Our Climate began as a living room brainstorming session, grew to a statewide movement recognized for its ability to mobilize students and millennials, and is now a nation-wide, millennial-led movement to put a price on carbon pollution.
Their story begins in 2013, when several 20-somethings in rural Southern Oregon organized a participatory community art project to demand action on climate. The project invited churches, community groups, and schools from across the region to decorate cardboard “tiles” demonstrating their love of place. Over 1000 people contributed their unique tiles, which were then assembled to create a 120-foot long salmon mosaic, a powerful symbol for the Northwest. The power of creative, inclusive citizens action is part of Our Climate’s DNA.
The success of the salmon mosaic proved that people – especially young people – are ready to act on climate. As the crowds dissipated, we realized that apathy about the problem is a lesser foe than cynicism and ignorance about solutions. It was time for this overwhelming community support to result in concrete change at the scale of the problem. And so, with inspiration from the Citizens Climate Lobby, we set our sights on passing a carbon fee and dividend on the state level to train new activists and serve as a model for federal action.
In the short time from the salmon mosaic through 2016, Our Climate – first known as Oregon Climate – made big waves at the state level and proved the importance of targeted, youth-led advocacy. Our work in the 2013 legislative session led to the passage of a carbon pricing study bill, which has served as an example for other states considering the economic impact of such a policy. We’ve turned out hundreds of volunteers and students from across the state to testify on behalf of carbon price and dividend legislation; in 2015, a bill that had been deemed politically unrealistic passed two committees and garnered the collective support of dozens of legislators. Six local governments passed resolutions in support of carbon pricing, thanks to our dedicated volunteers. By 2016, legislators, allied organizations, and the media all recognized that enacting a price on carbon was the number one priority for the environmental community. Legislators have told us time and time again that the voice of constituents – especially those who have the most to lose when it comes to climate – has driven this momentum.
Other states began noticing our work, and soon we found ourselves at the helm of a new generation of focused, results-oriented climate legislation advocacy. In the fall 2015, a National Geographic documentary series, called the Years of Living Dangerously, discovered us at a student conference in Southern California. After years traveling the globe documenting climate destruction and interviewing experts about solutions, they too were convinced of the urgency to price carbon and the unique power of young advocates. A strong partnership was forged. Our Climate launched into the national arena in pursuit of our original goal: fair and effective federal legislation.