Rising voices and a silent, symbolic crowd “death” sent a message Friday to citizens as well as leaders: Embrace clear and immediate action to counteract climate change.
The Hood River day of action, one of hundreds around the world on Sept. 20, drew about 200 people to Overlook Memorial Park on State Street.
Some passing motorists honked in support, while other drivers revved engines or squealed tires in what seemed like derision.
Trying to change minds about the reality of the climate emergency was the underpinning of Friday’s earnest warnings from speakers ranging from seven to 70.
“Our government has failed to take action against climate change and we, the youth of the Gorge, are stepping up to demand effective and sustainable solutions to restore our climate,” said event organizer Lillie Tomlinson, HRVHS senior and Earth Club leader.
Senior Lyric Emmons said, “I am among thousands of others are striking for one thing: protection of our environment.”
In one part of the day’s demonstration, many of the attendees lay down on the sidewalk for five minutes, and the crowd remained (mostly) silent for five minutes. Chalk was provided to draw outlines of a neighbor, and add a name or climate effect.
“We want to show exactly what will happen if we fail to take action upon this crisis,” Tomlinson said. “Make room for everybody to either die, or stand in support.”
Words inscribed in pink, blue and green included “danger, famine, ‘man can die because of drought,’ water loss, glacial melt, earthquake, tsunami.”
“As young people we should not be here,” Tomlinson said. “We should not be standing on the side the road beside city hall striking and protesting just to save our future.
“I don’t know about you, but I am scared for that future. I am flat-out terrified to see the changes the next 11 years will bring if we continue to do nothing to reverse and halt this climate crisis,” Tomlinson said.
“The good news: We aren’t too late. We still have time but our actions cannot be as small as picking up litter or riding your bike once in a while. We need big, sure-fire change. We need change on the cosmic level, like emissions reduction, carbon reduction removal and renewable energy and we need it fast! It is our only hope to save life on earth. The fifth amendment states our government cannot deprive any person of life, liberty and property. But how can we have any of those natural rights if we do not have a safe and stable planet on which to live them on. We are here to fight for our rights to a livable future where we and future generations can not just survive but flourish. We are taking control not because we want to but because we have to, because little to nothing is being done at the government level to restore our climate.”
John Boonstra, leadership team of Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network, said, “many of us aren’t listening. Our dominant institutions hear but they are not listening. Young people across the world are today the public face that the truth about global heating will not be covered up. Young people know the truth of what we all know must happen, and happen now: That we must disrupt our dead-end business as usual, that we must, as best we can, and better than we have ever done before, develop and defiance and cultivate sustainable energy, that we must create a make a culture that presents affordable alternatives to be net zero.”
Tomlinson pointed to her primary hope: “If we don’t implement carbon removal along with emissions, reduction, extreme weather is going to continue to terrorize regions of the world and it’s only going to get worse. And I know in Hood River we haven’t exactly experienced a ton of extreme weather but we will feel the effects. We live in a National Scenic Area and why wouldn’t people want to protect that? For as long as we can. Start here and then grow.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kate McBride said the community has an opportunity to make a difference by getting involved in the enactment of the Hood River County Energy Plan.
McBride said, “I want to ask you all, I don’t care how young or old you are, please come to public meetings and state your support for all the things that are in the energy plan that will effect efficiency, local generation, impacts from personal use of transit and mass transit, and infrastructure decisions that are going to be coming up in the future.
“We need your voices at these meetings, there’s something you can actually physically do, come and support that. I want to thank you all for caring about this planet and all its inhabitants.”
McBride noted that the city council has passed resolutions opposing oil transport through the Gorge, and endorsed the County-wide Energy Plan.
Here’s what can we do about the crisis —and other voices raised at the strike and rally
“Global temperatures will rise 1.5 degrees, putting us in the danger zone. We will have longer fire seasons; oceans will be covering parts of Europe and more species will be becoming endangered or extinct.
“Climate crisis affects us here in Hood River, too. The frequency and intensity of fires like Eagle Creek Fire will increase, becoming harder to contain and defeat. The ski season will become shorter and people in agriculture will suffer from crop loss and damage.
“So what can we do about it?
“I encourage everyone to make your voices heard by reaching out to state representatives and get involved in our local politics.
“The next time you travel to work or school, ride a bike or carpool.
“When shopping for groceries, choose ones that are made sustainably.
“If you are able to garden, choose plants that are native to the area that require less water. The things you do really have an impact on what happens to the world.
“Whether it is eliminating meat from your diet or finding alternatives, all of the things you do matter. By attending this rally you are taking the initiative by showing our leaders you care.”
She closed quoting Swedish climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg: “You are never too small to make a difference. Our future depends on what we do today. The next generation is depending on what we do today. The climate crisis is caused by us and it’s time we fix it.”
“Register to vote if you have not, and vote, vote for people for people who believe in what you believe. Vote and get your friends to.”
Raz Mason of The Dalles, an educator and hospital chaplain who hopes to challenge U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Hood River for the U.S. Second District seat in 2020, said, “Something we already know is that the old view of us versus them, dividing, pretending things are not connected, is over, it has to be over. We’ve already baked in a lot of extreme weather. The jet stream loops have changed (due to) Arctic warming. It’s going to be really hard to walk that back, which means as much as we do we have some tough times ahead, but tough times are better when people hang together.” (This updates the original on-line version.)