Jul 30, 2015

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As a native of Oregon who grew up in Portland off of east 82nd avenue, my community was especially vulnerable to the effects of air and climate pollution. We lived closer to major roadways, industrial sites, and the airport -- exposing me and the other kids to pollution and bad air quality. As a result, people in my community had higher rates of asthma and other health issues. 

At the time, I didn’t realize the community I grew up in was experiencing greater environmental impacts than other communities, until I went to college to study City Planning, Public Policy and Management. It was there that I first made the connection. I have since dedicated my professional life to moving Oregon towards shared and sustained prosperity through increasing civic engagement – especially among other young people.

Low-income communities, like where I grew up, are disproportionately affected by climate change and air pollution; the effects are tangible for these population in a visceral and painful way. These are the individuals who have the least means to adapt to rising food prices caused by drought. They can’t get out of town when disaster hits. They are already struggling for access to medical care, compounded by increased rates of health issues brought on by pollution. When I highlight these very real impacts, people are more prone to see how climate change is a real problem not of the future - but affecting us here and now.

Despite the many threats of climate change, I am excited at the opportunity we have to turn the tide, and that Oregon can lead in firmly establishing the clean, renewable energy economy. We can lead in employing young, technologically savvy individuals to make the clean economy come to life. And it's not just the technical positions we need to realize a clean energy economy, but all the staff that comes with running a successful company. We'll need more salespeople, technicians, secretaries, factory workers and custodians. It seems like a new company is starting practically every month with a focus on the renewable energy sector, and there are many positions needed to support this growth. If Oregon is serious about taking on climate change, we could really have a competitive advantage here, especially in creating jobs and opportunity for young people.

I can attest to the fact that our generation is seeing the effects of climate change. It is the biggest challenge our generation and future generations face. That’s why I’m proud to have worked with the Bus Project as their interim Executive Director to mobilize those both young and young at heart to work towards solutions on a statewide and community level. I am hopeful we’ll see meaningful action on climate change in Oregon, and I’m proud to be working towards solutions.

I’m excited for more and more young people to get involved in the clean energy economy -- working with companies that install or manufacture solar panels or wind energy design firms, or on engineering projects that benefit the clean energy sector. I believe we could be the Silicon Valley of clean energy innovation; the place that shows others the way and illustrates that the transition off of a carbon economy is feasible and beneficial for all communities.

Nathan Howard, Chair of the Bus Project C4 Board of Directors.