Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hundreds attend public hearing to stop coal exports in Washington.

4:31 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
For the past couple of months I've been volunteering with a small group in Portland called "Friends of the Columbia Gorge". As much as I value the mission of this organization, I have to admit, it takes a lot of motivation every Tuesday and Thursday to get up, drag myself downtown, pay for parking, and do the same thing every time: update our membership and events database. I was starting to get discouraged. You see, when I picture volunteering, I picture doing different things each time, being active, meeting new people and making connections, not sitting in front of a computer all day. But I said I would help out around the office with whatever they needed, and entering data is what they need. 

Columbia River Gorge
It wasn't until I stumbled upon this article while scrolling through my Twitter feed that I was reminded of the bigger picture. 

Friends has been concentrating on a campaign to stop 5 proposals to ship millions of tons of coal through the Columbia Gorge and on to Asia (for dirt cheap, might I add). The environmental impacts, potential risks and damage to the gorge, and lack of economic incentive make these proposals a big threat to Oregon and Washington, who have historically avoided coal as much as possible, and to the world as the threat of CO2 pollution becomes more and more recognized. 

For months Friends has been phone banking, tabling, and collecting comments to get people involved with stopping these proposals. The support that we've received has been overwhelming, with most people we talk to being strongly opposed to the idea of more coal near their communities. What I've been doing, every Tuesday and Thursday, is updating our events pages with the names of the people we've talked to who have said they will come to one of the public hearings. It's tedious and boring, but then my supervisor uses that information to follow up with everyone, send them directions, and make sure they don't forget when it is. 

Eagle Creek, a gem in the Gorge.
The result? Hundreds of people put their schedules on hold and attend long and exhausting public hearings to give their opinions on coal exports and make sure their local governments hear them. It's pretty awesome. I can't wait to go to the hearings in Portland and Vancouver myself! 

Seeing this article reminded me of the pride I had in Roots and Shoots at NCSU. And come to think of it, most of my days running that organization were spent cooped up in a study room emailing people, updating our membership database and our website, scheduling events and coordinating volunteers. Just because I'm not the front runner of this project, doesn't mean that what I am doing to help isn't just as important.

To learn more about these proposals and how you can help, check out the Friends of Columbia Gorge's website. The Sierra Club is also a front runner on this issue.  


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