s fracking agenda? Kern County is home to 99 percent of fracking and extreme well stimulation. Who lives there? What neighborhoods experience urban drilling in LA? What counties have the worst air quality in the country? Even the state government has researched this—and the answer is low-income communities of color. Students attending school within 1 mile of oil and gas wells are predominantly non-white (79.6 percent) and 60.3 percent are Hispanic. The top 11 school districts with the highest well counts are located in the San Joaquin Valley with 10 districts in Kern County. (Source: FracTracker). While disasters like Porter Ranch make headlines, spills, leaks and poisonous flares happen daily in communities unseen by the national media.
Sheesh! We’ve got our work cut out for us, but here’s the good news. We have a movement. We are huge, we are powerful and we do beautiful things. Communities are rising up, pushing back and creating their own solutions. But we need to keep flexing that muscle. We need to yell from the rooftops that we don’t want grapes covered in arsenic and we want all children in California to have the same access to clean water, clean air and safe schools.
So here’s my solution: Fight. Here is an opportunity to flex that muscle: Break Free.
Across the world, communities will be rising up against fossil fuel extraction. Like us, they’ll be calling out the hypocrisy of “climate champions” who still extract and elected officials who promise to protect us while poisoning our communities. Join us this Spring. For more information about the actions—sign up on the Break Free website to stay in the loop.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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