Hundreds of Oklahomans gathered in front of OKC City Hall on Friday to march and express concern about the growing effects of climate change.
“Hey Hey — ho ho, CO2 has got to go,” was just one the chants during the one-mile march toward the Devon Energy tower and other oil companies in downtown Oklahoma City led by the Global Youth Climate Strike.
Around the globe Friday, youth took their streets by storm to protest climate change. In OKC, Oklahoma high schoolers and college students from around the state came together to hold the same type of strike in downtown.
Matthew Salcido, one the organizers and lead moderators for the OKC climate strike, estimated a crowd of around 400 to 500 people but said only about 150 had been expected.
“Today shows that there’s a large subset of the Oklahoma population that has the desire to convert to clean energy, save the planet and do the hard work that needs to be done,” Salcido said. “So this shows me that I’m not alone in these fears of being a part of the last generation.”
‘We are not about destroying the government or anything’
Amy Brooks, 17, is a senior at Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. She was the youngest and only high school leader of the group and said that she was also surprised by the turn out.
“I’m really glad that there are so many people actually passionate and active about climate change,” Brooks said. “Our impending doom is coming, and I’m glad that people are really realizing it.”
Brooks said she hopes people take away the true purpose of caring for the planet.
“I hope that people can give a sense that we are really about saving the planet. We’re not about destroying the government or anything,” Brooks said. “We are just trying to have a family-friendly environment in which our future can prosper.”
Friday’s OKC climate strike involved more than just youth, but students led the way.
While Mark Davies, 53, helped out with some of the organizing by reserving the area and making sure there were chairs, he said he mainly stayed in the background and watched youth do the heavy work.
“What I liked the most was the youth-led aspect,” Davies said. “The speakers were great (…) just to connect with everything around the world, really millions of people around the world involved in the effort.”
Davies said it was gratifying to see young people start to take the lead. When onlookers honked their horns at the marchers who responded with cheers, Davies thought the cross-generation interactions were positive.
“When we are marching, I’m actively handing out pamphlets because I hope that people see us and they see the sheer multitude of people passionate about putting the work in,” Salcido said. “Because I think nothing gets other people excited like seeing excited people.”
Visiting Bostonians join OKC climate strike: ‘It’s important’
Roseanne and Richie Monarch, a married couple visiting from Boston, Massachusetts, said they would have participated in the march back home if they were there, but they wanted to pitch in while visiting OKC in their RV.
“It’s important, you have to get more people involved” Richie Monarch said.
Richie said there was no difference in the people between OKC and Boston, but it was a little warmer.
“I just thought it was important to come to this one in Oklahoma City because oil and gas rules this state,” Roseanne Monarch said. “In Massachusetts, we have other challenges. We have all the hedge fund people that are selling all the oil and gas.”
Both Roseanne and Richie Monarch said they were happy to help Oklahomans spread the word about climate change.
Salcido said he hopes oil companies and politicians take to heart what people are marching for.
“I was hoping the march around the city and past the oil companies specifically would give people the opportunity to see us, see us protesting, see us doing it even if it’s hot. Even though we really don’t have the permits — we have to do it on the sidewalks,” Salcido said. “Even though it’s inconvenient, we are still doing the work. And I would hope that it would spark something inside of them. So they would be able to relate to us and get excited.”
(Correction: This post was updated at 10:42 a.m. on Sept. 22, to reflect the correct spelling of Mark Davies’ name.)