Hello! My name is Emma Rosen and I am the web and tech intern at 350PDX. I grew up in Southeast Portland with two environmentalists for parents. This meant I spent a lot of time learning about the wildlife and ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest, and of course, about climate change (or as it was still known during my childhood, global warming). I still have a board game called ‘The Life Cycle of Salmon’, which taught me about the importance of strong river banks with shady trees for hatching Salmon’s eggs, and that if your dice roll landed you on a river dam square you were definitely screwed. Everything I learned enforced the idea that climate change was an issue that needed to be addressed quickly, and by as many people as possible.
However, as I got older other social justice issues began to replace the space in my heart once occupied solely by climate change. I was involved in bond measures for school funding, began to learn about and resent the patriarchy, and someone finally decided to reveal to me what a racist mess Oregon was/is. While I still would attend to occasional rally, I had briefly turned away from my active participation in environmentalist movements.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I began to understand how all the social justice issues that I considered of great importance intersected with climate justice. Many of them could be linked to capitalism, and the pursuit of wealth by institutes that were never meant to be money-making endeavors. The need to turn a profit that kept my school, the University of Oregon, from divesting in fossil fuels was incredibly similar to the one that perpetuated the prison-industrial complex and kept people who had once been incarcerated–often for far too long–disenfranchised once they were released. It was this same capitalistic drive that kept colleges across the country from taking the necessary steps to protect students from sexual assault, for fear of decreased number of applicants. The systemic oppression of people of color in America that lead to police militarization and brutality was identical to the one that caused environmental racism, and forced the effects of climate change disproportionately on those communities. It was my understanding of how these systems overlapped that inspired me to increase my student activism and participate in Divest UO.
My most empowering experience in student activism at the University of Oregon was during the final weeks of the year when myself and several other concerned students formed the LGBTQIA+ Student Rights Advocacy group, a group dedicated to increasing gender inclusivity within campus housing. Within a month of forming we were able to write a proposal and met with the housing administration to implement our mandates. It was with this feeling of empowerment that I applied to be an intern at 350PDX, a wonderful organization that shares my view of the connection between climate justice and other social issues. I continue to be amazed and inspired by the amount of change that can be created by passionate humans, especially the ones at 350PDX.
Editor’s note: Emma has contributed significantly to the website, will soon be going back to school for computer science. Thank you, Emma!