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Come On In, the Water’s Fine!

Climate action time on the Columbia River

I know you’re slammed with work, debt and episodes of Downton Abbey to catch up on. And I know you feel like an eco-hypocrite jetting to see Grandma and coral reefs before they disappear. Me, too. But if your political inaction on climate change stems mostly from not knowing how to make a difference, Bill McKibben just issued his Tarzan call for your help. 

In Vancouver, Wash., last week in preparation for this Saturday’s Summer Heat Columbia River Climate Action, the author and co-founder of 350.org energized a sold-out crowd at Clark College, connecting the dots between climate chaos and plans to transform the Pacific Northwest into a massive fossil fuel export corridor. 

“This area has emerged as this great choke point,” McKibben said, “a place where either you’ll open the flood gates to coal and oil and natural gas streaming out of the interior of North America … or you’ll say no.”

For those too busy combing Oregon’s beaches to follow the fuss, here are the nitty (and very) gritties on some of 15 projects looming: Big Coal wants four terminals along the Columbia to speed coal to Asia. Big Gas is eyeing a terminal in Warrenton and 200 miles of new, high-pressure liquified natural gas pipelines through Oregon and Washington. And Big Oil drools over plans for an immense Vancouver terminal that would move 380,000 barrels of crude oil daily from trains onto ships bound mainly for West Coast refineries. 

That’s a lot of toxic filth coursing along fragile waterways. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find politicians’ vague promises of Northwest “disaster-readiness” reassuring. I may forget what I ate for breakfast this morning, but images of the oil train explosion that killed 50 in Quebec two weeks ago are burned into my memory as is recent footage of Keystone oil spewing through an Arkansas neighborhood. And even if we were willing to surrender our rivers and coastline to enrich fossil fuel corporations — several of them foreign — there’s that pesky issue of global warming: Carbon output from the proposed new dirty energy projects triples that of the Keystone pipeline.

But, wait — good news! PNW activists — those feisty mountain-biking, tech-savvy latte lovers — are rising, fast, with a resounding NO. 

This is where you come in. Eugene and Corvallis folks are loading up kayaks and baby joggers for Saturday’s protest. Boaters will span the Columbia, drawing the “line in the water” under the I-5 bridge, which will in turn be lined with people carrying banners and signs. Organizers at Portland Rising Tide say the blockade is symbolic and civil disobedience will not be part of this family-friendly event.

Addressing those hesitant to jump into activism, McKibben said, “What’s radical are the oil companies … If you are taking the one atmosphere we have on the one planet we have, and changing its chemical composition in ways scientists have told you will be ruinous … then you’re engaged in a more radical act than any human being that’s come before you. Our job is to … check that radicalism. And one of those places we will check that is here in the Northwest. There’s just no way to affordably get that stuff out unless they can do it through your backyards, and if they can’t, then they won’t be drilling and mining and digging it up, at least in the same quantities. So you play a really important role.”

Pointing to the rejection of three proposed coal terminals, victories he attributed to “unprecedented opposition,” McKibben said, “I think we’re going to win many of these fights along the PNW. I can’t promise we’ll win the overall fight, but I can promise there will be a peaceful . . . determined fight. It’s a great privilege to fight shoulder to shoulder with you all.”

My family’s going. Wanna join us?

 

Getting  It Together

• Political art in the park sign-making, carpool planning, from 7 to 8:30 pm Thursday, July 25, at University Park, 24th and University. 

• Eugene carpool convoy leaves at 7:45 am Saturday, July 25, at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive. Park all day.

• Corvallis bike ride to the action Friday, July 26, to Wilsonville light rail station. Email leonard.higgins@leobel.net.

• Corvallis Bio-bus leaves at 7:45 am Saturday, July 27. See brownpapertickets.com/event/422322

 

• The Columbia River Climate Action has 10 am workshops, 12:30 pm speakers, 1:30 pm action. Meet at Vancouver Landing west of 100 Columbia St., in Vancouver.  RSVP to joinsummerheat.org/pdx.

• To meet up with 350Corvallis and 350Eugene bridge marchers, go to 350corvallis.org/actions/summer-heat-pdx.

• Contact in Corvallis is tokrispaul@yahoo.com. In Eugene, email marydemocker@gmail.com.