By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Environmental advocates, including former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, will speak to legislators on Wednesday, March 27, during Oklahoma Water Lobby Day. Hosted by the Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club, the event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Oklahoma State Capitol first floor rotunda.
Organizers are inviting the public to learn about the most pressing water issues facing Oklahoma today. Participants will then attend a brief lobby training, followed by direct lobbying of their state representatives and senators.
In a recent Oklahoma Sierra Club press release, Edmondson referred to a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So, we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.”
“In my religion we are directed in the book of Genesis to be stewards over the earth,” Edmondson said. “We have polluted the air to the point of changing our very climate, endangering coastlines and inhabited islands.
“We have put chemicals and waste material into our streams and lakes, depleting the oxygen content, choking the water with algae blooms.” Drew continued. “Our children are watching – what will we say to them decades from now? What will we say to them today?”
Event speakers will include Pam Kingfisher, founder of Green Country Guardians, and Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma Councilwoman Casey Camp-Horinek, an internationally known advocate of the Rights of Nature legal movement.
Pam will share her experience in Delaware County regarding the unlimited industrial poultry operations development that have occurred over the past two years.
“As a Cherokee, water is a big part of our religion,” Pam stated. “Our ancient ceremonies include ‘Going to the Water’ in prayer and thankfulness. We want to protect our natural resources to assure we can continue a way of life many local families have enjoyed since before statehood. Water is life.”
Camp-Horinek will discuss how she believes governments can take steps to assure long-term care and protection of Oklahoma’s natural resource by enacting “Rights of Nature” laws for the sake of future generations.
“Water, our first environment, is precious beyond measure,” Camp-Horinek said. “Water is often called a valuable resource to be measured in gallons, then an equivalent in monetary worth. In truth, it is not a resource but a source of life.
“Water has always been recognized as that Source by all living entities since time immemorial and in our Indigenous teachings has always been honored in every ceremony we participate in. Without water there is no life. It’s that simple,” Casey added.
“As our ancestors did for all of us, we must protect water for our generations to come. That will be our legacy, our place in history… how will our story be told,” she said.
Community groups including Save the Illinois River (STIR), LEAD Agency, Green Country Guardians and organizations such as Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy and the Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club will host information booths in the 1st floor rotunda from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Representatives from each group will be available to discuss what they see as Oklahoma’s biggest water issues.
Oklahoma Water Lobby Day topics of discussion will include: ground water use and contamination related to the oil and gas industry, river and ground water pollution caused by the poultry industry, the impacts of mining on Oklahoma rivers, the issue of ground water contamination by coal ash, and how the state’s rivers and streams are at risk by Oklahoma being the only state in the nation to not have “instream flow protections” in place.
Water Lobby Day will include a private noon luncheon for legislators featuring keynote speaker University of Tulsa College of Law Professor Gary Allison, who will discuss “Oklahoma Water Rights: What Good are They?” The event will culminate with a meeting at 2 p.m. between a delegation of Oklahoma environmental attorneys and community leaders and Gov. Kevin Stitt.
A press conference is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at the State Capitol, room 432B, where Oklahoma environmental leaders will offer their thoughts regarding the results of the meeting with Gov. Stitt.
For more information, visit the event Facebook page.