Me, Mayor Hales and the Race to Save the World

_MG_2709This morning, before Portland Mayor Charlie Hales met with President Obama to discuss his Clean Power Plan, Mayor Hales and I spoke on the phone to talk about climate change, Arctic Drilling, and the need for strong action on climate. It was such an honor that an elected official like Mayor Hales took time out of his busy day to talk with me. Below are the notes I wrote up before our call that outline the conversation we had. I look forward to continuing my relationship with the Mayor to take stronger action on climate and build a just, equitable society for all.

Mayor Hales,

Thank you so much to taking the time to speak with me this morning.

I know you have limited time and a very busy agenda meeting with the President and Senator Merkley. Being just 22 years old, it means a lot knowing there are people in power listening to and advocating for everyday people like me.

There are two main points, that if I were you, I would convey to President Obama given the opportunity.

The first is to applaud the updated version of the Clean Power Plan for seeking to prevent a wholesale shift to Natural Gas and instead encourage states to adopt renewables and work on energy efficiency. In Portland, we are leading the way on this as was seen with the recent decision on Pembina. We don’t have enough carbon budget left — the amount of carbon globally we can burn while not crossing catastrophic climate tipping points — to transition to these so called bridge fuels. We need renewables now and cities like Portland are leading the way.

The second is to appeal to the President to reverse his stance on Arctic drilling. All people, but especially adults in leadership positions, have a moral responsibility to act on climate and do everything they can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As President, Obama has an even greater moral responsibility and duty to the American people to keep us safe. Approving a new large-scale fossil fuel development, like Shell’s proposed Arctic Drilling, is reckless and puts American people at risk. Obama should rescind Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic.

This summer, the graveness of climate change became even more apparent on the west coast. Unprecedented drought and heat waves, and their resulting forest fires and species die offs, shouldn’t become the norm. As President, Obama should not be condemning people like me to live through such turmoil. If new fossil fuel reserves are exploited, like those in the Arctic, these norms will be unavoidable.

I’m just 22 years old and I am terrified of what I might live through. The reality of living through the 6th great extinction set in for me when half the sockeye salmon run in Oregon died last month because our rivers were inhospitably warm. The President needs to do everything he can to stop this crisis. It’s bigger than anything we’ve ever faced and we need national leadership to stand with the people, not with companies who are profiting off our destruction.

I was just 17 when Obama got elected the first time and even though I couldn’t vote, I still campaigned for him. On his second election when I voted for him — my first presidential election — I entrusted him to lead for my peers and to protect us from undue harms in the world. I hope that President Obama can continue to build his climate legacy and rescind approval for Arctic Drilling.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me this morning, it means a lot. I look forward to connecting more once you’re back in Portland.

Mia Reback

Community organizer with 350PDX and the Climate Action Coalition, which includes Portland Rising Tide, Center for a Sustainable Economy, 350PDX and others.

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