A Healthy Climate for All

Damon Motz-Storey

Take a deep breath. Are you sitting down right now? Standing? Lying on a couch or in bed?

Take another breath.

You are connected to the earth in some way. Feel your body touching something solid, tethered to the ground, the soil, the millions of living things all around you. Even if you are on a plane in the air, you can sense the swirl of the clouds in our atmosphere and know that we are all connected to this little blue-green ball in space.

I don’t think I need to try to convince you that climate change is worth stopping (or simply mitigating). There are so many activists and celebrities out there who have done a better job than I could of explaining why we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to preserve this earth of ours. Nevertheless I think it feels right to remember that there is a spiritual, joyful connection we all share with the earth. The water protectors at Standing Rock know it. Their witness, as well as mindfulness about our mother nature’s magnificence help me remember what I am fighting for.

Upon arriving in Portland for the Quaker Voluntary Service, I went hiking in the Columbia River Gorge with the other Portland Fellows before starting my job with the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). My job included showing up at hearings to testify on and tweet about a resolution that Oregon PSR was fighting for to block all new bulk fossil fuel storage terminals in the City of Portland. At these events, my mind always wandered back to wandering through the mossy trees in search of impossibly tall waterfalls and basalt columns. I thought too about the many people on the streets of Portland without shelter whom I pass while riding my bike to work, and how the health of our most vulnerable peoples is the greatest and most imminent risk of climate change.

After the Portland City Council voted unanimously for strict restrictions on all new bulk fossil fuel facilities in the City of Portland (important because the vast majority of all of the state's fossil fuels go through Portland...if they can't store it there, they can't transport it through there, which heavily incentivizes renewable energies). You can see Damon in the upper right of the photo. Photo credit: Columbia RiverkeeperImagine then, the rush of joy I felt in my stomach when Mayor Hales and City Council voted unanimously to approve the resolution that we fought for. Oregon and its neighboring states transport an enormous amount of fossil fuels through Portland, so not only does the move incentivize widespread development of renewable energies, it also gives other cities an example of how to act locally to stop climate disruption. And the first people the Mayor thanked were the activists, people at Oregon PSR and all of its partners.

I interpret it as a sign that even though hope can be hard to find, getting out to the streets still matters. Activists are working hard to find shelter for the ~4000 people who sleep on the streets of Portland every night. My coworkers and I are advocating for the public health of Oregonians and the world. With any luck, we’ll see a day when everyone has a roof over their head and a Columbia Gorge with beauty to explore.

January 2017: Written by Damon Motz-Storey, 2016-17 Portland QVS Fellow working with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

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