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May 24, 2014

Down-home activism making a difference

NORMAN — It wasn’t unusual for Oklahoma activist Carrie Barefoot Dickerson to call local newspapers about environmental concerns from the nursing home where she lived the last years of her life.

“The health of our nation has been left in the hands of the companies whose goals are mainly to make money — not to protect the public welfare,” Dickerson said in an interview with The Tulsa World weeks before her death. “It’s our job to tell companies — and our government — that we want safer alternatives.”

For nine years during the 1970s, Dickerson led the fight to stop Public Service Company of Oklahoma from building the proposed Black Fox nuclear power plant near the farming community of Inola. Dickerson was an ordinary person who won an extraordinary battle against big business.

She remained involved in environmental work for the remainder of her 89 years of life. Born May 24, 1917, in a log cabin 13 miles west of Okmulgee, she died in her sleep in Nov. 17, 2006.

Barefoot Dickerson is not alone. Today, people in ordinary walks of life engage at the grassroots level in various ways. In honor of Dickerson’s birthday, The Transcript is focusing on ordinary women fighting for the environment.

Happy, birthday, Carrie, and thank you.

Blue Thumb volunteer: Norman resident Karen Chapman has been wading into creeks as a Blue Thumb volunteer for the past three years. A friend saw the notice that Blue Thumb was doing a training program and suggested that it might be fun. Both have been monitoring streams ever since.

Chapman pulled on full-body waders, slung a backpack full of testing supplies over her shoulders and grabbed her walking stick before heading down to the site she monitors on Bishop Creek.

“The walking stick is important on mossy rocks,” she said.

The amateur photographer said she has always loved photographing nature, but the creek monitoring program has expanded her knowledge and understanding of watersheds.

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