In Spring 2015, when I began talking to the volunteer leadership of 350PDX about becoming their first paid staff person, I never could have dreamed of the amazing work we would all do together. As I wrap up my time as paid staff for 350PDX and get ready for new adventures, I’m nearly speechless thinking about how we – in a very real way – helped stop new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, kept fossil fuels in the ground, and opened the door for a just transition to 100% renewable energy.
Thank you 350PDX for giving me this amazing opportunity and experience! Thank you to Adriana and the board for hiring me, to Maya for being the best co-worker and co-conspirator, to my other colleagues here and at partner organizations for teaching me more than I could ever have imagined, and to all of you, our volunteers, who make this work what it is.
Below is a short compilation of some of my favorite moments and photos taken along the way. Photos are taken by super volunteers Rick Rappaport and Deva. More can be seen in the Photo Galleries on the 350PDX Blog.
I’ve so enjoyed my time organizing with you all and I know we’ll keep working together in the bigger movement for climate justice in the Pacific Northwest! From rivers to railroads, from protest to policy, it’s been a dream.
With love and rage,
We Said #ShellNo and Helped Stop Arctic Drilling
Less than a month after being hired as 350PDX’s first staff member, we got word that Shell Oil’s Arctic Icebreaker, the Fennica, was on its way to Portland for a final repair before Shell could begin exploratory drilling in the pristine Chukchi Sea. As a budding staff-volunteer team, we sprang into action, forged quick partnerships with new allies, and held a series of outreach events, including a rally with Senator Jeff Merkely and two kayak flotillas, to build awareness and opposition before the big showdown with the Fennica. Just a few months later, Shell abandoned their drilling plans with news stories recognizing the role public opposition played in stopping Arctic drilling.
We Became the First City to Prohibit New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
#ShellNo and the 2014-2015 campaign against the proposed Pembina propane export terminal at the Port of Portland gave 350PDX and our partners the confidence to fight for something bigger. As staff, we leveraged the people power of these campaigns to build the political power necessary to get the Portland City Council to unanimously vote yes on the first ever City resolution comprehensively saying “No” to all new fossil fuel infrastructure. This policy sparked a movement across the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the United States, with cities from Baltimore to Seattle following our lead and passing local policies to stop new fossil fuel projects! In 2016, we followed up the original resolution with a second policy changing City zoning code to further restrict fossil fuel storage terminals. Just this winter, 350.org rolled out their Fossil Free Campaign taking local resolutions against fossil fuel projects national and showing that piece-by-piece we can, and will, stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure!
We Joined a Regional Movement to #Breakfree from Fossil Fuels
350PDX is lucky to exist within a regional movement of local 350 chapters and other amazing grassroots organizations who are taking direct action to stop fossil fuels! In 2016, we partnered with other local 350s in the Pacific Northwest to call out our region’s current use of fossil fuels and the need to #breakfree from our existing fossil fuel infrastructure. For 3 days in May 2016, we held workshops, rallies, and actions in Anacortes, WA at the Tesoro and Shell refineries. #Breakfree represented a shift in our movement to look at our current fossil fuels alongside proposals for new projects. It also helped hone our skills in community led action against oil trains. The campaign highlighted the many challenges our movement must overcome in order to truly get off fossil fuels before it’s too late.
We Worked with Allies to Stop 2 Proposed Fracked Gas Power Plants
In 2013 as a student at Reed College (where I first met and organized with the amazing Maya Jarrad), I began hearing rumors that PGE might build a new fracked gas power plant. Yet it was still startling in summer of 2016 when PGE opened a fracked gas power plant at the Carty Generating Station in Boardman, OR and announced proposals to build two more! Learning of this terrible, “fracked-up” plan, 350PDX sprang into action with our partners at the Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper, Rising Tide, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Climate Solutions, and more to say no to more fracked gas. Eight months later, the proposal for new gas power plants was dead. Not only did we win, the Carty Campaign helped solidify the 350PDX Fossil Fuel Resistance Team, with whom I’ve had the great pleasure of working closely with for the last 15 months. I’m going to miss you all.
We Led the Charge for Portland & Multnomah County 100% Renewable Energy Resolutions
When Ted Wheeler announced he supported a vision for 100% Renewable Energy, 350PDX was there to hold his feet to the fire. Immediately after Wheeler took office, 350PDX met with City staff to ensure Portland would pass a policy that was as robust, if not stronger, than other cities 100% renewable energy resolutions. We packed the house at the Climate Town Hall, showed up in force to City Council & County Commission meetings to show how much support there is for 100% Renewable Energy, and advocated to ensure the policy set the stage for a just and equitable transition. Now Portland and Multnomah County have this bold – and attainable – vision for the future as formal policy. It’s up to you, the people, to hold the City & County accountable to implementing this vision and to doing so in a way that is rapid, just, and equitable.
We Grew our Number of Teams and Engaged Community Activists
When I started at 350PDX, we were a small organization with about 10 core volunteers, 50 others who would show up to general meetings, one petition (the Oregon Climate Declaration), and one campaign team (Divest). Nearly three years later, 350PDX is made up of over 40 volunteers in leadership roles and more than 300 volunteers who regularly join team meetings, actions and events. 350PDX now has 15 teams, five of whom are running campaigns, and a network of over 8,000 people on our mailing list. Wow!
We Expanded our Understanding of the Climate Crisis as We Work for a Just Transition
Just as 350PDX has grown in size, we’ve also grown in our understanding of the climate crisis and what we are fighting for. We’ve evolved from numbers and emissions to an organization that fights for climate justice and works to center and take leadership from frontline communities. And as our understanding changes, so do the partners we work with and take leadership from. 350PDX is lucky to work with, and take leadership from, groups like OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and others in the Oregon Just Transition Alliance to guide our learning, our vision for the future, and the organizing work we take on. This work is inspiring and calls on us to challenge our assumptions about society and fight for so much more.