Students across Oregon will walk out of school on Friday as part of a youth strike for meaningful climate action. Among the demands they’re making are a formal declaration of a climate emergency from Gov. Tina Kotek, direct relief to unhoused Oregonians during climate disasters, and more legislative support for clean energy. Organizers in Portland, Bend, Salem and Florence set specific demands for their cities in addition to the statewide demands.
Chloe Gilmore is an organizer with the Portland Youth Climate Strike and a senior at Lincoln High School. She joins us with more details on the strike from the gathering at City Hall.
This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. Students across Oregon have walked out of school today as part of a youth strike for meaningful climate action. Among their demands, young people in Portland, Bend, Salem and Florence are asking Governor Tina Kotek to declare a climate emergency. Chloe Gilmore is an organizer with the Portland Youth Climate Strike and a senior at Portland’s Lincoln High School. She joins us now from a gathering at City Hall. Chloe Gilmore, welcome.
Chloe Gilmore: Thank you so much for having me.
Miller: Thanks for joining us. What has this morning been like so far?
Gilmore: I’ve been feeling a lot of excitement in the crowd. We had a few hundred people, there were chants that were given and the crowd was super excited. And then we had speakers from different groups including the Grand Ronde and OPAL Environmental Justice [Oregon] group along with speeches from Portland Youth Climate Strike about our demands. And I’m just super excited that we pulled this event off.
Miller: What are the statewide demands that you and student activists in other cities across the state are making? What demands are you making?
Gilmore: We have one collective statewide demand and that is that Tina Kotek issue an executive order to declare a state of emergency on the climate crisis. There have been different states of emergency declared by governors in the past related to climate disasters; however, they have not specifically been on the climate crisis. So this is a demand that Tina Kotek issue a state of climate emergency and along with that address issues surrounding houselessness and connecting those two issues of climate change and housing because one of the most frontline communities to the climate crisis is people facing housing insecurity and houselessness.
Miller: What exactly would the declaration give the governor authority to do? What would change if she signed that piece of paper?
Gilmore: It would allow the Oregon state government to have increased authority to distribute natural disaster relief funds as well as they would have an increased ability to request funds from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And that would allow for not only direct disaster relief funds, but the state of climate emergency would also hopefully lead to a large legislative push in the Oregon legislature. And this is because we’ve seen it in past executive orders. For example, with Tina Kotek’s executive order on houselessness, that one led to a legislative package with over $85 million in funding to distribute to disasters in housing communities to support houseless Oregonians. So, we’re hoping that this also leads to legislative efforts as well.
Miller: What Portland-specific demands are you making at the state level?
Gilmore: In Portland, we have one unified demand which is that the Department of Environmental Quality deny Zenith Energy the air contaminant discharge permit, which they applied for. And the Department of Environmental Quality is going to set up a public comment period in the next few weeks and they are expected to make their decision later this fall.
The reason why we care so much about Zenith Energy’s permit is because they transport over 350 million gallons of crude oil and diesel through the Portland Terminal every year and they’ve only expanded the amount of oil that they’re transporting and they do this through oil-by-rail transport, which is a very dangerous system for the Willamette River. And it’s also the the oil stored in the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub which is the whole industrial area in Northwest Portland - those oil tanks pose a huge seismic risk when the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake occurs where it’s expected to be the same size as the Deepwater Horizon Spill, the largest oil spill in us history. So this is a huge deal for the Portland community.
Miller: Chloe Gilmore, thanks very much.
Gilmore: Thank you for having me.
Miller: Chloe Gilmore is an organizer with the Portland Youth Climate Strike and a senior at Lincoln High School.
Contact “Think Out Loud®”
If you’d like to comment on any of the topics in this show or suggest a topic of your own, please get in touch with us on Facebook, send an email to email@example.com, or you can leave a voicemail for us at 503-293-1983. The call-in phone number during the noon hour is 888-665-5865.