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A University of Oregon professor issued a climate change call to arms to Corvallis residents Thursday night.

Mary Christina Wood, the keynote speaker at the annual Sustainability Fair and Town Hall, described the climate change challenge in urgent terms and said that Corvallis is uniquely positioned to lead the way.

Referring to the 300 folks gathered in the main ballroom of the CH2M Hill Alumni Center as the “Corvallis Catalysts” Wood said that “because you are here in Corvallis we can accomplish this together. The survival of all of us is on the line. It’s all hands on deck — and you’re on the deck right now.”

Wood stressed the challenge of hitting climate action goals given the late start that most societies and governments have had, such as trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030.

“That’s only 10 years and 6 months,” Wood said. “We have to start now in bringing that emissions curve down. 2020 … that’s the year. We don’t have time for incremental acts anymore.”

Wood, who spoke for 31 minutes at the annual Corvallis Sustainability Coalition event, also emphasized the importance of using the legal system in the climate action fight, citing the Juliana vs. the United States legal action.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015, was being brought by 21 youth plaintiffs against the U.S. and several of its executive branch positions and officers. The suit asserts that the government violated the youths' rights by allowing activities that harmed the climate and sought the government to adopt methods for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The action received a big boost in 2016 when U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge Ann Aiken upheld the idea that access to a clean environment was a fundamental right, allowing the case to proceed. The case remains in the courts with oral arguments set before the Ninth Circuit Court in June in Portland.

“Does anyone here know how to get to Portland?” Wood asked by way of encouraging local participation in the case.

Wood also trumpeted a “climate strike” on March 15 that aims to encourage student walkouts. The event is the brainchild of Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.

“Go for it. Find your role,” urged Wood. “You are at the epicenter. You are Oregon. You are Corvallis. Claim the moment. Keep your focus. Don’t get derailed. This is our last stand.”

Wood then received a standing ovation.

The fair portion of the evening bustled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., with participants wending their way through the lobby, corridors and side meeting rooms of the Alumni Center and chatting up vendors and members of coalition action teams. Local food and music were available.

Folks working on the coalition’s “No Food Left Behind” project were well on their way to giving away their full supply of 50 composting bins. But Jeanette Hardison was quick to point out that they aren’t the final answer.

“Things are great. We have been successful,” Hardison said. “Everyone likes the composting bins. They allow us to initiate the conversation and explain that it’s a good tool in the fight against wasted food but not the solution.”

Team members in the booth kept fielding questions from apartment-dwellers, not surprising in a town with 25,000 college students.

Hardison noted that the state Department of Environmental Quality is working on an initiative that will make it easier to provide recycling bins at apartments and that Republic Services will provide yard debris carts, which also can take food waste, for multifamily units in Corvallis and Philomath.

Around the corner the coalition’s food action team was using a food quiz to acquaint fair participants with the concept of “local 6 food,” which means food grown or distributed in Benton and its surrounding counties.

The goal of the group is to boost local food consumption to 40 percent. Team member Julie Kleven said that the current percentage is around 6 or 7.

The goal of the quiz was to educate consumers about the importance of food labeling. The team also provides recipes and promotes an annual “local eats week.”

Team member Gautami Pawar noted that one of the challenges is convincing consumers that local food is not necessarily more expensive.

“We’re making our way,” Kleven said. “Word is getting out.”

Some intriguing street theater/agit prop took place outside the Alumni Center. Two individuals sporting Guy Fawkes’ masks stood stock-still while holding laptops that broadcast pro-vegetarian images.

In the true spirit of the event, coalition facilitator Annette Mills went out and tried to recruit them to join the coalition.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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