Wildfire Sun

BRIAN WARD

I walked in to work today full of fire.

I walked in to work today full of fire.

I am angry.

I am not an angry person. In fact, it is an emotion that I don’t access very easily.

But today I am angry.

I am angry about so many things.

The news about President Trump’s decision to cancel DACA, needlessly causing immediate insecurity to hundreds of thousands of innocent young people and their families.

The administration’s assault on our health care system, which may lead to loss of health care coverage for tens of millions of people.

The daily barrage of lies coming from the President on important issues, and what that means for our nation.

The failure of our government to take seriously last year’s attacks on our voting system, and what that might mean for future elections and the integrity of the cornerstone of our democracy.

Charlottesville, North Korea, income inequality. The list goes on.

But the main reason I am angry today is climate change.

For the past twenty-five years, I have worked professionally for the public interest. For the past decade, I have gotten up every day committed to solving the climate crisis and to helping build the clean energy economy.

And I did all of this because of my values: Justice. Equality. Leaving a better world for my children and future generations.

As a young person, I was motivated by seeing the documentary Eyes on the Prize in high school. I will never forget the searing images of Bull Connor turning his dogs and fire hoses on peaceful civil rights protesters. Those images left a lasting impact, and motivate me to this day.

But my commitment to activism was never driven by personal circumstances. Personal values, yes. But I have lived a pretty privileged life.

This summer, however, climate change has gotten personal for me in a new way.

About a month ago, I visited the Columbia River Gorge for the first time in my life. Wow. What beauty!

Today, I woke up to seeing images of that same Gorge I visited just a few short weeks ago ablaze.

Two weeks ago, my family was on vacation in Roslyn, Washington, about 80 miles east of Seattle. We started to head out on a planned backpacking trip, but were met with smoke and closed trails due to approaching wildfires. My son Jude, 10, has cystic fibrosis. We need to be very careful about keeping him away from smoky conditions because of the impacts it has on his lungs. We turned back.

This week, people in Roslyn, where our family has a cabin, were warned to be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice because the fires were nearing.

Last week, my cousin and her family and my niece and her fiancé were in the heart of the storm in Texas where they live, and are digging out and working to help those in need.

This week, my former home of San Francisco has been baking in record breaking heat of over 100, unheard of for the area.

This morning, I walked out to a smoke filled sky in Seattle, and ash from the fires littering the cars and porches of my neighborhood.

I arrived at work to receive a note from a co-worker in Portland who was taking the day off and heading for the coast in order to give her kids some relief from the runny eyes they were suffering, with the airborne smoke and ash from wildfires floating into the city and in their windows.

Another co-worker had just returned from a largely restful camping trip, where she and her family had stayed in a campsite near the East Crater Trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The day after they returned home, the area was ablaze in a fire that has now grown to burn more than 10,000 acres.  

In recent years, I have increased my commitment to equity and diversity, and to having a deeper understanding of the world beyond the Northwest and the United States. So I have tracked the devastating floods and mudslides that have killed more than a thousand and left millions homeless in Asia. This is destruction and tragedy that is on a scale that is nearly unimaginable to me.

So, climate change, which has been so real for so many for so many years, has come home to me—though still not in the same way it is already affecting so many others. Around the world and in this country, people are losing whole communities to rising sea levels; their loved ones to death from searing heat, their homes to floods, and their nations to bitter wars made worse by the economic dislocation which inevitably follows famine and drought.

I am angry.

I am not going to run from an emotion that usually eludes me.

I am going to use it to fuel me. It will further my determination to do whatever I can, every day, to achieve justice that is more complete, prosperity that is shared more equally, and an economy charged not by the polluting fuels of the past, but by clean, renewable energy.

I’m ready to re-double my efforts to make that difference.

Gregg Small's picture

Executive Director

, Climate Solutions

Gregg brings nearly 25 years of experience working on environmental and public policy issues, including 20 as an Executive Director. At Climate Solutions, Gregg oversees a staff of two dozen policy experts, campaigners, innovators, and researchers across three Northwest offices, providing strategic direction for one of the most effective regional climate and clean economy organizations in the nation. 

Prior to coming to Climate Solutions, Gregg served as the Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition for 7 years and as the Executive Director of the California-based Pesticide Watch for 5 years. During that time, he played a leadership role in creating and developing a number of leading coalitions working on environmental health issues, including the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition,Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Bodies. At Climate Solutions, he helped to found the Washington-based Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and Renew Oregon.

Gregg began his professional career as an organizer for Green Corps, working in Washington, DC, Vermont, and California. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College.

When not at work, Gregg spends time with his family and raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that his son Jude has and that he is passionate about finding a cure for.