Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Salem Hosts A Climate Justice Rally---A Lobby Day And Legislative Hearing On The Clean Energy Jobs Bill (SB 557)

A large crowd of people gathered at the State Capitol this afternoon to rally and build support for the Clean Energy Jobs Bill (SB 557). The rally and lobby day were sponsored by Renew Oregon and its partners.

As rallies and lobby days go, this was one of the more centrist efforts. It was good to hear a speaker from Causa hit the right points, and to be with First Nations people and some other people of color on climate justice. It was good to see young people up front and to hear a young woman from Ashland speak about her efforts to organize locally. The legislator I heard speak did a good thing by reminding us that there is a budget shortfall and making people think a bit about that.

I am using the term "climate justice" loosely to describe the event today. In fact, I did not hear that term used. The rally focused on caps and costs for polluting, stopping coal, creating jobs and reaching out to "underserved" communities. There was no official labor presence at the rally. A representative of Van Jones' organization spoke and said many of the right things, but after last night I'm wondering why Jones gets mentioned at all.

This is one of those moments when I wonder if the left and frontline activists aren't giving too much in an effort to get a bill passed. If we're going to use a jobs argument, we need to spell that out and have unions with us. And how can we rally on environmental issues and not talk about the pipeline or the situation in Coos Bay or the Elliott Forest or the oil trains? Would a united front effort by all of the organizations involved in these struggles not be better than an event which depends to a great extent on the presence of two key politicians? It's hard not to see Renew Oregon as more of a non-profit or NGO and less of a peoples' movement. Is talking about caps enough, or should we talking about deeper systemic changes?

The lobby effort drew needed numbers and engaged many people new to political action. The hearing rooms were packed to capacity. Credit for this no doubt goes to the great work done by the folks and other local groups.

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