Thousands of young people, including many local high school students, demonstrated in downtown Portland on Friday, calling for action on climate change and demanding accountability from city leaders.
Organizers of the Youth Climate Strike have asked local and regional officials to sign a pledge pledging not to take money from fossil fuel companies, to oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure and to “ defend the right of young people to a safe and sustainable climate throughout their lives”.
Lori Stegmann, Multnomah County Commissioner, was one of the first to sign.
“We need to accelerate our climate action plan. There needs to be greater urgency,” Stegmann said. “We know how to stop it, the question is, do we have the political will? Well, these young people prove that we do.
State Representative Khahn Pham, D-Portland, joined Stegmann among several politicians to sign the pledge and addressed the crowd gathered outside City Hall.
“They’re going to tell you you’re idealistic, but if they think we’re going to get away with the same old thinking, then they’re the ones who are idealistic,” Pham told the cheering crowd.
Damaris Cowles, a 17-year-old high school student from Cleveland High School, said seeing older people and those in power committing to more aggressive action on climate change was meaningful.
“It’s really important that we have their support for this movement,” Cowles said. “I hope other people will see how important it is to come out and stand up for what you believe in.”
From City Hall, the crowd marched through downtown as speakers railed against four organizations and agencies that protest organizers have dubbed the region’s biggest ‘climate villains’ – NW Natural , Zenith Energy, the Portland Business Alliance and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The organizers of the strike say all four are helping or have hindered efforts to curb the impacts of climate change.
In a statement Friday morning, Zenith Energy touted its “renewable diesel” storage, which the company says “emits up to 80% less carbon than traditional fossil fuels.”
“The renewable diesel we store serves many local governments and transit agencies in and around Portland, helping the state reduce its carbon footprint,” said Grady Reamer, vice president of the company. “Our plan is to replace traditional diesel entirely with renewable diesel, using existing infrastructure to advance the region’s climate goals.”
In statements, the Department of Transportation said it was “committed to working with our state and local partners to reduce our statewide carbon emissions from transportation” and NW Natural said it supported “policies that promote collaboration with the private sector to innovate and invest in clean technologies”. technology,” according to KOIN News.
Oregon has seen its share of weather-related disasters in recent years. The 2020 Labor Day fires destroyed thousands of homes, mostly in southern Oregon, and killed eight people. Nearly 100 people died in the state when temperatures soared last June, hitting 116 degrees in Portland and breaking records across the region. In recent years, many parts of the central and southern parts of the state have experienced an extension of drought conditions.
Adah Crandall, a sophomore at Grant High School and one of the organizers of the protest, said she was pleased with the turnout, but that Friday’s event was just the start of a “season of ‘stock”.
“We have more events planned throughout the spring and summer,” Crandall said. “This march is not the end. It’s just the beginning.”
– Kale Williams; [email protected]; 503-294-4048; @sfkale