On a beautiful and blustery day, members of the Bend Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter, including Russ Donnelly, Suzanne Butterfield, Klaus Mager, Kathryn Cullen, and Emily Gibson, met with Nick Strader, District Director for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (OR-02) in Bend.
After introductions, we had the opportunity to provide Nick with a status report on the six different cities we had traveled to thus far on the tour: Baker City, La Grande, John Day, Burns/Hines, Prineville, and Redmond.
We’ve met with 100 constituents thus far, ranging from retired senior citizens, professors, newspaper editors and reporters, former mayors, county commissioners, a city manager, college students, a Tea Party leader, conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats, progressive organizers, working professionals such as librarians, educators, firefighters, and high school and middle school students.
From the constituents we’ve met and heard from, some key takeaways are:
1. 2017’s very smoky summer from the intense and vast number of wildfires and those of the most recent summers has gotten everyone’s attention, making it hard to breathe and do outdoor activities. Even more, the wildfires and heavy smoke that is generated negatively impacts Oregon’s economy, such as tourism. Most seem to connect this concern to climate change.
One example: the Crook County (Prineville) firefighters noticed that the heavy smoke exacerbated the health issues of residents dealing with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease such as chronic bronchitis; or emphysema).
2. Everyone has concerns about the diminishing snowpack in the mountains in Oregon and the effects it has on reducing supplies for residential, commercial and agricultural water availability. Everyone across the district seems aware of the water supply issues in the Klamath Basin, but also with their own water supply. In Burns/Hines (Harney County), the depletion of the water table was an oft-mentioned concern. Most seem to connect this concern to climate change.
3. County commissioners and other city staff persons mentioned that as water supplies are less reliable, the growing seasons lengthen, the summer is warmer and the soils become less fertile, that planning becomes more challenging because of the economic uncertainties.
The middle and high school students and a few others mentioned warming temperatures related to climate change having a negative impact on the health and population of elk and deer in their area. Others spoke of the opportunity to speak with young people about their experiences and the issue of climate change.
4. Most of the constituents we engaged want Rep. Greg Walden to take action on climate change. Though we chatted with some constituents who are skeptical that Rep. Walden will engage on this issue, at Citizens’ Climate Lobby, we feel strongly Rep. Walden can be their champion and leader on engaging in and acting on effective climate change solutions.
5. The city manager of John Day, county commissioners of Harney County and the former mayor of Redmond & Deschutes County Commissioner, all are very concerned about the impact of climate change on their communities. It is and was part of their planning process as leaders of their communities. All of them loved and showed great enthusiasm for the CCL approach of trying to bridge the extreme partisan divide to talk and engage with people across the political spectrum.
We relayed that it was gratifying that community members of all political stripes on the tour reacted positively to the CCL methodology of engaging with elected leaders, local citizens, and community leaders with respect, appreciation and gratitude. The sense was that national and local politics in recent years have become even more contentious. All of them seemed to view CCL as a breath of fresh air and a new way forward to work together on very difficult issues, such as climate change.
In response, Nick seemed impressed with the report. He added that he and Rep. Walden do have a very positive impression of CCL. They do like to meet with us and the Congressman was looking forward to meeting CCL volunteers in Washington D.C. in mid-November.
As far as climate change, Nick remarked that people too often overlook what Rep. Walden doesn’t say about climate change. He doesn’t say that it’s a hoax or that there haven’t been increasing and more intense weather events. He does think climate change is real and he does accept the science. Even more, he was an early adopter buying one of the first models of the Toyota Prius, even if he teased about this by his GOP colleagues about it to this day.
Rep. Walden’s district is primarily a rural and agricultural district. Thus, he does take a big interest in sustainable agricultural for his farming constituents. CCL volunteer Klaus Mager, gave a very succinct report about the progress that CCL’s Agricultural Action Team has made in showing the important role in improving farming practices (including incentives) could help with reducing carbon emissions. The CCL Bend chapter will be providing Nick with recent resource materials and webinars from the team that will help paint the picture with the hope that he will be able to provide some Farm Bureau contacts for further discussions.
We shared the latest update on the House bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, now up to 60 members: 30 GOP and 30 Democrats. We remarked that we hoped Rep. Walden could join the caucus soon, that the caucus would be the best place as an “incubator” of ideas, innovations and solutions.
However, when we asked for Rep. Walden about joining the Climate Solutions Caucus, support carbon fee and dividend or go further on climate positions, Nick said that, “The Congressman is just not there yet.” We mentioned that we’ll continue to share information on the “critical mass” that the Climate Solutions Caucus is reaching, along with the increasing support (across the political and economic spectrum) for a carbon pricing (including CCL’s carbon fee and dividend) solution.
Additionally, Nick stated that while the Congressman is not currently in-line with carbon fee and dividend, he is very interested in the potential of American innovation and energy efficiency. For example, as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, they are looking into the future trend of driverless cars and how they will brought in and fit into the American economy.
We appreciated our time with Nick and the helpful exchange of ideas. The CCL volunteers in the meeting did find much common ground with Nick on climate and energy issues. Nick is looking forward to the complete summary of CCL’s Oregon Stewardship Tour after its completion. There is much to keep the discussion moving forward.
We stressed that we will continue outreach and conversations we started on the tour with constituents in eastern, central, and southern Oregon. We will continue to build the political will that we can share with Rep. Walden, providing him with an opportunity to hear more of what his constituents are saying about climate change.
There is still more to discuss about CCL, and to listen and learn. The 2017 Oregon Stewardship tour continues to engage the communities of Lakeview on Wednesday, November 1st, Klamath Falls on Thursday November 2nd, and Grants Pass on Saturday, November 4th.