12417840_676055282537023_8239732145380713467_nA few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to represent IDEAS For Us, while joining forces with other environmental group leaders from the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace (to name a few), in a statewide pursuit to ban fracking in Florida. Our agenda for the day was to attend a climate rally in front of the old capitol, and then to meet with legislators to speak to them about a few relevant topics of political climate discussion, particularly fracking in Florida. For those of you who have maybe only briefly heard of fracking, I’ll try to provide a simple explanation.

In short, fracking is a method of obtaining natural gas in which a chemical liquid is injected deep into the ground that puts high pressure on subterranean rock. This rock eventually cracks, which in turn releases the gas and oil back up the pipeline to be collected as an energy source.

Currently, fracking exists in 34 states. In these states, the chemicals have already contaminated much of the water supply, and therefore have harmed human, animal and environmental health. 80% of fracking chemicals never return to the surface, and many people across the country are starting to experience the horrific results of this type of gas extraction. This is why activists and citizens are starting to speak up and out about their concerns.

Through my internship with IDEAS For Us, I was able to literally hop on a bus with many of these passionate and knowledgeable people for a truly life-changing trip.

The troops boarded the bus at 5 a.m. A few of the notable attendees were Eric Rollings, Chair of the Orange Soil Water Conservation District, and Lisa Ray, Area Coordinator at Rethink Energy Florida. Luckily for me and others on the bus, Eric and Lisa shared their expertise and experience with lobbying at the Capitol in a way that made sense to us first-timers. While there’s no doubt it was overwhelming and a little nerve-racking, I did my best to take in all the information in hopes to make my time and effort count. By the time we had heard from Eric on his conversational selling techniques when speaking to legislators, and Lisa’s quick crash course on the three main topics of political discussion we would be focusing on (the Clean Power Plan, fracking, and encouraging energy freedom), we had arrived in Tallahassee.

12417998_676079992534552_5075201040446323244_nUpon first step inside the Capitol, I felt like I was Katniss Everdeen entering the Hunger Games arena for the first time. Men and women in suits surrounded me, hustling and bustling to get to meetings and appointments and ultimately, to tend to their political agendas. Who was I, a young female college intern with little to no lobbying experience, to be here and to compete with older men with money who were pushing the financial agendas of utility and petroleum companies? Well, that thought left my mind as fast as it had sprung up when I realized that my desire to be civically engaged and have my voice heard was much, much stronger.

For the first time in my life, I felt a true sense of empowerment and purpose. I was doing something that mattered. Speaking to my district senators and house representatives proved to me on the most miniscule level that one voice can and does make a difference. One thing I learned that many others don’t realize is that legislators aren’t fluent with every bill that makes a stop at their desk. In a perfect world, they would be. However, it’s just a completely unrealistic thing to ask when they get bombarded with so much information, and so many other bills. So sometimes, like in our case, all it took was a little education: simply letting them know some key facts about the climate bills that they would soon be signing off on (or wouldn’t be). Many of these representatives were eager to have a friendly conversation, and to learn.

Something else I didn’t know was that an entire bill is killed if it doesn’t pass through the senate and house committees first. A lot of the time, this can be based on just a couple of votes. A couple of votes people! That could be one casual meeting with a representative, a quick phone conversation, or even something as simple as sending them an informational packet. It is not difficult, and it truly has a direct effect on public policy and ultimately, the law that governs our state and our lives.

IMG_3311Christina with Chuck O’Neal, candidate for Senate 11.

So to my fellow millennial friends and colleagues, I am calling you out. It’s not too late to make a difference, and actually, it’s never been easier! There are so many of us who have acknowledged and understand that this planet is facing serious issues. Social media is great for spreading awareness and educating people and showing that we care, but we need to get up, and get out. A sustainable future for our children and ourselves will not happen if we don’t make an effort to change “how it’s always been”. I am urging you to educate yourself on climate policy and make appointments to speak to your district senators and house representatives about them. Your one conversation could be the difference between a ban on fracking or allowing small businesses to utilize solar energy. Don’t give in and give up because you think you’re your voice doesn’t matter, because it will if you make an effort. And while money and greed may be influential, a people’s revolution is even more powerful and long- lasting. Let’s show these billion-dollar corporations that they are no match to we, the people.

Click here to find information on your local representatives.



Christina Astore

IDEAS for Us Media Intern

University of Central Florida ’16