When wildfires decimated communities in 2020, turning the state into a singular evacuation zone, and choking the air out of our lungs, the climate crisis became an unshakable reality. Roughly three months ago, Oregon—and the Pacific Northwest at large—nearly buckled under a historic heatwave. The heatwave not only took lives, but dispelled Oregonian notions that the emerging climate catastrophes would spare our home, despite our abundance of water, a culture—and policies—of conservation & appreciation, and robust biodiversity.
Oregonians are not exempt from the effects of extreme climate and we are not exempt from the consequences that both climate and social scientists began to sound the alarm on decades ago.
Despite a small—but fierce—turnout for their rally on September 20, Sunrise Eugene was organized, determined, chock-full of experience, knowledge, and determination in their fight for climate justice. Its ranks hold seasoned activists, educators, organizers — a coalition standing firm and undeterred, aided by slogans and information stamped signs, a pamphlet entitled “What’s at stake in the Reconciliation Bill,” and a well-traveled speaker and mic duo.
Being that support for the Reconciliation Bill was the catalyst for this rally, the reasoning for both urgent and vocal support were made clear: the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, generation of new green jobs, rebuilding green infrastructure, and essentially retrofitting a nation to take on extreme climate.
Speeches filled Eugene’s Park Blocks with not just calls for action, but lectures surrounding the current political mechanisms on climate action. The speaker pointed out that the “structure and DNA” of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act—which incorporates the Reconciliation Bill—was influenced by the Green New Deal.
But the survival of our planet and our species must take a people’s ability to thrive into account. One speaker talked about the expansion of medicare, universal Pre-K, expanding corporate tax, tuition-free community college, and creating citizenship pathways for Dreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status. The bill these rally goers were championing will give communities the ability to thrive.
Galvanized, the small group marched with banners and signs in hand to the Wayne Lyman Morse Federal Courthouse. When honks of support and out of the car window “woo-hoo’s” ceased, a chorus of “hey hey, ho ho, go big and bold Defazio” and “go bigger, go bolder, we need this climate colder” carried the marchers.
Situated on the steps of the federal courthouse, the Raging Grannies performed a song and organizers spoke of their experiences on climate education and how the students they are teaching today will not know a world without “extreme weather.” A granny from the Raging Grannies exclaimed—somberly—that without climate action, her granddaughter might not live to see her mother’s age, a woman in her 40’s.
Doyle Canning, a former congressional candidate and environmental advocate, also stood towards the microphone and gave a riveting speech about the money that goes into the bill.
“The $3.5 trillion that, by the way, was already a compromise. We cannot settle for a dollar less,” Canning said. “We need money for green jobs, we need money for renewable energy, we need money for healthcare, doing all the things we need to do to ‘Build Back Better.’”
A script was passed out to those in attendance to call Senator Ron Wyden’s office prior to leaving. The script read:
“Hello, my name is ___, I’m a ___ (ex. Student and Sunrise Organizer) and I live in ___, Oregon.
I’d like to thank you for your vocal support and leadership on taxing the rich and corporations during the reconciliation bill process. It’s important to me that the reconciliation bill is fully funded—no cuts to the 3.5 trillion dollars!—and that the wealthy pay their fair share. In particular, the ____ (program that resonated with you) is important to me because with/without it ____ (your vision of the future). I look forward to Senator Wyden’s continued leadership in taxing the rich and addressing the climate crisis. “
Check out these additional photos from the event by photographer Chance Raffield below: