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Corvallis Climate Justice Rally

September 30, 2019

Asher Miller joined other local climate leaders in speaking at the Climate Justice Rally in Corvallis during the Global Climate Strike Week.

My name’s Asher Miller. I’m the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Post Carbon Institute, which happens to be based here. I’m also a member of the city’s Climate Action Advisory Board, but most importantly I’m here as a person, as a father to two sons, who’s angry and scared, and determined to do everything I possibly can to address this emergency that we’re in.

Many of us are here because we’re angry. And we should be. Our government has known for decades about the looming climate crisis and have failed to act. Exxon’s own scientists in the 1970s predicted that CO2 levels would be where they are today, but instead of transitioning their industry, fossil fuel companies have lied to us to maintain their profits.

Their failure has been spectacular. 50% of all fossil fuels have been burned in just the last 27 years, since the first UN climate change framework was created.

Many of us are here because we’re afraid. And we should be. We’re already seeing devastating effects around the world from just 1°C warming, and we’re on a path towards 4°C warming by the end of the century — with impacts that are simply beyond imagining. When I think about what that means for my kids, I shudder. That is, when I can even let myself go there.

Our best hope now is to try to limit warming to half that, which will require coordinated global action at a scale and speed that has no precedent. And it will take some luck.

Many of us are here to demand that our elected officials act swiftly and aggressively to respond to this crisis. And we should. We should demand that fossil fuel subsidies end tomorrow. That no new fossil fuel infrastructure be installed. That we invest massively in a Green New Deal — a set of national, state, and local policies that redirect the US economy away from extraction and consumption to conservation, repair, and renewal.

And many of us are here because we recognize that the climate crisis is also about justice. Already millions and millions of the people least responsible for emissions are experiencing the brunt of warming, and they also in most cases have the fewest resources to prepare for and respond to what’s coming. And that’s just our fellow humans. Think of the millions of species that share this planet with us, many of them here for eons longer than us, whose fate is at risk.

We should feel all these things. And we should demand all these things. For starters, every one of us should make clear to Corvallis City Council and Benton County Commissioners that responding to the climate crisis should be their #1 priority. And we should let the Salem know that must act more aggressively — beginning with letting cities like ours have the power to choose where our own energy comes from! And we should work our butts of to make sure that this nation elects a climate champion not a climate criminal next year!

But I’m here to say that all that is still not enough. Yes, we must demand our leaders act and if they don’t, we must replace them with ones who will. But ultimately the climate crisis is just a symptom of humanity gone awry — our hubris, our fixation on growth and consumption and having more, our loss of connectivity with the natural world and our sense of obligation to one another.

That is what must change if we’re going to navigate our way through this emergency. Driving electric cars and buying organic — if you can even afford those things — isn’t going to cut it. It will take each and every one of us here recognizing that the source — and ultimately the solution — to this crisis is inside each of us. It is time for us live with purpose, with meaning, with courage, with compassion, with sacrifice. Yes, we must demand radical, immediate action. But that starts with demanding it from ourselves. Life itself is at stake.