For more than half my life speaking up was impossible and didn't happen. That can cause a lot of personal trouble and I experienced some of that, but actually talking in public didn't happen because I dodged it for years.
My teaching career? I chose counseling and learned in my training the best counselors ever are the ones that said the least. A perfect fit.
Growing up with an older brother who was not only gregarious but gifted in theatre arts, getting a turn to talk was rare as a child, so developing that skill didn't happen and I never found my voice.
But through the years, it seemed once there was a cause worth fighting for or worth standing up for the standing up was almost immediate. It was voicing the message that was painful.
Last week I received a call from the Tulsa Global Alliance asking for me to speak to a group from the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program about the dangers of fracking.
I am not an expert on anything as most will tell you, but when I learned who were represented in the group it seemed as if it was an opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to try to influence policy makers from nine oil producing countries on three different continents to consider the impact fracking might bring. In the group there were some with solar and alternative energy positions, but the majority were fossil fuel related. They were coming to Oklahoma the oil and gas hub of our country, the man-made earthquake capitol.
The visit to Cushing, OK would be with industry and with our state officials speaking their language of oil extraction and then they would get off the bus and into my turn. Perhaps what would be said could influence a pivot away from fossil fuels and protect their countries' fortune, their people and the future of their environment, especially their water and save our climate and the future of the world!
One chance. One hour. I knew I would stand for environmental justice during that time, but the message must be more than one voice. We are stronger and can be heard more clearly with MORE voices. So I invited two strong women to share their stories and share the responsibility with me that day.
Ariel Ross is a literature professor at Oklahoma State University but she spoke as a mother and her experiences as a citizen representative at the Climate Change Meetings that were held in Paris. Her experiences with earthquakes has shaken her to the core and shook her to action. She was afraid for herself and her family and began organizing citizens in Stillwater to take action against simply having fracking inside the city limits near schools. The hydraulic fracturing and the practice of high powered injection of waste water has primarily caused the earthquakes, hundreds per year putting people at risk. In those city meetings, the oil and gas industry filled the room and threatened to sue the city if they pursued. She and others did not back down but asked state legislators to get involved and a few stood up to the industry and because of community actions throughout the state there are some regulations being enacted to curtail some of the earthquakes.
Barbara VanHanken as chair of the Sierra Club in Oklahoma spoke as the daughter raised in a family with their own oil company. She found her voice and brought the National Sierra Club to action to assist in the rash of earthquakes in our state. They spoke out throughout the state educating land and home owners on their rights. Barbara brought a sign left over from the Climate March in Oklahoma: Resist/ Rise/ Survive/ Thrive/ NOW.
The science is coming in about the dangers of fracking and our time was short, we showed no slideshow, no graphs, just spoke about environmental justice to people in powerful positions, positions related to extraction and energy. We spoke to what comes with the oil and gas. Resistance and the future they will face as their people rise up and begin to resist so they will be able to not only survive but thrive.
I spoke about water and how much is ruined a day in our state 2 million gallons per well. I spoke about our need to protect our water and how a real native rule would consider the actions taken today and how it would affect the 7th generation in the future. Our grandchildren's grandchildren will need water for life. Our country is wasting ours but the hope was in their hands to protect the water for their futures.
We all said much more but it was only an hour we were given and we filled it to the brim as articulate women speaking truth before it was too late.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim