By Sharon Franklin.
In a recent op-ed, by Kamea Sibley Ozane and Roishetta Sibley Ozane in Teen Vogue, a Louisiana mother and daughter are followed on how they got involved in climate activism. Kamea is a 10-year-old who lives in Sulphur, Louisiana near the Gulf Coast with her mom and brothers and sisters. She recently learned that pollution from oil and gas was making her and her environment sick, as well as contributing to climate change. She talks about how one week before her 10th birthday party everything changed. Her skin started to burn, itch, and break out. She went to the doctor, and was told she had a skin disease, and could not have her birthday party. She was told her skin disease would heal, but it didn’t. She returned to the doctor and more tests were done and it was finally decided that her skin condition was caused by her environment and the polluted air was the reason her skin was peeling off. Then Kamea started to ask questions. “What is happening to me? What’s causing it? How do we stop it?”
Roishetta, Kamea’s Mom said, “It broke my heart to have to explain to my daughter and the rest of my children that the petrochemical facilities around us was poisoning our air.” She cites a recent report by Environmental Integrity, which concluded that oil refineries in Lake Charles “release about 675 thousand pounds of nitrogen pollution a year in the Calcasieu River, causing serious environmental harms.”
Kamea listened to her mom when she informed her that if these oil and gas companies continue to operate, not only will more children continue to get sick, but the effects of climate change will get worse. Even though her Mom told her not to worry she immediately decided to fight for her town. She started to organize by talking to her friends in school and making them more aware of the issues surrounding pollution and its connection to climate change. After speaking with her friends and family about the dangers of pollution and how it was affecting climate change, she realized it was a good first step. But she wanted to do more.
In April 2023, she helped her mom organize The Vessel Project of Louisiana in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her mother told her that the gas industry is planning to build four huge gas export terminals in Southwestern Louisiana, which will be within five miles of each other, and ship gas to other countries. Kamea’s mom also told her that Lake Charles wasn’t the only community being sacrificed, that there were more than 20 gas export projects being proposed to be built across the Gulf.
What are these Cancer Alley teens asking for? Kamea wants President Biden to stop approving these oil and gas projects. She asks “President Biden, please don’t let the Gulf Coast become a sacrifice zone. We don’t want these facilities in our backyards because they are poisoning our water and our air. It makes it harder for kids like me to spend time outside and enjoy our planet. We only have one Earth, and it is time we start acting like it.”