Don’t let Northwest become an eco-victim

Don’t let Northwest become an eco-victim

MY VIEW • Poor planning will hurt when climate refugees pour in

Posted 21 July 2011, by Jonathan Brandt, The Portland Tribune (Pamplin Media Group),

The Glen Canyon Dam, upstream from the Grand Canyon in Page, Ariz., is the second-largest dam on the Colorado River. Global warming is projected to exacerbate drought conditions in the Southwest, which could bring many “climate change refugees” to Oregon. Jeff Topping / Getty Images

I’m appreciative of Kat West’s essay in your Eco-thoughts series (Portland should brace for ‘climate refugees’, June 9). I would disagree with her that there are no alternatives to welcoming climate refugees. She’s right that we have to act as a region, and as a larger Cascadian bioregion, we have great access to rangeland, forests and fishing, as well as the fertile Willamette Valley.

Planning for the worst, if the predictions about drought in the Midwest are correct, we’ll have a major problem feeding all of the expected climate refugees. This means that the poorest of our region will go hungry as they are priced-out by wealthier refugees. Morally, it seems wrong that we would choose the suffering of our fellow Cascadians so that those who chose not to prevent their environmental self-destruction can elbow us from the table.

The other option that was not mentioned by West is the secession option.

No state should feel obligated to rely on the federal government to assure our prosperity in the face of economic turmoil. The pace and effectiveness of our US government is not equipped to deal with climate change on top of recession on top of energy descent.

Our history as a bioregional government included the areas of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, with its first capital in Oregon City. A new government of this Cascadian watershed democracy, the kind of governmental system proposed by John Wesley Powell, would not be too unfamiliar to our independent pioneer sensibilities.

With the coordination of a bio-regional government, should the worst occur, one plan could be to politely close our borders to non-Cascadians save for a limited number of eco-refugees – a more appropriate term that includes economic as well as ecological displacement. As our bioregion’s productivity can support more hungry mouths, while reducing our carbon footprint, so then we could accept more refugees.


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