Week in the Life of 350PDX

On a sunny Monday evening in August, I was standing in a large conference room at Central Lutheran Church.  Volunteers were busily painting, hammering and assembling signs for the September 8th Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice Rally.  I was speaking with a founding member of 350PDX’s Arts and Events Team, Barbara Ford.  She said, “We can’t have a monoculture of activism,” explaining that people bring different gifts in the creation of a robust activist community.

It was a perfect quote to start to my research for this blog post.  I would spend the next few days participating in different events from 350PDX’s calendar.  Over the course of my experience, I realized that there are definitely a wide variety of ways to participate and talents to utilize in the growing climate movement.

I initially came to the Art Build to observe and photograph the Team in action.  They set up an impressive assembly line to create the signs.  One member pointed out how high quality and reusable the signs were, “not just a paper sign that falls apart in the rain.”  It wasn’t long, though, before I jumped in to help, and got a closer look at the final creation.  They even used repurposed bike innertubes to hold the cloth sign tight.  It was a design that was sturdy as well as easy to break down and store.  Joan, a new participant in the group, commented on how inspiring the art was, giving you a sense that you “are part of something bigger than yourself.”

The next morning I was off to another event, this time at the University of Portland campus, for a tour of Portland’s Sacrifice Zone.  A signboard at the beginning of the tour defined this as “a geographic area that has been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment.  These zones are most commonly found in low-income and minority communities.” (Wikipedia).  Community member Sarah Taylor gave us a historical perspective on the vast industrial land that spread to the south.  Unfortunately, the history includes exclusionary laws, diseases decimating indigenous populations and the displacement of many groups of people.  Widespread alterations of the environment included dredging to create a seaport and placing industry on infill (not ideal when you consider the potential for catastrophic earthquakes).

Don’t eat the fish! – North Portland’s Cathedral Park

We then carpooled to Cathedral Park, where we had the opportunity to hear from representatives from the EPA and Oregon DEQ on cleanup efforts for the Portland Harbor Superfund site.  We were greeted by signs warning us against eating the fish from the area.  Community members expressed concerns about the toxins in the river and the effects on local human health.  Cathedral Park is considered a priority site by the DEQ.  I was introduced to the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group (http://portlandharborcag.info/node/5) as an active group working on this important issue.

To finish my “week in the life of,” I attended a picnic potluck hosted by 350PDX’s Northeast Neighborhood Team.  The Northeast Team meets the last Wednesday of every month to discuss, organize, and educate on climate issues.  It is also a friendly, social gathering with other committed activists.  Most meetings are at the Leaven Community on NE Killingsworth St. and focus on important climate work.  But there is also a time for socializing and celebrating.  There are other Neighborhood Teams in the area, including in Milwaukie and Washington County (https://350pdx.org/campaigns-and-teams/neighborhood-teams/).

This week highlighted just a few of the opportunities with 350PDX.  Saturday, September 8 is the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice at Glenhaven City Park.  There are plenty of other ways to get involved and become a part of the climate movement.  350pdx.org/get-involved/ is a great place to start.

By Brent Swanson