Young People Lead the Way: Report from Addie Greene

 Young People Lead the Way

“Some exciting things can happen when young people step up,” says Jim Hartman, who teaches Climate Change Solutions at Ashland High School. Three of his students spoke at the Ashland Climate Change Youth Challenge March 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

            Sam Levine explored how “love is related to our mission” of saving the planet. “Most of our government does not acknowledge (climate change) is real and affects everyone,” Levine said. “One of the most important things we can learn from each other is love. Loving our climate means doing as much as we can do. We all come from the same roots.” He added, “What’s more important is people who don’t agree with you—you’ve got to fight for what you believe” and trust that climate change deniers are acting out of ignorance.

            Lilly Ordway spoke of the impact of climate change on women and girls. “We have the ability to change social norms,” she said. She spoke of a $5.3-billion annual price tag for worldwide family planning and said, “We can’t afford not to support” women’s access to birth control. Access reduces HIV and unwanted pregnancies and enables girls to complete high school. Now only 1/3 of girls finish high school in Africa, which gives them fewer choices, she said. She proposed $10 a ton in carbon offsets to go toward education. “Climate change encourages us to do what we ought to be doing.”

            Alan Glover said, “Almost every person uses motorized transportation, which is 24% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Ashland.” Each car produces six tons of CO2 per year, he said, and a large amount of waste is generated when cars sit in traffic in big cities. “Driverless cars would make a world of difference in cities.” A bus can carry 20 times more people than a car, he said, and advocated electric buses and bicycles. “Buying local reduces emissions and supports the local economy.” He closed by saying, “When we take from (the earth) we take responsibility to give back.”

            The Rogue Valley Peace Choir, which opened the youth forum, then sang, “The power we have is to march and to vote. The power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

            James Stephens of the Southern Oregon Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Association (SOHEVA) said, “We can reduce 24-25% of GHG (auto) emissions by going all electric.” “I don’t worry about range because I plug in at night. With solar panels on the roof we can literally be driving on sunlight.” The Geos Institute is offering $1500 in rebates to the first two Ashland businesses to purchase electric cars and $1000 in rebates to subsequent purchasers, with the offer ending June 3. Part of the grant offers rebates up to $300 on electric bikes. He also advocated diversity in transportation by walking, biking, and skateboarding.

            Kathy Conway and Liz Olson of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN) gave a presentation on HB 2020, which would set a cap limit on Oregon’s large GHG emitters, then gradually reduce the cap. Emissions above the cap would be taxed. The state’s 90 top emitters produce 85% of the Oregon’s emissions, they said. The Dry Creek Landfill is the only Rogue Valley business on this list. The trade limit part of the bill would take the revenue from the top emitters and spend $500 million a year on transportation. Another $200 million would be used to address the effects of the bill on agricultural areas and low-income communities. Offsets must be in the U.S., with 50% in Oregon, and fossil fuels and their infrastructure will not be eligible. Tribes, unions, and climate activists are suggesting amendments to HB 2020, and these will affect what committees must consider the bill.

            Gas prices actually went down in California in 2012 after the state adopted cap and trade, the women said. The 10 states on the East Coast that adopted cap and trade saw a 6% drop in electricity prices and a 16% drop in emissions. “We need to take action,” Conway said. “We can’t let down our vigilance. This is Oregon’s chance to lead.”

Addie Greene