Paving the Way to Climate Justice

Photo by Kayla Bonewell

My remarks for the Rally for Earth Day OKC, April 23, 2022.

Oklahoma is the epicenter of a corrupt collaboration – a collaboration among the fossil fuel industry, fossil fuel funded elected officials of both major political parties, and fossil fuel funded higher education – all working together to cast doubt on the validity of climate science and to block any and all meaningful efforts to address the climate crisis. Our state is not just complicit in the failure to preserve a livable climate; it is a global leader in hurling the earth towards climate chaos.

We know that the major fossil fuel companies have been aware for decades of the direct connection between fossil fuel emissions and climate change, so at some point the decision makers in the fossil fuel companies made the conscious choice that their profits over a period of a few decades justified the destruction of a livable climate for centuries to come. I invite all of us to sit with that fact a while before thinking that fossil fuel companies can be allies in the fight to avoid climate chaos. They never have been and they never will be. They have chosen profits and power over the well-being of the planet a long time ago! They continue to plunder the planet, and they use propaganda and any other means necessary to prolong our dependence on their products for the sake of their profits.

One of the favorite tactics of the fossil fuel company propagandists in Oklahoma City is to ask climate justice advocates how they travelled to get to their current location or to ask them how they heat and power their homes. Often before even letting us answer they will say, “l bet you drove here in a car that uses gasoline” and “I bet most of you use natural gas to heat your homes and generate your electricity.” Of course they conveniently leave out the fact that fossil fuel companies bought out and systematically destroyed a usable trolley system in Oklahoma City, they conveniently leave out that fossil fuel companies literally paved over the trolley tracks to insure that the people of Oklahoma City had to use cars to get anywhere, they conveniently leave out that fossil fuel companies worked to block any meaningful mass transportation projects in the city and supported policies contributing to suburban sprawl that hinder effective and efficient mass transportation, and they conveniently leave out the fact that large utility companies have consistently attempted to make it more difficult and costly for their customers to generate their own power rather than being dependent on their near monopoly on power distribution. When the fossil fuel propagandists ask these questions, they know the answers because they are defending the very companies that created the systems that have made the people of Oklahoma City overly dependent on cars and fossil fuel, and they are the reason Oklahoma City is one the least sustainable large cities in the country.

But we know it does not have to stay this way. The city of Copenhagen in Denmark and many other cities across the world have shown us that the path to a more sustainable city is not complicated – build fewer roads, reduce the number of lanes reserved for cars, build safe bicycle lanes throughout the city, widen walkways, increase mass transportation, intentionally move towards renewable energy (much of which can be generated through solar, wind, and geothermal), grow more food locally, and intentionally reduce waste through reuse, recycling, and composting. It is not a matter of not knowing what needs to be done, it is simply a matter of cultivating the political will to make it happen.

And you are the ones who will cultivate that political will. You are the ones who are willing to show up for a climate justice rally in the belly of the fossil fuel beast that is Oklahoma City. You are the ones who are willing to cry out for climate justice in the shadow of Devon Tower that stands as a giant phallic tribute to the power that fossil fuel has over our city and our state – a Tower of Babel to the false gods of our fossil fuel overlords. And you are the ones that know that the fossil fuel companies are actually impotent when it comes to making the real systemic changes that are necessary for a sustainable future. You are the ones who are showing that the fossil fuel industry is bankrupting our collective future. You are the ones that the fossil fuel executives worry about because they know that they cannot fool you with their lies and their greenwashing, and you are the ones who will take the corrupt systems that are destroying our climate and pave them over with climate justice.

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