Looking at sustainability through an equity lens in Lake Oswego
Amanda Watson, Lake Oswego's new full-time sustainability program manager, is looking forward to addressing the climate crisis with a community that's already deeply engaged and committed to sustainability.
"The climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing us right now. It's so intertwined with many other challenges we're facing," Watson said. "I care passionately about wanting to address the climate crisis but doing it in a way that puts people at the center."
Watson, a Portland resident, officially began her new role with the city Monday, Sept. 27. Her duties will include implementing Lake Oswego's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, managing the solid waste and recycling program and working on energy programs and relationships with Portland General Electric. Watson said she's looking forward to helping the city meet the sustainability goals the community and City Council set forth in the action plan.
"And keeping up the good progress Lake Oswego's already made," she added. "We've all got a lot to learn together."
Watson received her bachelor's degree in international politics from Georgetown University. She later earned her master's degree in public policy, with a focus on climate policy from Harvard Kennedy School.
Prior to graduate school, Watson worked for the National Endowment for Democracy, managing a portfolio of grants to nonprofit organizations with a focus on Asia.
During graduate school she wanted to pivot and bring together her personal and professional passions. Specifically, she hoped to learn more about policy programs focused on local government.
"It was something I hadn't tried, so I wanted to try it out and found I really enjoyed it," she said.
After school she worked for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for about three years, focusing on climate policy in local government.
"Over the last year I have been his lead on climate sustainability policy," Watson said.
All her life, Watson has loved the outdoors. She enjoys camping, hiking and being outside.
"I've always cared about the environment," Watson said.
She recalled working with grantees in Vietnam and helping advocate for fishers who lost their livelihood because of an environmental disaster. "Seeing them connect an environment issue with human rights and democracy work made me see how both issues were connected and how I could connect that in my career," she said. "I can bring these things together in a professional sense too."
Watson said she's excited to dig into the details, coordinate and implement the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. The plan consists of more than 40 pages and addresses topics like waste and toxics reduction, climate adaptation, education and employee health, and community engagement. The plan includes goals to reduce transportation emissions, promote energy efficiency and water conservation, protect natural resources and reduce waste and exposure to toxins.
"It's really clear how Lake Oswego community members really care and that means there's a lot we can do together," Watson said. "I think it's really important for us to center equity in that work. I know that's something the community is doing in other aspects, but when we're talking about sustainability and climate change, just wanting to come from a point of understanding … to make sure everyone can benefit."
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