The session may have ended on July 6th, but at Oregon Climate we haven't stopped for a breath. Momentum behind Price and Dividend is growing so fast that we'd be crazy to let a little thing called sine die slow us down. Camila jetted off for NYC and DC as Page, KB and I planned outreach far and wide across the state.
This story is about fulfilling one of the dreams I had for my Oregon Climate Fellowship this summer.
After a busy weekend pitching Oregon Climate at the Country Fair on top of an epic grant writing marathon, Camila arrived in Portland just in time to head through the Gorge on I-84 with me. Hoping to lay the groundwork for long term collaboration, our route led us through much of the Northeastern part of our state, following leads KB and I had found this past week.
First stop was Hermiston, where controversy was still simmering over the decision to remove the watermelon from all town branding. We had our first taste of Umatilla County politics and learned from our new friend Eileen that in this hub of Big Agriculture, “if the water runs out, time stops!” She was pretty despondent about our prospects in her town after a history of clashing with the local government, but assured us that heading farther along I-84 would take us to greener pastures.
We bid Eileen goodbye and pushed on for Union. (If you have never heard of it, you should definitely go check it out!). Camila pronounced Union to be “the best small town in the USA,” and as we drove in we found that the only traffic light was on the “Stoplight Diner,” which we can definitely recommend. Full of bike-riding families and historic brick and wooden architecture, we found the people to be incredibly warm and the city council meeting to be the biggest Monday night attraction for miles.
Once the meeting was called to order, the sheriff read off this month’s calls (yes, every single one including the six barking dog complaints) and then the real business began. One city council position was vacant so the elected officials interviewed the two candidates, voted on whom to elect and swore in their newest councilor all in seven minutes! A true testament to the efficiency of small town politics.
We were next on the agenda and Camila presented to the council members in an elegant appeal to pass a resolution, as our team has prompted in a half dozen towns and cities statewide.
When we took questions, the only person to comment on record was Mr. Randy Knop, the newest member of the council! He agreed with our message, quickly understanding how Price and Dividend would lead to the same renewable-driven economic development that he admired in the neighboring counties of Umatilla and Morrow. As he finished his statement with “Union should be a forward looking town,” our confidence grew at the possibility of developing lasting relationships with him and the rest of the council.
We enjoyed our “Stoplight Diner” specials and received encouragement from a meeting attendee that, though he’s not likely to help out, he would consider our campaign since it’s the “most redneck climate policy out there.” By this time the stars were popping out and we headed just a few miles out of town to camp along the beautiful Catherine Creek.
The next morning, we retreated west a couple miles to meet with Oregon Rural Action (ORA) leaders, Marc and Tova, in La Grande. ORA is working on lots of innovative projects, but the most exciting for us is their fledgling discussion group on climate, which has come about because of increasing interest among members. They have encountered a lot of success in promoting solar installations for irrigation systems. When Marc told us that customer interest stems from the economics, not the environment, the link to "Carbon Checks" became obvious. (P.S. Do you like "carbon checks" or "price and dividend"? Comment below!)
Under ORA's brand of “Homegrown Prosperity,” our work may find widespread support around La Grande. We had such a wonderful time sketching graphs on their whiteboard and sharing stories that time slipped away and pretty soon we had to hit the road again for Baker City.
Just a few hours of rolling highway later, we pulled into Baker City and quickly found the “house with a picket fence and lots of sunflowers” to meet our next group of incredible organizers. Five of the Baker County Democrats sat down with us in Donna and Marshall’s living room for a chat about our shared values. Our conversation ranged from community wind power to Bernie Sanders to a basic income, and we all agreed to reconvene at the City Council meeting later that night.
Baker City’s meeting was a bit more official and when it came time, I stood up to give the pitch. Our presentation met with a few questions around the effects of permitting on businesses, and a few interested audience members, including one media contact--who wrote a headline about my presentation in the Baker City Herald!
After surviving a night marked by close encounters on the road with horse-sized elk and loud generators at our Anthony Lakes campground, we pushed on to Pendleton for our last meeting as a pair.
Back in Umatilla County we reconvened with Eileen, “the meeting queen,” and found a room full of interested Pendletonians who had lots of good questions for us. Like all of our meetings this week, they had never heard of Price and Dividend and were very eager to learn about it. Just before we left, we were pleasantly surprised to find that after we had expressed mild interest in the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s (CTUIR) grant proposal, the note-taker jumped up and made us a copy of our own! Not to mention that their report on necessary adaptation measure for Umatilla County was very impressive.
As I left Camila to return to “the valley”--how our new friends refer to the Willamette Valley--I brought with me snapshots of incredible sunsets, jaw dropping views, and a great sense of hope for our new partnerships in this important corner of Oregon.
Don’t let anybody tell you that Eastern Oregonians deny climate change. They just don't like "energy policy getting forced on us by folks in Salem who think we're just idiots in the sticks," as a smiling Republican commissioner in Wallowa warned us.
We are excited to report the tremendous interest in revenue-neutral carbon pricing that we have found, and the happiness that our rural-born movement feels in making these connections. Portlanders need to move over and let their neighbors have a seat at the climate table.
On my first day as a Fellow at Oregon Climate I had a vision of a road trip that would garner support with Oregonians in every county of our wonderful state. Now, having returned from this first manifestation of my vision, I feel so encouraged by all of the support we have discovered in the past three days alone.
To finish out the week, Camila is visiting Enterprise, Wallowa County, Summer Lake, Pendleton, and Bend, and Page is out on the coast. All our work for real climate action is fueled by volunteers and individual donations, so if you like what we're up to, please become a member--and stay tuned for more stories from the road!
Oregon Climate Fellow
Middlebury College '18