Keep Oregon Verde: Environmental Justice for All

The climate crisis’ impact this spring has left much of Oregon unseasonably dry, with communities all over the state preparing for another long and arduous fire season. Oregon doesn’t have a second to waste: we MUST address the climate crisis

That’s why I am proud to have signed onto the The Green New Deal resolution and I am proud to help address the climate crisis with the policies encompassed by my Clean Energy for America Act working to end America’s dependence on fossil fuels. Attacking the climate crisis means attacking both the causes and the results of a changing climate - and that means addressing both the use of fossil fuels and the current conditions of forest health, for instance.

Recently, I met with advocates from Verde at Cully Park in Northeast Portland. Thanks to Verde, what used to be a landfill is now a beautiful, community-planned green space. I’m proud to have been able to help secure a $500,000 federal grant to help with construction. What Verde has done is show the Green New Deal resolution in action by working to address the economic and social injustice caused by the climate emergency. 

Communities of color know firsthand the climate crisis demands real, bold action. Wildfire smoke worsens asthma and health conditions that health officials say disproportionately affect communities of color. Communities with lower rates of home ownership swelter during increasingly hotter summers, while many lack proper air conditioning. And so many immigrants and refugees in Oregon lost their homes in the devastating fires of summer 2020. These all add up to a climate emergency disproportionally experienced by communities of color. 

Verde Executive Director Candace Avalos showed us around the grounds of Cully Park -- walking paths, native plants, a community garden, and kids and their families playing on state-of-the-art playground equipment. She detailed community plans to continuously improve the park by adding youth sports leagues, while also mobilizing resources including food boxes, improving access to public transportation, and advocating for lower utility prices. These programs are making meaningful community-centered change. In order to tackle environmental racism, we must prioritize support for programs that channel the Verde spirit at the local, state, and federal level.

I have long said that change doesn’t come from the top down, but from the roots up. Tackling environmental racism and the climate crisis is no small task, but Oregon is already suffering the impact of inaction: droughts, wildfire, pollution and more. We don’t have another day to waste.

I take inspiration from the work being done at Cully Park by Verde, where the neighborhood continues to come together to add value to the place they call home; it’s the Oregon Way. With creative problem-solving as our North Star, I know we can push against the tide of environmental racism so that Oregon stays verdant for generations to come.