“I was totally blown away,” says local climate activist Ray Quisenberry, recalling a chance encounter in Jordan last year with a young environmental lawyer. The lawyer, Lucy Edwards of New Zealand, described to Quisenberry her unique plan to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change. Edwards told Quisenberry, he recalls, that, “she was shortly to begin a series of 19 half marathons in 30 days in places around the globe,” to draw attention to climate change science and raise funds for the youth climate organization, Generation Zero.
Quisenberry was inspired by the idea. On his return to Salem, he approached the members of the local 350.org climate change group he belongs to. And, “and within 72 hours of broaching the idea… we had a team of six organizers dedicated to making it happen,” he says.
Thanks to the efforts of this group, Salem’s own 5K Run for the Climate is scheduled for August 25, and runners are already signing up. The event aims to attract both those presently involved in climate issues and “the runners and walkers in Salem who love nature and the outdoors, but have not yet engaged on the issue,” Quisenberry says. Materials and information will be made available at the run starting point so participants and supporters can learn about climate issues and have fun at the same time. Run officials say that all participants will receive a free reusable goodie bag a s well as having the chance to win raffle prizes.
“It’s been a great experience,” Quisenberry says of his first organizing effort, “and the community support has been very heartening.” The event will raise funds for the youth environmental organization Plant for the Planet and the local 350 Salem climate action group, Climate change is an issue whose time has come, Quisenberry says, “because, if left unaddressed, [it] will drastically revamp and degrade the global ecosystem that allowed human civilization to take root and grow these past 8,000 years.” Effects we can already see, he notes, include sea level rise, melting ice caps, ocean acidification, drought, and more intense storms. A warming climate ” has its fingerprints on almost every aspect of our planet and our society. It impacts human migration, war, the spread of disease, the loss of coral reefs, and species extinction.”
Here in Oregon, Quisenberry has noticed many indications of a warmer planet; our much longer fire seasons, lower snow packs, dying Douglas Fir and recently, “even an impact on our water quality” from the algae bloom in Detroit Lake.
“Climate change is both very deadly and very expensive,” Quisenberry says, “and not just a concern for future generations. Climate change is hurting us right now.”
Run organizers are reaching out to several local social justice groups that 350 Salem has collaborated with in the past, in rallies and other social justice efforts. This is because “sadly,” Quisenberry notes, “it’s the historically marginalized communities that often face the first ravages of any environmental problem, and that’s true for the climate crisis.”
Local environmental groups such as 350 Salem say they have felt frustration in the last decade because of what they perceive as a lack of city leadership on environmental issues. “The City of Salem has been moving very slowly over the past few years to do its part to combat climate change,” Quisenberry says, “but I was encouraged recently when the city council voted to create a city-wide Climate Action Plan. Thanks to a forward-thinking mayor and city council, we’re finally taking these much needed first steps to protect our future.”
The Climate Run is sponsored largely by local businesses, including Strava, Fox Blue Printing, Venti’s Cafe, Bike Peddler, Scott’s Cycle and Fitness and Indigo Wellness Center.
“I encourage everyone to sign up to walk or run the Salem Run,” Quisenberry says. “Let’s build a community to create a better city and cleaner planet.”
Run for the Climate
August 25th, 9 a.m.
Minto Brown Island Park
Covered shelter (there will be signage)