Coal Ash and Environmental Justice in Oklahoma
Standing in front of a coal ash pit. From left to right: Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter Treasurer Rick Wicker, Chapter Chair Charles Wesner, Stephanie Jordan, Chapter Vice Chair Jody Harlan, Nancy Cain, and Executive Committee Member Rodney Boegel.
By Jody Harlan, Oklahoma Chapter Vice Chair
One way in which we've battled coal ash here in Oklahoma is by tying the message of this destructive practice to environmental justice. The Oklahoma Chapter produced a professional video about the negative health impacts of the coal ash dump site in Bokoshe, Le Flore County, that is causing cases of asthma and cancer.
The video is used at monthly presentations to a class of recycling technicians at a large non-profit organization. The majority of the class members are African Americans who are sometimes inspired by the environmental-justice message to attend monthly Sierra Club group meetings.
There are four to ten people in each class. Everyone is much more interested in what I have to say about the Sierra Club when the video is shown because of the messages included about environmental justice. The video has helped with Sierra Club Oklahoma in connecting with participants in the program who are primarily African American. My presentations are scheduled during the same week as Sierra Club Oklahoma's Cimmaron Group meetings in the western part of the state, to encourage students to attend the meetings.
When reaching out to other groups and giving presentations, video such as this one improve our communication with others who may not have heard of the Sierra Club or to those who might otherwise be bored. The video has spread and several other chapters are showing it.