O'Neal: We are the ones we've been waiting for
Whenever someone comments on the "complacency" of millennials, I can't help but laugh. As a student pursuing my undergraduate degree at Pacific University, I am surrounded by energetic, optimistic millennials working to create a prosperous life for ourselves and future generations.
We're forced to confront the inaction of previous generations. Even when it feels like the deck is stacked against us, I have no room in my heart for despair; instead, I am determined to be part of the solution to the big problems we face.
For too many years, we failed to act when scientists first projected the major threat climate change would pose. Now we're living it. Staggeringly severe wildfires as late as November. Widespread drought and declining snow means farmers struggle, winter sports disappear, and salmon die. Rising and acidifying oceans erode our coast and our fishing families' ability to make a living. Stronger and more frequent storms harm people and damage communities.
Climate scientists cannot yell any louder. We have 11 years to avert a complete climate catastrophe. That doesn't mean we can wait 11 years to do something; it means we need to already have our act together by 2030. If not, my generation and those who come after us will be sentenced to an unimaginable crisis. As crucial as the most pressing issues of today — education, healthcare access and affordable housing — is making sure we have clean air to breathe and a strong economy that can adapt with the times.
Fortunately, Oregon can pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill. It's a sound policy to reduce Oregon's emissions, create good paying jobs, and transition our economy onto clean and plentiful renewable energy. It will help more Oregonians access renewable power, provide energy and money saving improvements to homes and small businesses, and allow for cleaner transportation options.
My hometown of Dixon, Calif., is an agricultural town similar to Forest Grove, and we are already reaping the benefits of a policy very similar to Clean Energy Jobs that California has had in place for the better part of a decade.
Thanks to this policy, climate pollution has decreased and the economy grown. Investments are helping rural and agricultural communities, like electric van pools in migrant farmworker towns where there wasn't even a bus line before. Farmers benefit from California's policy by receiving funds to streamline operations — saving them money, upgrading their farm machinery, installing drip irrigation, and more. Forest Grove and communities throughout Oregon can experience these same benefits — if we pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill.
President Barack Obama stated in one of his early speeches that "change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for." We've treated climate change as if it will be someone else's problem, but it's ours now. Through good policy we can create lasting change, and the Clean Energy Jobs bill is good policy.
In 2019, we can pass Clean Energy Jobs to preserve what we love about Oregon, protect it for future generations while helping our economy today, and serve as a leader in the nation on clean energy and climate protection. We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Sophia O'Neal is a junior at Pacific University.
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