‘Massive mobilization’ against ‘villains’ on tap for Friday’s Climate Strike

Group of protestors marching in the street with a banner that reads "Our house is on fire".
You can help them put it out by taking part on Friday. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

I found the last Portland Youth Climate Strike to be one of the most powerful events of the year. This time around, organizers appear to be headed for something even bigger.

And they’re asking for adults to link arms and join them.

This Friday, organizers expect thousands of people of all ages to leave their classrooms and jobs and march to downtown Portland to help fight for stronger action on climate change mitigation. They’re calling it: “Not Your Average Climate Strike: Massive Multigenerational Mobilization in Portland.”

They plan to meet at Portland City Hall for speeches and a rally at 11:00 am and then march across the Hawthorne Bridge to Revolution Hall on SE Stark and 13th where they’ll join the Portland Climate Festival around 2:00 pm.

At City Hall, youth leaders will announce their demands and ask elected officials to sign a climate pledge.

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This year the strike is targeting what youth activists call Portland’s “top four climate villains”: NW Natural (“a fracked gas monopoly and the single largest fossil fuel company in Oregon”), Zenith Energy (“a fossil fuel transloading facility… misrepresenting its operation as a ‘renewable fuels’ terminal in an effort to greenwash its image”), Portland Business Alliance (“an umbrella organization for many of Portland’s worst climate polluters and anti-democratic actors”) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (which, “continues its status quo plan to spend billions of dollars widening freeways instead of robustly investing in public transportation”). All four of those organizations are, “contributing to the climate crisis through their emissions, using marketing techniques and misleading advertising to confuse the public, and by spending money on lobbying and campaign contributions to undermine the democratic process and opportunities for strong climate action through public policy,” organizers wrote in a statement about the event.

To learn more about the event and the “villains” it targets, read the backgrounder here.

And lest you think this “youth” event is just for young people, think again. JJ Klein-Wolf, a sophomore at Ida B Wells High School who’s helping organize it said, “As much as teens seem like they can do everything on their own, we need strong adult role models and support to continue achieving our goal of a stronger and safer tomorrow.”

Follow Portland Youth Climate Strike on Twitter and Instagram for the latest developments.

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Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
1 month ago

Hopefully someone is educating these young people on where some of their favorite things like Nikes and iPhones are coming from and their environmental cost.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

Sure, easy to criticize, but at least they’re getting out there and trying to let their officials know they want action. If we all had to wait until we’d been purified to take positive action, the world would be a much worse place.

PBA feels a little out-of-place, on their list of targets, but at least they’re doing something more than complaining on the internet.

joan
joan
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Folks might be unaware of how many bike lanes PBA has prevented from being installed downtown. They are consistently hostile to removing parking and adding bike lanes, and this has played out time and time again. They are some of the biggest advocates and supporters of car culture in our downtown core and have lobbied hard against necessary infrastructure changes.

Brandon
Brandon
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

They’re probably aware. Are you assuming they don’t know?

And if you’re concerned about the environment and global warming, why try to call out those who are doing a huge part in bringing awareness to it? Why not call out people who don’t care at all and are oblivious to the issue?

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

The kids at the climate strike know where their iPhones and Nikes come from…

Has anyone told the olds about the environmental cost of their mass consumption, burying their heads in the sand for the last 50 years and continuing to belittle a generation who will face climate disaster?

steelrider
steelrider
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

Isn’t the messaging around “villains” more than a little off-putting? Why take a good message and sour it? For example, is the Portland Business Alliance run by Lex Luthor or Joker henchman? This simplistic depiction of people and organizations may be good for some degree of marketing, but does damage in the long term to the cause. They will continue to isolate people and honestly slow the cause down.

There are so many ways to fight climate change: become a scientist, an engineer, get a law degree, etc. I often think of all the hardworking unsung and real heroes who actually get something done, who, while not having the perfect solution available, will do a lot to get the ball moving in the right direction with real results.

For example, electric leaf blowers becoming efficient and powerful enough to phase out gas blowers is an enormous improvement. Is it perfect? No. But the teams of engineers who did build better batteries in the background, did more in our fight for climate change than those protesting in front of a building. I’d rather our schools teach kids practical skills that help guide their passion for social and climate justice with tangible results.

Protests can be a great way to raise awareness, but they often seem run by people more motivated by heavy narcissism, rather than ones interested in making meaningful change. And that’s unfortunate–it’ll lead to a lot of meaningless gestures.

Brandon
Brandon
1 month ago
Reply to  steelrider

I don’t believe “villain” is an incorrect choice. If you’re fully aware of the condition of the planet and how we’re getting closer to the point of no return and you’re knowingly and willingly running a corporation that is profiting off of accelerating that destruction, it kind of sounds like a villain.

And as you said “there are so many ways to fight climate change” and protesting and pressuring your representatives is one of them. Environmental protests around the world have had a lot of success in local improvements to environmental policy and have influenced widespread movements and action around the world.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Brandon

I think it might be helpful to more carefully identify the policies that PBA has or activities it conducts that deserve the label “villains”. Having some members who may be doing something bad probably isn’t enough.

I’d like more focus on practical change (such as demanding ODOT scale back its megaprojects unless they can show how they’ll have a positive impact on the climate) and less on theatrics. But then I suppose sometimes you need some theatrics to make your point.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  steelrider

All social movements, and activism-based movements are complex and present different perspectives. Policing a compelling message of highly motivated activists is counterproductive and is a thinly veiled endorsement of the status quo. Asking kids in who haven’t had a summer during high school that wasn’t marred by a heat dome or an AQI of over 500 to chill out, get an advanced degree and make an incremental change that may be realized 30 to 40 years from now is ignoring the reality that they face.

We have had a tremendous amount of science done by hard working scientists detailing the causes and effects of climate change. We have had more than enough advances in technology, like you mention, to decrease CO2 production. We have even adopted large scale programs involving citizen participation, like recycling, to try to mitigate climate change.

Where we have failed miserably is in regulating and holding accountable the powerful bad actors that have profited off of CO2 production and have knowingly covered up their climate destruction for personal gain. All of this has been clearly documented and has revealed that a relatively small number of corporations are responsible for the majority of climate destruction.

This is the right move by the Portland Youth Climate Strike organizers and I can assure you that many of these kids will also be pursuing degrees in environmental science and searching for technologies to try and reverse the harm done by previous generations. I can also assure you that the adults who have been engaged in climate science and climate activism are happy to see this be the focus of these protests.

The “villains” on their list are very deserving of their recognition and their greenwashing should not go unopposed. There should be pressure on electeds to not sit on their hands and allow these people to continue unobstructed.

ODOT is dedicate to maintaining a climate destroying transportation system and has repeatedly lied to maintain the status quo. Zenith is obvious. The PBA needs to be called out for continually being on the wrong side and fighting against the interests of the youth. NW natural, also a company that has been allowed to cause harm for personal profit. https://www.desmog.com/2022/05/09/oregon-nw-natural-gas-rate-increase-earthjustice/ and recently on OPB https://www.opb.org/article/2022/05/17/think-out-loud-nw-natural-customers-bills-could-jump-25-percent/
Despite these bad actors being known for their destructive practices among engaged groups, the broader public and other highshcool students are not aware. The youth climate strike is the perfect venue to amplify this awareness.

Honestly, it is disgusting that high school kids are putting their hearts into taking a stand and making a difference, and older people who failed to protect the future of their children are trying to tone-police the Portland Youth Climate Strike message.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

I nominate this defense of activists for comment of the week!

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

I remember being angry in high school too, and even worse, way worse, getting an undergrad in PoliSci. It’s what kids do, and protesting is a great way to determine how many other folks believe similar things. That said, I am so happy I got through it all before critiquing of ideas and promoting critical thought was called “policing a compelling message” or “tone policing”.

In those seven, I must admit, eloquent paragraphs, you don’t mention China one time. You mention specifically, hyperlocal emitters of CO2 and their contribution to “climate destruction for personal gain”. Meanwhile, we reside in a state with the 27th highest population and 5th lowest per capita emissions of CO2. We reside in a country that puts out 25% less CO2 per capita now than we did between 1970 and 2005 and total emissions prior to the pandemic were at the same level as they were in 1994.

If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is, and as is always the case with the collective, we can always do more.

Given the adamant speech above and playing devil’s advocate, what would happen to climate change if 50% of Oregon drivers just quit driving? What would happen to climate change if NW Natural (which has a market capitalization of 1.2% that of Nextera Energy the largest publicly traded utility in the US) went out of business entirely? I think we all know that the impact would literally be zero, because as I allude to above, with the mere existence of China, much of what we do does not matter. This is even more problematic as China turns from a manufacturing and agricultural society to a consumer society, they are going to start consuming their own products, like we used to, so even if we quit buying stuff from them, that too would have minimal impact.

So, yes, lets let the kids skip school and have a march and protest, but not lose sight that reality knocks come Monday and a few thousand miles west is the real problem.

Norman
Norman
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

“Policing” is an interesting word choice. It’s framed in a way to shut down the person offering an alternative view. Appropriately enough it gets nominated for comment of the week. Maybe it will win. It fits the policial moment.

Rain Waters
Rain Waters
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

i asked my daughter WHY she would bring a child into this ?

cuz. . .

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

Don’t forget, many young folks, that can, don’t vote either.

Everyone should be encouraging all in their sphere to vote.

soren
soren
1 month ago

The largest villain when it comes to rapidly increasing methane emissions is our agricultural industry and, in particular, animal agriculture and wet rice production.

The finding of a predominantly biogenic post-2006 increase is robust. Further, it seems likely that fossil-fuel emissions stagnated or diminished in the 1990s. They are a minor contributor to the renewed [CH4] rise.

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aad2705

Mark smith
Mark smith
1 month ago

Will they all be walking or biking to the March? Asking for a friend.

Brian
Brian
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark smith

No, many will take the MAX

Mark smith
Mark smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian

Sounds like the climate warriors still tacitly support the petro lifestyle. Perhaps it might be interesting to see who’s actually pulling the strings?

Capn_Snitty
Capn_Snitty
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark smith

It’s a national organization called Sunrise Movement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunrise_Movement

joan
joan
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark smith

This is ungenerous and cynical. PPS students all have free transit passes and use transit heavily. This event is, by design, starting someplace easily accessed by multiple means of public transportation. They will bike and walk and take the max and bus and streetcar. Maybe some will drive (and likely to carpool if so), but many don’t even have licenses (the lead organizer is 15 years old) or cars. And the main event has them marching across the river, on foot.

I don’t get why folks keep wanting to dunk on youth legitimately terrified for their futures and angry at us olds who haven’t done enough to fix the problems we both inherited and exacerbated. Is it more fun to patronize them and not acknowledge how we are complicit in the current state of the world? The youth have so little actual political power (most can’t even vote!) and yet they are going to suffer consequences more profoundly than the rest of us. Of course they’re mad!

This is one of the few ways they can try to gain some power and influence to fix some pretty major problems. Instead of criticizing them, let’s listen and follow their lead.

dwk
dwk
1 month ago
Reply to  joan

It would be nice if they voted which they don’t in any meaningful numbers… The recent election 18-29 vote was 5%.

joan
1 month ago
Reply to  dwk

These are mostly high school students who cannot legally vote.

Mark smith
Mark smith
1 month ago
Reply to  joan

It’s easy to be hysterical when in fact they have the best way of life because of the petro chemical industry.

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark smith

If you think these kids have the best way of life, wait till you hear about the mental health crisis.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

These youth activists are going to be mighty cold next winter when they no longer have their cozy warm houses and classrooms (heated by natural gas, which supplies 90% of the heat in Oregon on cold winter days).

Also much of the electricity powering their mobile-phone-based lifestyles comes from natural gas, and in fact the majority of their cellphones are made of actual petrochemicals.

I’m not saying their concerns aren’t real and valid, but they need to come up with a more thoughtful way of addressing the climate crisis, like becoming scientists and solving actual problems. You too, JM, could focus on more substantive solutions – like cycling – and less on hollow activism. How many of these youth activists cycle regularly? This is a blog about cycling, remember??

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

I’m going to be snarky and say “yeah, why don’t they get off their lazy asses and invent a affordable, carbon-free way to heat buildings, if they care so much??? Jeez. Kids these days.”

Sorry. I’ll try to be more charitable.

I get tired of older people dragging young people for excesses of idealism and Utopianism. We adults created this $#!++¥ world for them to live in, and it is us adults, again, who stand in the way of solutions this world’s problems. Seriously. Of course most homes here are heated with natural gas! You know why? Because adults made it that way and adults have failed to provide alternatives. You’re blaming kids for not having become scientists yet, and having invented fusion power yet? They’re teenagers for crying out loud!

You’re an adult, right? Take some freaking responsibility and stop giving kids a hard time for not already solving problems your own generation failed to solve.