Where Am I_14_051315 (copy)

Crone Miller Lake in the McDonald Forest near Corvallis, Oregon.

Pamela J. Sirianni, Mid-Valley Media

Welcome to Oregon, eclipse gazers. We need your help.

While you are stuck in traffic, take a look around. Oregon looks different from most places because fields and forests still separate towns from one another. That’s no accident; we voted for a land use system and environmental laws that established urban growth boundaries, protect our open spaces, and give everyone free access to the ocean beaches under the leadership of a Republican governor, Tom McCall. We continue to want our towns to grow wisely, our forests to remain healthy, and our waters to flow cleanly. Our success in accomplishing these goals has attracted millions of tourists and thousands of immigrants to Oregon.

We love this, but we see threats on the horizon. Even in our water-rich land, the average snowpack is 30 percent less than what it was in the 1950s, and the frequency of wildfires has increased significantly. Although Oregon’s forests stand out globally in their high rates of growth and ability to store carbon, climate change threatens to kill more trees, lower productivity, and alter the diversity. Our salmon runs are dwindling, even as dams are being removed to open more habitats for spawning.

The increasing frequency of heat waves endangers the very essence of what we love most about Oregon, as well as what can be harvested sustainably from the sea and land. Although Oregon is one of the most buffered places in North America against climate change, our scientists know we can’t dodge the effects of rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere without your help. We need to offset our travels by investing in wind farms, solar panels, electric cars, public transport, efficient houses and other energy saving devices while abolishing dependence on coal (as Oregon is doing).

But most of all, we need to change ourselves to preserve what we really value, a future for our grandchildren. Many are already doing their bit by not owning cars, telecommuting, socializing online, and consuming less. The eldest generation, who lived through World War II, can tell us how to thrive by joining with friends and family to reach a common goal. Lessons can be learned cross-generationally while addressing this urgent need.

For our out-of-state guests coming to see an eclipse: you are welcome to return again. You may even ponder moving to Oregon after enjoying our rich natural resources. Please, recognize the effort we have made to preserve what we all value in livability; consider mitigating your carbon impact by contributing to conservation organizations and activities that protect our lands and support progressive climate change and land use policies (http://earthshare-oregon.org/our-groups/energy-and-sustainability).

Richard Waring lives in Corvallis. 

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