It has only taken Lillian “Lilli” Coker, 6-year-old kindergartener from Gadsden, Ala., a few days to get over 1,000 Alabamians to sign a petition encouraging the Alabama legislature to “Say ‘no’ to wind turbines,” a spurt of political activism that was brought on by a memory she shared with her late father.
Her mom, Cara Coker, explains:
On March 12, 2014, I picked Lilli up from school and as we were walking out of the door she handed me a piece of notebook paper with “Partition” written in kindergartener handwriting across the top. She asked, “Will you please sign my petition, Mama?”
My previous profession of 14 years was education so I asked, “What’s a petition?”
Lillian quickly replied, “A petition is something you get people to sign if you want someone to do something or stop doing something. Ok…like say somebody is going to tear down my favorite playground. I would start a petition for them not to tear it down and if I got enough signs they would stop.”
I was quite impressed with her thorough definition and clever example and proceeded with, “Well, what are you petitioning?”
Without skipping a beat, Lillian said, “I want to stop those people from building windmills on top of our beautiful mountain! You know the one where we hike and climb? If they put windmills up there then we won’t be able to go there anymore and windmills won’t work here anyway…we don’t have enough wind, Mama! When they build them they’re going to be big and dangerous and they’ll have to tear up the rocks and land. It’s just not a good idea! We HAVE to stop them!”
Powerful words coming from a six year old!
Through social networking and word of mouth, Lillian’s petition has traveled fast and she has been asked to hand deliver her petition in Montgomery Wednesday, March 19, 2014.
When I asked her if she wanted to go to Montgomery and do this her response was, “I have to do it, Mama! Somebody has to stop them from building the windmills on my beautiful mountain!”
Yellowhammer has covered in-depth a bill currently making its way through the Alabama legislature that would provide basic oversight for wind energy companies seeking to operate in the state.
Sen. Phil Williams, who is Lilli’s senator, is sponsoring the bill, but it is currently bogged down in the Alabama House Commerce Committee, where lobbyists representing the wind energy companies are hoping it will die. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday.
Wind energy providers have proposed wind farms in 8 different Alabama counties, but there are currently no laws on the books to protect citizens and communities when it comes to wind energy production. For instance, while regulations on coal mining require an almost unimaginable amount of research, proposals, permits, reclamation plans, insurance and numerous other safeguards overseen by independent government entities, wind farms are largely free to do as they please without any real oversight to speak of.
That has caused citizens in areas of the state where wind farms are being proposed to seek help from their legislators. Two citizens groups have even filed lawsuits asking for a judge to block the proposed project, at least until the state creates a regulatory framework to protect the local community.
But Lilli’s petition may be the most effective maneuver yet, because it shows that the issue is starting to catch on with citizens all over the state in an election year.
Yellowhammer caught up with Lilli over the weekend to find out what compelled her to launch her petition. She said one of the areas where wind farms are being proposed reminds her of time she spent with her father, Jeff Coker, who passed away in 2012.
“Hiking there reminds me of my daddy,” Lilli said. “There are lots of people who go there to hike and I don’t know why they would want to build windmills on Cherokee Rock Village. They’re not going to work because there’s not enough wind. People at my school taught me about petitions and I started one because I want to stop them from building them there.”
Lilli said she’s excited to go to Montgomery this week and personally deliver the petition to her elected officials.
“I’m going to tell them Good afternoon, My name is Lilli. I started this petition to stop you from building windmills on my mountain,” she said. “I love to hike there and if you build them the animals that live there will have to find somewhere else to go and there’s not really anywhere else for them to go.”
And it sounds like this may be only the beginning for Lilli. She says she plans to continue pushing causes she believes in, even when she “grows up.”
“I want to be a helper for all the animals that might lose their homes because of stuff like windmills,” she said in conclusion.
If you would like to help Lilli reach her goal of 1,000 signatures before she presents her petition to the Alabama legislature on Wednesday, CLICK HERE TO SIGN, and take a moment to SHARE this story with your Facebook, Twitter and email friends.
Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims