Cottage Grove and some Eugene residents joined activists around the world by participating in a global Fridays for Future demonstration on Sept. 24 in downtown Cottage Grove.
Fridays for Future is part of the Climate Strike movement which began in August 2018 after then-15-year-old Greta Thunberg and other young activists sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis.
Thunberg was in the German capital last Friday as part of a global climate protest, which has received attention for hunger strikes that began on Aug. 30.
Locally, the demonstration was less dramatic as activists lined sidewalks of downtown Cottage Grove with signs in an effort to raise awareness around the dangers of climate change.
Rosemary Foraker, a key organizer with Climate Action Cottage Grove, hoped people passing through the demonstration would walk away with a refreshed concern for climate change.
“We’re trying to draw attention to the climate crisis,” she said. “We all experienced — and are experiencing more and more — the impacts around the globe as well as here. We’ve had massive wildfires and longer fire seasons. We all were inundated with smoke last summer and this summer.”
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which was its sixth, stated that it is only possible to avoid global warming of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels if massive and immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are made.
A rise to 1.5 C will still result in increasing heatwaves, more intense storms, and more serious droughts and floods, said the report.
Foraker suggested that addressing these issues can start with local change.
“So, we want climate action,” she said. “We want real action from our local city council.”
In Sept. 2019, Foraker and other advocates for climate change awareness petitioned the Cottage Grove City Council for local action and testified to the urgency of climate issues. Participants asked the council for three things: to declare a climate emergency, to host a town hall on the subject and to look for solutions to make the city carbon neutral by 2030.
From this list, only the “Climate Town Hall” came close to being realized before COVID-19 restrictions prevented the event from going forward. The town hall is still on hold until conditions for an in-person event can be met.
“And we are right now awaiting [the city] to sign up for a program called the Carbon Challenge, which they verbally committed to do,” said Foraker.
The Carbon Challenge involves individuals or organizations taking inventory of their carbon footprint and finding sustainable solutions for reducing impact.
Climate awareness advocates are still hoping the city will declare a climate emergency, which would puts the city on record as being in support of taking emergency action to reverse global warming. Responses from the city on this have been lukewarm at best, however.
But barring such action, Foraker hopes to see the city at least get on board with moves such as promoting energy-saving actions.
“But what we really want is the city to bring us to the table in terms of starting a discussion and seeing what the city really can do and to have them engaged and interested on this issue, because it’s going to affect everybody,” she said. “And we can be an example to other small towns of what’s possible.”
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