Oct 20, 2015

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I’m a 5th generation Oregonian. My family has lived here a long time. For decades and decades we’ve made our living thanks to the abundant natural resources in our state. With that long tradition comes a closeness to the land and an eye for how things have changed.

We can feel it in Douglas County. Our Rocking C Ranch is near the Umpqua River which which was as low as I’ve ever seen it this past summer. That’s pretty close to home! The climate is changing and it should be a wake up call for all of us that it’s time to work together.

Working in natural resources, ranching or agriculture, there is an appreciation for how the whole system depends on the different parts. Within our county, there’s the whole lifecycle of water -- from Diamond Lake flowing to the ocean in Reedsport and back again. When you can sit on the porch at a friend’s home and look at the Umpqua and think ‘that water will flow by our ranch soon’, it gives you perspective on the way we’re all tied together.

It’s time we gather as businesses and people to do something about climate change. It’s important that we connect all these dots. For instance, for the folks concerned about fish, the rivers are too warm. That’s getting people’s attention pretty quickly. Fishermen/women are learning -- that’s climate change. Now, we’re debating in the timber industry and with the government about the best way to keep those streams cool. But if there is no snow in the mountains to feed cold water into the watershed, local actions feel in vain.

I’ve always tried to understand the world is a little larger than what’s in arms reach. Protecting the climate is not a political issue. It’s about where we live. I can walk in places today where I grew up that used to be moist yet, aren’t anymore. I understand these things aren’t year to year; we’re talking about a trend. But it’s difficult to ignore a year like this one. It’s so hot and so dry. This year is different. When I heard by mid-century this could be the norm, that stunned me. It’s time we became leaders here in Oregon. We need to clean up how we get our energy and travel around. We’ll strive to demonstrate that it can be done.

I see others coming to the table on this issue with the Renew Oregon campaign. Climate change hurts us all, but we believe there’s something we can do about it. I think of the wine growers -- who are organizing too. They’re scientific in the way they follow what’s happening with the climate. They need specific conditions and they take the long view. In timber, we too take the long view, planting trees “under whose shade we never shall sit” as the old saying goes. We’re mindful of the future; thinking about what it will be like.

In our sustainable timber operation, we’re proud to say we’ve added more trees than we’ve cut. We’re fortunate to have the land to do it. It’s our way of working with the land to strike a balance between good business and a healthy environment. With hard work and a determination to find that balance, I think most businesses can find a way to be successful and sustainable. That goes for the whole picture. Oregon can thrive and be responsible to the environment at the same time.

In 1930 my mother, as a 20 year old college graduate, started her first job as a teacher returning to live on her home place and teach in the nearby country school.  Her money went to pay for the poles that held the wires to string electricity to the farm house. For her generation, it was about making life better with electricity. Now it’s my generation’s turn to take the next step and question where that power is coming from -- to make electricity better for life. We need to make sure it’s cleaner, more responsible, to make things better for our children and their children.

My view is you have to be at the table. You can’t stand in the next room while the rules are made. It will take all of us together to make the kind of change we need. There’s work to be done. We have to figure this out. We all live here together. We need to cultivate and practice resilience in our individual and collective lives as well as in our planet’s natural systems.

Carol Whipple is the owner and CEO of Rocking C Ranch, a sustainable timber growth and harvest business in Elkton, Oregon. She is born and raised in Douglas County.