Sarah is a senior at Oregon State University studying Political Science with a concentration in Environmental Policy, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. Through working for Our Climate, she is excited to bring about change in Oregon's environmental policy and gain experience advocating for our planet. After graduating from Oregon State, she hopes to study Environmental Policy or Law.
In 2010, I was evacuated from my home because of a wildfire. I was on a school bus when I got the call from my parents, telling me that we wouldn’t be going home and that I may never be able to go home again. It felt like my world was falling apart and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. Unfortunately, wildfires were already a reality of my life when we got evacuated. While most children spend their summers outside playing, I spent many of my summers inside because of smoke from fires.
Since being evacuated, my hometown of Ashland, Oregon has been plagued with increased wildfires of greater intensity and destruction. Every summer, fires roar around the valley leading to toxic levels of smoke sitting in the air. It feels like living in a fishbowl that hasn’t been cleaned in months. This past summer, the air quality reached “very unhealthy” levels and residents were told to stay inside. Pregnant women, children, and elderly residents were told to leave the area if possible, which is very unrealistic for most people.
I am passionate about advocating for the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs bill because climate change is a pressing issue that needs to be seriously addressed through policy initiatives. No child deserves to spend their summer trapped inside or evacuated from their home like I did. They should be able to spend their summers outside, playing in some of the beautiful 30 million acres of forest that cover over 40 percent of Oregon. These forests, which are threatened by wildfires and the effects of climate change, act as carbon sinks, which need to be protected. It is the duty of the Oregon legislature to protect our state from further effects of climate change. With Oregon feeling the increasing effects of climate change, it is time for state policy to put a price on carbon to ensure the safety of Oregon’s citizens and natural world. Large corporations can not continue to pollute without paying. Without this change, pollution levels will continue as usual and Oregon citizens will be the ones who continue to pay the price for climate change.
One day I dream of moving back to Ashland because it is the place I love most in this world. But I am afraid that by the time I do, the whole town and maybe valley will only be ashes. I am committed to fighting climate change because I believe no one else deserves to be evacuated or uprooted from their home due to climate change. Climate change is a reality and we must take action now. We have no choice.
Photo by Elton Harris, Billings Gazette