by Janet Lorenzen

I study social change and how it happens. I’ve done research on how people transition to greener lifestyles and why people become members of environmental movements.

If you’re wondering in these uncertain times, “what’s the one thing I can do to support social change?” It’s joining an organization that engages in civic and political action to reduce emissions and transition us to a clean energy economy. Because the reality is that there are comparatively few sources responsible for the vast majority of pollution and it will take new laws and regulations to make sure big business is doing their part.

We do our part. We make our homes more energy efficient, plant trees, carpool or ride bikes, and try to reduce food waste. Yet households alone can only reduce greenhouse gases by about 7% over the next ten years. It’s time to make sure big emitters are taking responsibility too. A constituent can have as much influence as a lobbyist if we work together.

Now is the time to support innovative action by states and cities. With an administration in Washington D.C. determined to roll back environmental protections, state and city leaders must pursue policies to create a cleaner and healthier future. On the city level, Salem is already working toward the adoption of a Climate Action Plan to reduce pollution and create a healthier, more resilient city. On the state level, we have the opportunity to make history by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

Clean Energy Jobs will cap climate pollution from the largest emitters in the state and give them the option of pursuing their own innovations to reduce pollution or (if the cost is lower) purchasing a limited number of permits from the state. The law will result in a $500-700 million annual fund to reinvest in Oregon’s clean energy economy, creating good paying jobs for thousands of Oregonians.

In 2016, our state passed historic legislation to transition Oregon off of polluting coal-fired power while simultaneously doubling the state’s commitment to clean electricity. Clean Energy Jobs is our chance to continue Oregon’s strong climate leadership amid federal rollbacks.

Based on personal observation, many people in Salem are already mobilizing and joining social and environmental groups. With so many new faces standing up for social change, let’s focus our efforts on strengthening Oregon’s leadership on climate, no matter what happens in D.C. We must act now; passing Clean Energy Jobs in 2018 is how we can create a better future –  for Oregon and beyond.

Dr. Janet Lorenzen, Professor of Environmental Sociology at Willamette University.