As a long time Salem-area resident, I'm used to having my town's environmental reputation kicked in the ass by more with-it Oregon cities like Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland.
But now also Bend?
Geez, Bend is in Deschutes County, central Oregon, which used to be reliably Republican. And hence, not much concerned with supposedly optional niceties such as protecting the livability of our one and only planet Earth.
With a lot of new people moving to Deschutes County, though, the gap between Democratic and Republican voter registration has shrunk considerably in recent years.
So this helps explain why today's Bend Bulletin newspaper has a story, "Bend City Council wants feedback on climate change plan."
Bend residents have a chance this week to give the City Council input on how Bend should combat climate change.
On Thursday, the council plans to hold a special meeting to get the public’s feedback on a resolution that sets goals to reduce carbon emissions and prevent climate change.
Considering a large part of Bend’s economy is based on outdoor recreation on the river and in the mountains, it’s important the city takes a proactive approach to protecting the environment, said Nikki Roemmer, of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Other cities such as Eugene and Boulder, Colorado, have adopted similar measures, she said.
“This really just says, ‘We care, and we care enough to do something about this global problem,’” Roemmer said.
The effort came after environmental groups asked the city to develop a government policy that addresses climate change, said Gillian Ockner, a senior policy analyst for Bend. The City Council responded by forming a group that started working to draft the resolution in May, she said.
One of the goals in the draft plan is to make all city facilities and operations “carbon neutral,” meaning city operations would emit no greenhouse gases or would get offsets — such as through tree plantings or purchasing renewable energy — for any emissions.
Meanwhile, the resolution would also ask the city to reduce fossil fuel use by 40 percent by 2030. And by 2050, it would have to reduce fossil fuel use by 70 percent, according to the plan.
My first reaction after reading this was envy.
Envy that the Bend City Council is willing to go on record that climate change is a serious problem that has to be addressed by politicians at all levels, local, state, regional, national, international. Because 7 out of 9 members of the Salem City Council won't even admit that climate change/global warming is happening and humans are responsible for it. (See my blog post, "How Salem's candidates and other local leaders look upon climate change.")
Envy that Bend has environmental groups that are willing to push their city government to develop a climate change policy. Because environmental activists in Salem haven't shown much of a willingness to get involved with City of Salem goings-on, leaving our right-wing Mayor and her current City Council majority distressingly free to pursue anti-environmental policies.
Envy that City leaders in Bend are willing to set goals for reducing carbon emissions. Because here in Salem, community leaders have a head-in-the-sand attitude toward climate change and the urgent necessity of stopping global warming before it is too late for civilization as we know it. As I said in my 2015 "Salem leaders need to say where they stand on climate change":
Only two city councilors out of the ten City of Salem officials responded to me. They agreed with the scientific consensus, saying "Yes" to each question.
The others wimped out, probably because they fear being held accountable for City Hall's environmentally destructive policies: pushing for a billion dollar sprawl-inducing carbon-spewing unneeded Third Bridge; allowing large, beautiful, healthy trees to be cut down for no good reason; ignoring the urgent need for bike lanes and pedestrian safety while throwing big bucks at 1950's style autocentric road projects.
it isn't only City officials who are in the environmental dark ages. Salem Hospital, the Chamber of Commerce, and other corporate types are acting just as destructively.
This was the theme of my most recent Strange Up Salem column in Salem Weekly, "Salem fiddles while the planet burns."
Salem is a great town. I've loved living here for the past 39 years. However...this city also regularly drives me nuts. Or rather, nuttier than I am in my normal nutsy state of being.
Salem is the state capital of Oregon, a state with a well-deserved reputation for being on the cutting edge of wise environmental policies (for example, our marvelous farm/forest-preserving land use system with strict urban growth boundaries). Yet Salem lags far behind other neighboring Willamette Valley cities when it comes to ecological awareness, alternative/public transportation, and local government commitments to reduce this area's carbon footprint.
If the Chamber of Commerce types who run Salem -- hopefully not for much longer, given the encouraging election of three progressive City Council candidates in the last election -- think having a 1950's "pave it over" mentality is helping Salem compete for new residents and businesses, they really need to think again.
Bend is on the right track, even though the latest version of the climate change policy document is weaker than it should be.
Here in Salem, the Mayor and City Council aren't even trying to look like they care about the environment and dealing with climate change, much less actually do something about preserving the habitability of Planet Earth.