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  • Collegian staff

Webinar encourages students, activists to take on climate change intersectionality

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Bridget Bodor


On April 7, Economics major Liandra Chapman (‘21) and Professor Don Negri served as co-organizers and moderators for the “Oregon Dialogue on Climate Change and Adjust Transitions to Solve Climate Change by 2030” webinar. The webinar consisted of a short video hosted by director of graduate programs in sustainability at Bard College and lead organizer of Solve Climate 2030, Dr. Eban Goodstein, as well as short presentations from the three panelists and a Q&A. The webinar focused on the intersectionality of climate issues with the systematic racism in our country, as well as a call for young people to take a stand in order to see real change.

Read the key points of each speaker below:

Dr. Eban Goodstein

Although short, the video was clear in its message- climate change is the most pressing issue upon us, and we are running out of time to fix it. According to Goodstein, we have 10 years to correct our mistakes. “We have the solutions, but only if we focus the world on climate solutions and justice”, meaning that fighting this will take a collective effort. Dr. Goodstein said that students are the future of combating climate change and the systemic injustices embedded in our society, and with their help and dedication, change can come.

Aaron Brown- Co founder of NOMOREFREEWAYS, a grassroots campaign to stop freeway system expansion from Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)

Transportation is releasing massive amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but the issues behind our current transportation systems affect more than just the environment. Brown has spent years fighting the epidemic that is traffic violence, and like other epidemics, traffic fatalities are disportionality affecting communities of color and low income populations. NOMOREFREEWAYS is an organization focused on retiring the freeway-industrial complex system to fight problems like this one. Brown said, “We don't talk about climate without talking about the existential realities that communities of color, especially Black and brown Oregonians have faced.” He stated that “Black communities are destroyed to make room for the ODOT systems, not white,” when discussing the systemic racism that is behind our current transportation system. Brown finished by demanding that we “retire the racist and classist” transportation systems of the 20th century to make room for change in the 21st.

Victoria Paykar- Oregon Transportation policy manager for Climate Solutions

Paykar began with a shocking statistic: 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Paykar and her coworkers are working towards creating green transportation, which reduces GHG emissions and vehicle miles traveled. Our current transportation system is a multifaceted issue that does not work for everyone, Paykar said, so Climate Solutions is pushing to increase equitable transit and create liveable, walkable cities. Injustices in the transportation system, such as inner city highway construction, expose BIPOC and lower income communities to much more toxic air because of where they live. This shows just how interconnected climate change is with systemic oppression, and as noted by Paykar, transportation injustices, environmental injustices, and climate injustices all overlap. Paykar said that we need to rebuild our transportation systems through “people-centered community design sustainability solutions” that center the wellbeing of people and sustainability of the planet. She is calling on young people to constantly “analyze who benefits from the status quo”, and when we find our answer we know who and what to fight.

James Valdez - City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF)

PCEF is a program that acknowledges the racist history of city planning, and invests in climate action that simultaneously advances racial and social justice to ensure that new clean energy projects are distributed throughout the city, particularly in places that have been underinvested in the past. PCEF revolves around the distribution of grants given to proposals voted on by staff and community members, and then the PCEF committee makes funding recommendations that go predominantly to clean energy programs followed by assorted other eco-centered ones. As founder of PCEF, Valdez stated his goal was to share “part of the solution to inspire students of how change can be made.” PCEF is a community-led process, which is very different from how Portland has historically distributed money, because it emphasizes the allocation of funds to projects that are both racially and climate justice driven. Valdez finished by saying that we have to recognize that real change comes from a lot “more than just individual behavior change.”

Although the facts about climate change are harsh, the panelists agreed that there is hope. When asked how to handle the harsh facts, Paykar said “Inherently as an activist, you are an optimistic person”, and that if we didn't think something was possible we wouldn't be trying to change it. Negri said that climate change activism and leadership is maintaining that optimism, and change is in the hands of young people.

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