A Rural New Deal, the Environment and Climate Change
The way we relate to the environment and soberly facing the realities of climate change is core to all other issues. In Southern Oregon, while present political leadership ignores and enables the worst effects, we have been living the effects of climate change and see clearly the need for sustainable resource use solutions. This is certainly a “big” issue that requires international, national, and state and local efforts; but, we can act locally now and respond to our immediate and long-term needs through a development, sustainability and climate justice lens. However, in order to achieve this, we need representation with the political will to take action.
A sustainable future for ourselves and the next generation depends on our holistic relationship to the environment. Rather than seen as a competing interest with the economy, our environment shapes the community; thus, by working with our ecological capital, we can improve and expand our long-term health and wealth. Confronting climate change, and responding to how we use and allocate resources impacts our daily lives; from food supply, economic development and tourism, drought, fires, agricultural development, political violence, tribal rights, and climate migration and refugees. In short, the threat posed by climate change is real, and is at our doorstep.
Notably for rural areas, where resources are challenging to obtain and have been historically utilized by urban areas, it is imperative that we bring all voices – public, private, tribal representation, researchers, and planners – together to confront this crisis. Moreover, with gains in technology, materials and practices, items such as renewable energy and sustainable farming no longer face significant cost-prohibitive barriers. By addressing climate change locally, we are creating jobs in our communities, and further spurring our local economies.
(US Environmental Protection Agency)
The form of economic development outlined in a Rural New Deal takes into account a sustainable transition. While there must be coordination with the federal level, our ecological policy principles will focus on our unique regional needs:
- Acknowledging climate change as a collective and existential threat with economic, social and political ramifications.
- Work with tribes to incorporate tribal knowledge and practice in sustainable development.
- Bringing industries together through research responsive teams – farmers, researchers, lawmakers, tribal representatives, community leaders and stakeholders; all with the goal of developing culturally responsive frameworks for prevention and resilience to climate change.
- Support Oregon’s effort toward “100% clean” energy by 2040, and make sure rural areas are a part of this conversation and transition.
- Aid businesses in transitioning to energy efficiency and renewable sources.
- Continue efforts to reshape rural energy grids toward 100% renewable energy.
- Update rural public transit services, support expanding electric charging stations, and invest in high-speed rail to bridge rural-urban geographic divide, as well as consider our unique terrain and transportation needs.
- In moving toward housing for all, work with state and federal policy in forest management and home construction.
- Making stronger connections between university and research sectors and farmers on the ground in bridging sustainable agriculture technologies. Aid local planners in land and water management, and soil-mapping.
- Work with local planners to prioritize efficient residential water use through forms of residential zoning changes and individualized incentives.
- Assist irrigation districts to improve water-loss efficiency in irrigation canals and reservoirs.
- Making grants simpler to access for farmers and businesses to transition to more efficient water use systems.
- Invest in small, local farmers, encourage organic farming, and provide easy-access grants for “sustained experimental” agriculture – where farmers can be creative without fear of losing needed income on crops, and innovate in real-time sustained crop practices.
- Reduce and move to eliminate flood irrigation for farming.
- Provide low-interest and forgivable loans to farmers who form or transition to cooperative business models.
- Allocate monies for a Civilian Climate Corps toward rural development projects including renovating well systems, and cleaning up Klamath Lake.
- All public contracts in Oregon must take into account long-term cost-benefit analysis on environmental impacts (as opposed to only 5 to 10 years).