Not in My Back Yard!

8:48 am February 4, 2016

Waking up at 5 am isn’t an easy task for me, but I’m glad I did today. Today, I had plans to ride a bus to San Luis Obispo, CA and attend the public hearing on the Phillips 66 Oil Train Spur Extension proposal by the SLO Planning Commission.

This proposal would allow mile-long oil trains, carrying Canadian tar sands, from Santa Maria, through San Luis Obispo, through the heart of my city and district of San Jose, through Ventura County and Los Angeles areas. Mile-long trains along the west coast carrying the most hazardous and explosive form of oil, posing grave risks on the five million residents living in the blast zones.

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Group rally photo. I’m in here…somewhere..to the bottom right…behind a bald man… ūüôā

At 6 am today, Medina Tours welcomed concerned residents of San Jose on the travel to SLO, which as organized by Councilman Ash Kalra from District 2 of San Jose. Though he was unable to join us, he greeted each person and gifted us with bags consisting of informational articles, letters, and snacks!

I’m the youngest person on the bus. I could almost instantly sense other attendees’ amazement while walking to my seat when they realized my age too. It’s intimidating but also refreshing; I’m surrounded by people who must have years of experience at these rallies and experience as residents.

The people on the bus with me are the kind of senior citizens you might expect to be knitting at home with their cats on their laps or playing chess, but they aren’t–these are the activists who took the time to wake up before the crack of dawn to voice their concerns. Much respect.

When we arrived at the San Luis Obispo Courthouse around 9 am, I immediately headed towards the group of people wearing red “Stop Oil Trains Now” shirts in front of the courthouse to gather posters, signs, and of course, my own red shirt.

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Officially adorned in rally gear, I crossed the street to Fremont Theater, where a live screening of the public hearing would be played once the courthouse was overflowed. Inside the theater were rows seats all filled by the general public. I had hoped I would get the opportunity to make a statement in the second session as a public comment, but 200 people had signed up before me (which later hit 400 after noon).

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Check out the billboard!
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Inside Fremont Theater, listening to elected official’s speeches.

Sitting solo inside snacking on snap peas chips, I waited for Stacie Shih (from District 2) and David Tran (from District 3), representing the City of San Jose Councilmembers to give their speeches. Other officials included representatives from the City of Berkley, the Mayor of San Luis Obispo herself, the 11th District State Senator, the Mayor of Santa Barbara, and many more. All opposed the oil train proposal.

At noon, the Commission adjourned for lunch break–our cue to gather in front of the house for our rally. Colorful signs, posters, banners, pins were everywhere. Signs promoting anti-fracking to solar energy bounced in the air as we chanted “When the earth we live in is under attack, what do we do? STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!”¬†IMG_1324

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Everyone gathered to listen to various officials and students who spoke against Phillips 66. Each one ended with “Yeah!”s and “Woohoo!”s from the audience.¬†It was one of the most riveting experiences, being around likeminded people who went out of their way to fight for the earth. The atmosphere there was kind, passionate, and inspiring.

After the rally, people dispersed to find lunch and wait until the second session.

One group of people stayed by the courthouse for “story time”. They had painted on canvasses to show the story of earth–no, nothing about Adam and Eve. Mainly numbers, numbers of extractions the earth can withstand, numbers of gallons we are extracting from the earth, number of years we have before running out of fuel, number of ways we can create change.

He¬†included¬†two acronyms in one photo that I’ve enjoyed saying:¬†NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) and NOPE (Not On Planet Earth). Asking us to follow him in shouting these acronyms, he hyped up¬†story time audience to shout loud enough for passerby’s to hear. One older man listening to the story behind me even shouted “Fuck yeah!” several times. No censor necessary.

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Post-lunch (when I ate four pizza slices because hey, saving the earth is energy-consuming ūüėČ ), people headed back into Fremont Theater to listen to public comments. Many came from the Bay Area,¬†Southern California, and even SLO residents.

When they concluded at 5 pm, the Commission hadn’t even gotten listen to the 200 people scheduled for February 4th. Good thing they have the entire February 5th as well! As I rode the bus back to San Jose with my constituents, I couldn’t help but reflect on the state our world was currently in. I remember first falling in love with nature at Fifth Grade Science camp; it was on the way home that I became more attentive to the litter that plagued our highways. The rally reminded me how devastated our planet was in and humbled me, inspired me to want to do more.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this rally and hearing (thanks, Ash!) and expect many more to cross my path in the future.

To read more about Phillips 66: 

Check out my trip through my Snapchat photo series!


 

On a side note, I was also nominated by Little Sunshine for the 3 Day Quote Challenge, which, I expect, will motivate me to start posting more often and forget the mundane tasks of my real life!

The rules to this challenge are

  • Post three consecutive days
  • The posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Challenge three different bloggers per day

My nominees are:

Congratulations, guys! I hope you find this challenge entertaining, and I look forward to reading your posts.¬†The quotes I would like to share resonate well with the article I’ve written today:

“Women who are well-behaved don’t make history.” ~ heard at rally

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

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