Climate Change and Our Environment
My father was a scientist and teacher who served as the second leader of the Green Party of Canada from 1984-88. As an avid angler and environmentalist, he worked on protecting watersheds and water quality and organized to prevent a garbage incinerator from being built on Vancouver Island. His care and dedication deeply influenced me, and now I am running for this seat because I want my grandsons and future generations of Lane County residents to have clean rivers to swim in and air to breathe, to have safe water for drinking and growing local food, and to have abundant parks and green spaces to recreate in.
While climate change is a global issue, there are many steps we can take locally to mitigate the effects of climate change, promote public health, and create a greener community. We can do this through supporting clean energy projects and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting green jobs in climate-friendly industries, localizing our food system, creating better public transportation, and imposing stricter regulations on local polluters. Positive changes are possible both within the county’s own operations as well as in the community at large.
Firstly, all environmental work requires confronting environmental racism, the disproportionate impact of climate change on women, the relationship of climate change to houselessness and migration, and how changes in industry affect workers.
Racism and white supremacy harm all of us and are also killing the planet. We must prioritize marginalized and front line communities experiencing the most damaging effects of climate change in our policy making and consistently work to mitigate these effects. No person or place is expendable.
Secondly, we must utilize green and recycled building materials, move quickly to convert our fleet of vehicles to electric, and find ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Since before COVID-19, I’ve been promoting telecommuting as a way to reduce travel time for county employees which lowers our carbon footprint, but this also promotes public health and can aid many with caregiving responsibilities.
Thirdly, we need a commitment to a more circular economy that attempts to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in that order. We should be ambitious in reducing waste from households and local industry, and providing households and businesses with helpful information on safely reusing common materials. If feasible and proven to be environmentally sound, the building of a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) or a mass upcycle facility in Lane County could create local green jobs for mass sorting of commingled or pre-separated recyclables into either clean reusable products or newly formed materials for the creation of future products. These facilities can clean materials of organic matter or use all matter (through various methods) to prevent waste from entering landfills. It is of the utmost importance that if Lane County looks to build facilities like these that we investigate our zoning, development, and planning in ways that address past harm and mitigate damage of building polluting industries near low-cost housing.
Fourthly, for decades I’ve been a part of generating and implementing numerous initiatives and policies to foster a robust regional food system. I’ve been part of efforts aimed at supporting local farms, protecting and preserving farmland, ensuring we have ample clean water, and promoting a wide range of ways to get local food to local people; from partnering with retailers to providing resources and training to nontraditional farming, food, and beverage entrepreneurs; to advocating for more institutional purchasing of regionally produced foods though contracting agreements. Supporting local farms and farmers markets increases locally grown foods. We need to manage vegetation and invasive weeds in our parks and along county roads without compromising our health or that of our watersheds, food, farmworkers, and the planet; because dirty air and water do not stop at the county lines. We need stricter air and water quality regulations to support a healthy environment.
Fifthly, I am proud to have done my part finding solutions to a cleaner climate through active transportation while working as the Executive Director for the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth (LCHAY). In my time at LCHAY, I championed a pilot program called Safe Routes to Schools that is now an ongoing and effective program running in the three largest school districts in our county. Safe Routes educates and encourages students and their surrounding communities about the benefits of walking and biking safely to school. It also helps fund needed changes to the physical landscape, or built environment, to support the program's goals. Having children walk or bike to school can set their transportation habits for a lifetime by showing them at a young age that carbon-free transportation is fun and easy when we have the needed infrastructure and programs to support it. We can best support each other with mixed use zoning and by creating walkable and bikeable neighborhood communities to improve health and preserve the farmland and forests that surround our cities.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, localizing our food system, creating better public transportation, safe pedestrian crossings, and bike lanes, working on alternative energies, and moving toward higher efficiency vehicles and facilities will all have positive impacts on public health. We cannot allow these issues to compete with one another and we must always consider equity and inclusion when we take action to address climate change. After several decades of working on issues of environment, public health, and worker rights I know that we will not be able to fight climate change without ending white supremacy and creating a community where no one is considered expendable for the sake of industry or profit.
For more on the relationship between our community and environment, see PUBLIC HEALTH.