McWilliams: Student’s protest for environmental justice should inspire us to act

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Editor’s Note: Cullen Lobe was a former columnist for The Collegian opinion desk.

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Recently, protests have been happening all around America. This past weekend there were marches all around the world for the March for Our Lives, led by students to bring awareness to gun violence in schools after the Parkland shooting.

However, an environmental protest happened earlier this month that was close to home here at Colorado State University, and we should be proud of our fellow student who participated.

Cullen Lobe, a junior at CSU studying journalism and environmental affairs, participated in a protest on March 8 against a fracking project by the Extraction Oil & Gas Company in Greeley. Lobe chained himself to the heavy operating equipment on site, and spent 12 hours in jail as a result.

Long before this protest, Lobe wrote articles for The Collegian in our opinion section, discussing the relations between law enforcement and protestors, the harmful effects of pipeline projects, and even wrote an article urging to stop the fracking project in Greeley. He showed his long-term commitment to this ideal in his protest and arrest. This type of integrity is something that should be praised.

There are many negative effects that come from fracking, including air and water pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals, potential oil spills and the possibility of earthquakes. According to a map created by the Denver Post, northern Colorado is a hot spot for fracking and oil and gas wells. Protesting against these harmful environmental consequences is something to be proud of.

However, the protest wasn’t just about the consequences of fracking on the environment. It was also to bring to light the negative implications on Greeley’s community and giving a voice to those who live in the community.

Students should look at Lobe’s protest and be inspired to take a stand on environmental justice. Environmental justice is something we need to pay attention to, especially with America’s current political leaders fighting against it.

“There’s a big environmental racism problem going on with this project,” Lobe said. “A lot of the parents (in Weld County) are either undocumented or working multiple jobs to support their children, so they don’t want to jeopardize their lives. It’s really important for us to stick up for them because if the parents aren’t in the position to fight and stick up for what they want, then that’s what we’re here for.”

The fracking project is located about 1,300 feet from Bella Romero Academy, a Greeley middle school that has 82 percent Latinx and 93 percent of students are from low-income families, according to GreatSchools, a nonprofit. The protesters were using their voices and their privilege to stand up for this community, and it should inspire other students here at CSU to do the same.

“Just seeing the faces of the people at the school and their families was a really inspiring moment, to see their support,” Lobe said. “Then seeing (Extraction) come out with their equipment… the combination of urgency and seeing these kids and parents and realizing that they are just humans and that we all need help, we all need to come together and fight to protect what we have left.”

Students should look at Lobe’s protest and be inspired to take a stand on environmental justice. Environmental justice is something we need to pay attention to, especially with America’s current political leaders fighting against it. We have a voice and the ability to help the environment, and we should take these opportunities to make a difference.

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There are so many organizations CSU students can join in order to fight for the environment. Defend Our Future is an organization meant to fight for the environment that is very present on CSU’s campus. If you want to get involved, stop and listen to them and learn what you can do to make a difference.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LetaMcWilliams