I’ve taken several classes online, including a Masterclass by reporter Bob Woodward. Woodward basically said that everyone has their own version of the truth. What they saw, from their perspective, given their existing knowledge and underlying belief system.
But underneath what we each believe, there are facts. We are all entitled to our own opinions. No one is entitled to their own set of facts.
I started out as a documentary filmmaker. My 1st picture was on national cable TV. My 2nd picture went undistributed. I couldn’t raise money for the next half dozen pictures I wanted to make, so I have a file cabinet stuffed with unfulfilled dreams. I didn’t make any more documentaries.
But I passionately agree with Woodward that a journalist’s job – and in a Democracy, every citizen’s job – is to come up with the best, most accurate obtainable version of the truth. Because Democracy dies in darkness. Because predators always hide, and human predators create a thicket of false facts to hide in.
Our founding fathers had the optimistic notion that Americans could act like good neighbors. That we could reach smarter decisions together than any one of us could consistently come up with alone. That we could discuss our differences calmly. That we could look past our beliefs to find the facts. That we would then use those facts to improve our all lives.
Without facts there is no sustainable prosperity. Without basic prosperity, life sucks. A family with hungry children is the most politically unstable unit in the world.
Lately, we have seen a triumph of false facts over neighborliness. Below is a poem I wrote about how recent political events have brought new light to a very old set of false facts, that was used to steal Native land and murder Native people.
Black Snake by Katherine Brann Fredricks
Lay aside bitterness. Lay aside fears. There’s a black snake on the Trail of Tears.
It’s been seven generations since we took your land. Now foreign people want mine. Now I understand.
We all drink this water, though we once fought to the knife. At Oglala waters, even old enemies have to agree, water is life!
Cowboy boots and deerskin moccasin, stop the black snake with truth for medicine. Canadian tar sands for Chinese cars. Stop the black snake. Protect what’s ours.
It’s been seven generations since we told those lies: “We’ve come here for your good!” Lies to colonize.
Now I apologize for my ancestor’s lies. Now I recognize tribal wisdom I despised. Now I apologize for the genocide we legalized. Now I cuss foreign enterprise come to vandalize us!
For our sacred waters, for our farms and fields and rights. For our children’s futures, cowboys and Indians, time to unite, Cowboys and Indians, fight!
Obama embalmed the KXL. Trump raised it like a zombie: smell that chemical smell! Biden took a pen. Killed the black snake again. Say yay! But stay tough. Kill a zombie twice? Twice may not be enough!
While we drink these waters, we’ll teach our sons and daughters how to respect each other, and protect each other, so they may safely drink these waters seven generations from now!
In a lifetime spent – by preference – in the woods, I’ve faced danger a few times. Rock climbing, and having the rock I was holding onto break off in my hand. Accidentally walking between a mother elk and her calf. Breaking through the ice, while crossing a stream on a winter camping trip.
The Oregon fires last fall were the first time I ever felt all humanity was directly endangered. Listening to the news, I heard an Oregon firefighter say, he felt like he was fighting the whole world. The first thought that leapt into my mind was, “Yeah, but who started this fight?”
I’ve believed we were in a human-caused climate emergency for years. The wildfires of 2020 brought it home to me. I was working as a temp for a chiropractor, watching the sky turn red overhead, as patient after patient called to cancel their appointments: “I can’t come in! I’m being evacuated!”
I spoke to one eighty year old man, as he watched flames approach his home. He didn’t want to leave. His son was arguing with him: “You can’t fight a firestorm with a garden hose!”
So I sent texts for Joe Biden and was thrilled when he was elected. I write my Congressional Representatives regularly on climate issues.
Last week, I was happy to receive a newsletter from Congressman Blumenauer, saying that he is working with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on legislation to mandate the declaration of a national climate emergency. Read article here.
Last fall, watching fire clouds tower over me, I began writing a song, Open Your Eyes! Composer Stephen Bennett related to it instantly, because his parents live in California, where similar fire clouds threatened their home. Thank you to the members of Climate Reality, and to all people of good will and good science, who are working hard to (as Congressman Blumenauer puts it) “halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of this climate crisis.”
After the assault on the US Capital, we are all grateful to the courts, the election officials, the police and the military for protecting America from a failed insurrection. Unfortunately, the long term effects of misinformation and disinformation will not disburse as quickly as the Capital rioters.
I’m a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Back in 2015, UCS invited all their members to a webinar by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Neela Banerjee. Her research showed that Exxon has known for decades that climate change was real, human caused, and potentially catastrophic. READ MORE HERE
During that webinar, one of the speakers pointed out that the disinformation tactics used by Exxon were exactly the same as those used by tobacco companies, when they fought lawsuits against cigarettes. “They know these tactics failed, so what will they try instead?”
We’ve seen what they tried. They stacked the courts.
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s father was an executive for Royal Dutch Shell. READ MORE HERE
According to EcoWatch, Brett Kavanaugh “accepts the science behind climate change, but has ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to do anything about it.” READ MORE HERE
According to American Progress, Justice Gorsuch “did not appear on President Trump’s first list of potential Supreme Court nominees in May 2016, but he appeared on Trump’s second list just weeks after writing a judicial manifesto arguing that judges should have more power to strike down federal regulations.” READ MORE HERE
And although the disinformation surrounding the 2020 Presidential election may have more to do with Trump’s ego than big oil, the disinformation handbook continues to be used by multinational corporations to protect their profits at the expense of human health and safety. READ MORE HERE
In response to all this disinformation and to the recent siege of the Capital, composer Stephen Bennett & I wrote a new song. We hope you enjoy it.
Stephen Wagener Bennett is a writer, composer, director, and dramaturg based in Brooklyn. He has written for new and experimental theatre for the last decade, and holds an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. stephenwagenerbennett.com
The Oregon Climate Action Plan, Executive Order 20-04, was signed in March of this year. Defining the rules that will implement these proposed environmental standards–designing the specifics and practical applications of the standards–is now in progress in Oregon.
Oregon joins the voices and outreach of diverse nationwide groups to establish common ground that will lead to both environmental and economic health for our citizens. Nationwide, environmental groups are forming coalitions with other environmental groups. But also, group previously divided by politics or region are establishing common ground.
For example, Wisconsin farmers and environmental groups are partnering to facilitate the joint efforts and resources of their state. This partner group includes the Dairy Business Association, as well as Clean Wisconsin, The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association.
“Together, our organizations are proposing a set of policy principles to guide lawmakers and the administration in this effort,” says Dairy Business Association President Tom Crave.
When seeking and establishing common ground, we can learn practical strategies and ideas from other states, like Wisconsin. We can also strengthen the diverse partnerships already being developed in Oregon. As we in Oregon proceed to weigh in on rules to implement our Oregon Climate Action Plan, we aim to leverage our best. We join heart and hard-won efforts of diverse groups in our nation and the world.
Positive thinking is living in the solution, not the problem. When faced with environmental damage, let’s use the real, tangible, already available solutions to turn negative into positive.
There is a place in Oregon this fall to learn actions that can sustain our planet—aka the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This virtual 10-week class examines landfill science, composting, electronic and hazardous waste disposal, and costs and benefits of recycling.
The Master Recyclers Program (MRP) explores how wise materials management can decrease the amount of stuff we use, and then waste, to begin with.
Voila! The need, and costs, to recycle are decreased at the beginning of the consumption cycle.
Oregon State University and Republic Services facilitators are guiding this annual 10-week program. Tino Barreras is Republic’s Education and Outreach facilitator for Linn and Benton counties. Andrea Norris brings her expertise as Marketing and Development Coordinator for OSU’s Campus Recycling.
Please note: This fall’s Linn/Benton program is currently full. In Oregon, however, Master Recycler Programs are held statewide; please check the Resources section at the end of this article for other MRP opportunities.
Highlighting Diversity Expands Outreach
The current Master Recyclers program welcomes diverse participants to learn how recycling aids sustainability.
This online class is free to Linn and Benton County residents who commit to share their learning with 30 hours of volunteer outreach, within a year of course completion.
“It’s exciting that the online class will extend the reach of who can participate,” said Republic’s Barreras. “It’s a diverse group, who will work in small groups and get to know each other.”
Volunteer activities can include: staffing an information table at a local market or event, leading a workshop, talking to neighbors and local groups, or pitching in at a recycle or re-use organization.
The trained volunteers will be able to present pathways of change so people of all ages know that individual efforts—like what to recycle, what not to recycle—have a tangible effect on climate health.
Originally an in-person class in previous years, this MRP class meets on Zoom: Mondays, 6-8pm, Sept 28 to Dec 7 (no class Nov. 23). Discussion and question sessions will be held on two Thursdays, Oct 22 and Nov 19, 6-7pm.
The course structure uses an overview of recycle processes that most of us are familiar with, but are not sure exactly how much they make a difference. So many questions:
What happens to those recycles I put in my bin?
When waste goes to the landfill, how long is it expected to stay there?
Does composting make a difference?
The professionals will share solutions they see on the horizon, but will also encourage participants to share solution ideas from their perspectives.
Waste Professionals Seek Community Ideas
“Each participant will take their knowledge into their wider community. It’s an ever-expanding network,” Barreras said.
From campus-wide to community-wide, sustainability is honed by understanding and connection among people. The Master Recycler Program’s new online format will also support breaking into small groups to get to know people and learn about ideas and challenges of others. Joining with other will widen the circle of influence of positive environmental change.
Materials Management and Waste Prevention
The lifecycle of waste, from extraction or growth to end of life, is the big picture of this class. Remember the 3 R’s to a sustainable planet—Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. Recycling processes are only part, albeit a critical part, of the bigger material management picture. Re-use means using a material or a product again for another purpose or even for the same purpose. Reduce means to re-use or to avoid purchasing; this leads to no waste—i.e., zero waste.
Zero waste–that is, no waste to start with—is the ultimate recycle strategy. Reducing our purchases eliminates money needed to (1) extract resource, transport; (2) manufacture, transport; (3) sell, transport; (4) trash, transport; (5) bury or burn. Carbon emissions decrease.
Buying and trading will always be a way of interchange and economy vitality. However, both businesses and buyers will want to consider carefully what products they want to support in our local and global marketplace.
Sustainability and MRP Are Statewide
Both individuals and businesses in Oregon have resources and ideas to both build our economy, and protect the environment as we move forward.
Here in Oregon, a viable, active program of education, participation, and outreach is embodied in the Master Recycler Programs. The MRP classes and resources can be found throughout the state of Oregon, by searching on your web browser. The classes are sponsored by a diverse combination of private and public organizations, depending on the region.
Feel free to use the following resources to learn how waste recycling and management supports our economy and environment at the same time.
Oregon Business and Science Joint Environmental Resources
Linn & Benton Master Recyclers’ Program:
Andrea Norris, 541-737-5398 Marketing & Development Coordinator, Oregon State University Campus Recycling
Tino Barreras, 541-286-3331 Municipal Administrator/Education & Outreach, Republic Services