There’s no better time to confront the climate crisis than now — in the midst of a pandemic. Why? Our planet, jobs, health, economy, communities and righting the wrongs of injustice all depend on climate action.
With 2020 ramping up to be the hottest on record, the Arctic on fire, and worsening hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, we’re running out of time. The people who suffer most are often communities of color and those with the least economic means.
Communities in Oregon, and in every other state in America, were already experiencing the effects of racial and economic inequality before the global pandemic hit, and before climate-driven disasters. Now, we must face these crises simultaneously.
We need big, transformative solutions. And fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives has taken the lead by passing the Moving Forward Act, which invests $1.5 trillion to repair and rebuild our broken infrastructure in a climate-, worker- and community-smart way.
Rep. Peter DeFazio’s INVEST in America is a sentinel piece of the legislation, and includes $500 billion for our roads, rail and transit, while creating millions of good-paying, lasting jobs. Reviewing the package, I’m checking off many of my priorities, like zero emission school and public buses, and expanding charging stations for electric cars. The bill also includes a significant investment in wildlife crossings, which will improve transportation safety for humans and animals alike.
A vital part of the Moving Forward Act is funding for “natural infrastructure.” In addition to improving our artificial structures, we must shore up what nature is doing for free — cleaning our waters, filtering our air, protecting us from natural hazards made worse by climate change and storing carbon.
Here’s how natural infrastructure combined with zero emissions works in transportation. When building or repairing a bridge, you choose sustainable materials. In fact, INVEST in America will fund sustainable research, like Oregon State University’s engineering of low-carbon cement.
Next, you protect the multi-million dollar bridge from flooding. To do that, you assure the river can naturally meander, absorb and filter floodwaters. You might plant trees, restore floodplains, and reconnect stream channels. You welcome beavers that build stick dams—slowing and storing cold water in pools that are nurseries for trout.
When businesses like mine can afford to be more sustainable for the planet, that’s good for everyone too. Worthy Brewing’s solar installations reduce our carbon emissions well over 100,000 pounds a year and save us thousands of dollars annually. We can put that toward giving back to the environment, like the Worthy Garden Club’s Operation Appleseed, dedicated to planting a million trees for climate resilience and natural infrastructure.
Our partnership with Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council is a good example. The 31,725 trees planted for the Camas Swale Restoration Neighbors revive the river, restore wildlife habitat, and create an outdoor classroom for Creswell and Cottage Grove middle and high school students, tribal classes and birdwatching.
Imagine projects like these across Oregon that save the climate, educate our youth, provide jobs and protect our infrastructure. To get there, we need national leadership. I’m proud that Oregon is taking on that role, from Rep. DeFazio’s INVEST in America to Sen. Jeff Merkley introducing the Climate Smart Ports Act of 2020 and Sen. Ron Wyden authoring the 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act.
It’s time for the Senate to take up the Moving Forward Act with climate front and center. I challenge Congress to tap into the courage that defined Oregon as an environmental leader decades ago. We’re the state that cleaned up the Willamette River and passed the Oregon Bottle Bill, the Oregon Beach Bill, and landmark land use planning.
Let’s leverage this legacy and push our representatives in Washington to step up, come together and pass solutions that create jobs, fight climate change and right environmental injustices.
Together, we must speak up for Oregon, the nation and the planet as we go forward with America’s recovery and the one home we can’t live without — our planet.