August used to be the sunniest and most summery month here in Portland. As a kid, I would wake up to bright-blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s or 80’s, every single day. Fresh air, green forests, long summer days in the sun. My family would always plan our camping trips for August, because it was the best—and driest—time to be outside. August was prime summer. But not anymore.
Last year, most of August was a blur of heat and smoke. Wildfires burned all over the state. The sky became a grey slate of smoke and ash; the sun, a distant red disk. The air quality grew so bad we had to stay inside. Camping trips were canceled. Weekends were spent in front of the TV, away from the itchy, unhealthy air.
It’s no secret that climate change played a big part in last summer’s wildfires. Scientists says that wildfires will become bigger and more common as climate change progresses. If we don’t take action, this is going to be the new normal. But—the good news? We still have time to make a change. This legislative session, Oregon has the opportunity to transition to a renewable energy economy by passing theClean Energy Jobs bill (House Bill 2020).
The Clean Energy Jobs bill will put a cap on carbon pollution, holding industry accountable while investing in clean energy for the community. Improved public transit, walkable neighborhoods, and affordable housing will help Oregon transition to a low-carbon lifestyle, while new renewable energy infrastructure like solar panels and wind turbines will create thousands of good-paying jobs. Investments will be directed first toward the communities most affected by climate change, including communities of color, low-income communities, and rural communities.
Last week, the Clean Energy Jobs bill took a big step in the right direction when it passed out of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction. Now, it’s on to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. We have to make sure that the bill remains as strong as it needs to be. Will you write to the Ways and Means Committee and ask them to keep the Clean Energy Jobs bill strong?
Once it passes from Ways and Means, HB 2020 will need to pass the House and the Senate. Then it will go to Governor Brown’s desk, and, with her approval, it will be become law. This bill has been years in the making, and now we’re so close to making it a reality! Send an email to Ways and Means and let them know that we can’t compromise Oregon’s climate future.
We only have a short window of time to address the climate crisis. We’re already seeing the effects, and, if we don’t take action, things will continue to get worse. This summer will likely be plagued by wildfires once again. Several parts of the state are already in drought, and wildfires burned near the Santiam River earlier this spring. It’s only May. We can’t let this become the new normal. The time to take action is now.
What summer memories will today’s kids have? Will they think of August as bright, blue, summer? Will they remember days when they played in the river, or rode bikes around the neighborhood, or searched for sunshine along the coast? Or will they remember gray skies, and air conditioning, and breathing masks? It’s up to us to decide. Let’s pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill, and set ourselves on the path toward a low-carbon future.