Local resident fights against climate change

Diane Lent / Photo Provided

Norman resident Mary Francis protested with 75 members of the group Rise and Resist to disrupt "Business as Usual" for the Sept. 25 Bloomberg Global Business Forum. Francis and others blocked the intersections in front of the Plaza Hotel at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Norman resident Mary Francis was arrested for the fourth time after engaging in civil disobedience in New York City about the climate emergency.

"I'm not going to let them get away with it without making them pay," Francis said with an angry tear, referring to the companies and elected officials responsible for the climate emergency.

Joining the group Rise and Resist in disrupting "Business as Usual" for the Sept. 25 Bloomberg Global Business Forum, Francis and others blocked the intersections in front of the Plaza Hotel at 59th Street and 5th Avenue. According to Rise and Resist Spokesperson Claire Ullman, 75 people participated in the climate emergency protest, and 33 people were arrested for holding giant banners that read, "Climate emergency," "Unite behind the science," and "Off fossil fuels," blocking three intersections and refusing to leave.

"We were outside to broadcast the message that we are in a real climate emergency and to say no more business as usual," Ullman said. "We can't go on the way we are or we are facing mass extinction."

Francis, 77, was compelled to protest with Rise and Resist because she said she wanted to be a part of the change in making things better.

"We are leaving a miserable mess for my seven grandchildren and all generations," Francis said. "This is a climate crisis and I cannot stand by and let it happen. When my granddaughter asks, 'How did you let it get this way?' I have to be able to say, 'Sweetheart, I never stopped trying to fix it.'"

People who care about the planet and the environment are making wonderful environmental switches in their own lives such as reusable water bottles and electric cars, Ullman said.

However, that's not enough and it's not going to real heart of the problem, she said, which is the carbon economy in an entire economic structure that's built on burning fossil fuels.

"The only way to make changes at that level is through pressuring governments and pressuring businesses to change," Ullman said. "The only way we can do those things is if we leave our homes and we come out and express ourselves, and it was a particularly important week for people to travel to New York and engage in these types of things, because the UN General Assembly was meeting and held a climate summit."

According to Exploratorium's Global Climate Change Explorer, one of the clearest predictions from climate change modeling is warmer temperatures. Almost everywhere in the world will be warmer by 2100, and we'll see more extreme heat, the report reads. The amount of warming we'll get depends mainly on the amount of fossil fuels we burn.

According to Climate Central, there were 15 more hot summer days that were above normal in Oklahoma City for 2018. There were also eight more days where we entered extreme heat with a heat index of 90 degrees.

"Climate change is real and it's hurting people now. It's caused by human activity, it's serious and it will get much worse if we don't act very quickly," Kathy Rand, Oklahoma coordinator and Norman group leader for Citizen's Climate Lobby, said. "There are solutions and we've got to get solutions working now. It's a really urgent issue."

Johnson Bridgwater, Sierra Club Oklahoma chapter director, said climate change is real and is already impacting the entire world, including the state of Oklahoma. In his work he has seen a lot of legal theory of responsibility, and he thinks the companies that have been driving the climate change problem deny it out of a basic fear of financial responsibility.

"There is no issue more important to get the entire world working on, and including right here at home in Oklahoma, than trying to minimize the impacts of climate change over the coming decades by doing everything we can to reduce green house gas impacts," Bridgwater said.

Francis has engaged in civic disobedience more than 50 times. She travels, but also takes part in local efforts. She has been a member of Citizen's Climate Lobby for 11 years, both nationally and in the Norman group, and she said getting involved is the best way to mitigate the climate emergency.

"I have known Mary Francis for five years and she is one of the most tireless and fierce advocates for doing the right thing that I have ever met in my life," Bridgwater said.

Citizen's Climate Lobby's goal is to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which is a bill that would reduce America's emissions by at least 40% in the first 12 years and 90% by 2050. Rand said the act gets us very close to the goals based on the science.

"A majority of American's support Congress taking action on climate change and that includes more than half of Republicans," Rand said. "Solving climate change is really too urgent to get caught up in partisan politics, so that's something we have to work on to make this a bridge issue."

Citizen's Climate Lobby is grateful to Mary Francis and people young and old around the world who are waking the world to the urgency of acting now on climate change, Rand said.

"All of us are effected, so anyone who cares about themselves and the children and the future needs to get involved," Rand said. "This is effecting people now, it's really a matter of conscience. Do we have a right to put a pollution in the air that harms other people?"

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