OWENSBORO, KY – Students, community members, and environmental advocates are rallied today at Brescia University to highlight the need for stronger national conversations and commitments to protect the environment. In light of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23) that is currently in session in Bonn, Germany, Owensboro residents are gathering at the Make Our Planet Great Again Climate Rally to draw attention to America’s inaction on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. remains the only country in the world that has indicated that it will not participate in the Paris Climate Agreement. The Agreement is a global climate effort to regulate and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. While world leaders are convening in Germany, residents of Owensboro are standing up for climate action in the absence of federal leadership.

“The Brescia University Environmental Club recognized a problem: The rest of the world is talking about climate, and we aren’t,” said Rylan Smith of Brescia University Environmental Club, “We are motivated by our motto: “To ask less of the planet, we ask more of ourselves.” This rally is our local response to the existential, international threat that is climate change. Together, we can #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain, and this rally is our first step.”

Owensboro residents are also spearheading the local conversation on energy and fossil fuel emissions in the wake of the announcement of the retirement of the Elmer Smith coal-burning power plant. In March, Owensboro Municipal Utility (OMU) announced that it would phase out the aging old coal plant by 2023. As OMU faces the question of how to power the Owensboro area in the future, public health and environmental activists, along with Owensboro residents, are advocating for clean and renewable energy.

“Burning eyes and runny noses are common to members of the Owensboro community as our bodies attempt to reject air-borne noxious components that fill the city. For too long, citizens of Owensboro and surrounding areas have suffered from heavy pollution in both our air and water – acids, heavy metals and particulate matter that are byproducts of coal combustion by OMU and its two Elmer Smith units.These toxins exacerbate major chronic diseases of the lungs, heart and brain,” said Mary Cupp from the Pennyrile Group of the Sierra Club. “If we strive to be a place of innovation in business and industry we must change our ways and fuel our growth with better, safer, renewable energy methods. We deserve nothing less.”

The rally is supported by a group of environmental, community, and grassroot organizations that advocate for bolder dialogue on climate change and more progress in moving away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. Community leaders from Pennyrile Group of the Sierra Club, Owensboro-Daviess County Ministerial Association, Brescia University Office of Campus Ministry, and Brescia University Environmental Club are speaking at the rally. Other organizations supporting the event include Owensboro NAACP, Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, Blue Skies Environmental Group, and Daviess County Young Democrats.