Love in Action
Salmon at the Redd | November 14, 2015
Welcome to Salmon at the Redd, the culmination of Oregon Climate’s statewide community art project for fair and effective climate policy. More than 1,200 Oregonians participated in the creation of that giant salmon mosaic in the back room, and it looks like there are at least 150 of you here today--what an exciting, bright movement you’ve grown!
We’re here today to celebrate how far we’ve come together, and gather our power for the passage of strong climate policy in upcoming legislative sessions. Thank you to Ecotrust for donating this beautiful new space, to Trip and Sara of Balance Media for their pro-bono photography and videography, and to our esteemed speakers for their uplifting messages of how much we all matter together. I am honored to bring it all home before we gather around that salmon for an aerial photo.
First, though, I have a confession. I didn’t sleep much last night. It wasn’t out of nerves—I love our gatherings, and always look forward to seeing you all. I didn’t sleep because of the violence tearing at the fabric of our world. The chaos and pain in Paris, in Beirut, in Baghdad, and so many other places. These terrible events remind me of the privilege we have here in Portland, a place of peace, of riches. I believe that the world needs what we can give right now. It needs our love. Here, we can gather without fear. We can walk down the street to speak your mind and not be killed for it. Let us take a moment of silence for those who cannot.
It is so easy to destroy, so difficult to create. Each of you is a walking miracle. Think of what it takes to have a healthy body, a safe home, a whole community! We have taken so much for granted, including all of nature, and now it is the age of consequences. This is why, today, I want to talk about love in action.
It takes love to protect creation from destruction. I believe that only with love can we overcome our true killers: greed and ego. They manifest as wanting profit over taking responsibility for a healthy future. They rear their ugly heads when we quibble over credit, bits of turf, losing sight of the big turf—Earth—the only one that matters. Greed and ego keep us from shining our light—and the world needs each one of you to shine your light right now. To cover it up is to do violence to the world that needs you. So I invite you, please, to step forward. Lose your fear of failure and insufficiency, and shine.
What is love in action? What does it look like?
The beautiful big salmon is love in action. Each unique tile is decorated by a individual Oregonian with their love for life and this place we call home—maybe it’s the snowy mountain, the turning of the seasons, family, a dream of the future. Each is different, but you can see the common themes threading throughout the hundreds in that room. And when they come together, the salmon—us together—we are literally and metaphorically larger than the sum of our parts.
What does love in action look like for our climate mission? Where are we going together?
It starts with a carbon price. True love doesn’t settle until it finds a real cure. The people who’ve dedicated their lives to becoming experts on the path to climate stability and the transition of our global energy economy tell us the cure starts with a real price on carbon. We know we need a root solution that limits carbon pollution at the source. Until the true cost of carbon is reflected in its price, we will consume it all. We need to account for the externalized costs of cheap fossil fuels. Right now, the entire planet is being externalized. A cap or fee at meaningful levels will correct that injustice and set free all the brilliant new energies and ideas that simply can’t compete, now, against cheap dirty energy.
What does love in action mean in carbon pricing policy? There are three criteria to consider.
First, the carbon price must be designed according to the physical nature of this pollution crisis. The fee or cap should be based on the best available science. We need to keep global temperatures under 2*C, and we are not on track for that right now. If we don’t put a true price on carbon we’ll never get there. The price should be scheduled to begin low and rise in predictable increments, tracking the path of emission reduction we need to stabilize the climate. Planetary physics won’t give us partial credit for a partial try—we either avoid the worst tipping points, or we don’t. We know how to design a carbon pricing policy to meet those targets. Let’s enact a design with integrity.
Secondly, the carbon price must be inclusive in its coverage and benefits. The law must include all greenhouse gas emissions, all major sources of pollution, under the cap or fee. There should be no freebies, loopholes or giveaways. By the same token, the benefits must include everyone. The revenue should go to every Oregonian because every single one of you matters. This all-important policy can’t leave anyone out because for us, for young people facing one imperiled future, there is no way out—absolutely nobody gets a free ride or a special giveaway on a dead planet. A policy catering to special interests simply won’t work. It is time to put exclusivity behind us. We’re in it together. A good climate law will prove that principle in action.
Third, let’s pass a policy that’s built to last. Here in Portland--and certainly in this room--we’re ready to do what it takes to save the planet, but let’s be real and remember that the goal is national policy change, and the Tea Party is active in most of the country. This is a policy that only works if it increases the cost of dirty energy. But, if we give the revenue to every Oregonian, we can erase the narrative that climate action will be borne on the backs of the poor. We can make this the most popular policy yet, with $500-$1500 to every Oregonian every year, making it easy for politicians to campaign on stronger climate action—not pledge to repeal an expensive gas tax.
Let’s be smart and make this all-important law a long-term winner with the electorate, and set into motion a race to the top in emission savings. Channeling the carbon revenues (just a fancy word for fossil fuel profits) into porkbarrel projects will simply create new dependence on fossil fuels at the very time we need to be letting that money go, breaking up its power into millions of individual hands.
So: How will we put love into action, together, with knowledge and purpose? Sometimes it’s the small things.
A life-saving bill passes, or fails, is not just that one moment of the vote, but all moments that have come before. It will be the culmination of countless decisions large and small—the call returned or ignored, the email sent or never written, the withering sneer or the friendly smile. Every gesture, every act of kindness, every sincere effort to listen, respect each other, and find common ground: it all matters.
I know this from personal experience. During the legislative session this year, there were days I just dreaded walking into the capitol building. I was tired of the fighting, so exhausted by this game of death by a thousand cuts. But each of you kept me going, kept me strong. Every note of encouragement, every stretch donation, every Facebook like, every trip you made to lobby, every time you just showed up—like today—it’s a big deal. You show up and give strength to those around you. Give yourself a hug and your neighbor a high-five, just for being here, just for showing up. It’s a big deal.
You are love in action.
You use your voice. Together this year, we passed eight resolutions calling on the state legislature to pass a price on carbon—the latest, thanks to Page’s dedicated efforts, is none other than Cannon Beach! You use your voice, in more than 50 lobby meetings throughout the session that showed legislators that we care and are watching for their leadership.
You use your body. You filled three hearing rooms at an April carbon pricing hearing in the House and again turned up in Salem for the June hearing in the Senate. You made an impression and advanced carbon pricing further than anyone thought possible.
You use your imagination. Look at that salmon! And you imagine what is possible—and needed—to save the world we need, and create political will—not follow.
You give generously. Our work is powered by hundreds of individual donations, and every drop counts when fueling the incredible output of our hardworking organizers, working to give you the highest return out there on your investment.
You invite people in. We started as five people in a living room. Less than two years later we are 5,000 strong statewide.
You share. Take photos with the hashtag #putapriceonit and show the world what is happening here in Oregon—we’ll send your photos of support to Paris for the world climate summit.
We are love in action. Oregon is love in action. It is our great privilege to lead and now is the time for us to step up, because the world needs us.
World-changing solutions are exported from our great state every day. Some people think we’re too small a state to matter, or that the bottle- and beach-bill Tom McCall days are over. They’re wrong. There’s no reason we shouldn’t offer a real, new solution to the climate crisis. Just this year California copied us on two bills—Death With Dignity, and the groundbreaking New Motor Voter Act that enfranchised hundreds of thousands of new voters in our state.
Congress rarely tackles big issues without a state leading the way. Congress needs Oregon’s leadership. With your involvement, we will pass a carbon price that is inclusive, science-based, and built to last in 2016!
In closing, I have three requests for you as we embark on the new year:
JOIN: become a member, and come volunteer with us. Mark your calendars for every Tuesday at 6pm at our office, just around the corner, for our volunteer hangout for phonebanking, meeting wonderful people, and more.
SIGN: sign the message to Governor Brown and the legislature on the back wall, and share our new petition online.
SHARE: get that selfie, and #putapriceonit!
Thank you all. Let’s get the job done.