States of denial meet states of change
May 14, 2014

Years of Living Dangerously seemed an apt title for this week's episode of the climate documentary series. The opening footage of wreckage from Hurricane Sandy was a stark reminder that we are indeed living in the dangerous era of climate consequences: consequences from years of pollution-riddled energy fueling our economy; consequences from years of poor land use decisions. Now those consequences are impacting the lives of many.

This week's episode focused on climate policy debates in two states: Washington and New Jersey, and specifically on how Governors Inslee and Christie are responding (or not responding) to our climate crisis.  Each time the scene switched from the Jersey shore to Olympia, Washington, I found myself more and more thankful to be living in Olympia. Governor Inslee offers a sense of hope as opposed to the despair that we saw from those living the consequences of Hurricane Sandy. My own despair grew, watching the lack of forethought in the land use decisions the state of New Jersey is making in the storm's aftermath. It seems horribly likely that much of the land under siege by Sandy will likely be under siege again soon.

And then there is the utter danger of the partisan gridlock that defines the lack of action on climate change in this country.

On the one hand…

"We're the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it."
- Washington’s governor 

Washington’s governor says, "We're the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it."

And on the other…

When asked by a reporter, “Do you think climate change, rising sea levels, global warming had anything to do with uh, folks in this town and elsewhere?” Governor Christie responded, “Maybe, in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with trying to rebuild the state and put people back in their homes, I'll have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the cause of this storm.”

Esoteric? You have got to be kidding me. Maybe in 1978- but now? Really?

What is clearly not esoteric is the threat of arguably unsafe coal trains—and now oil trains too—barrelling through our communities. A report from Sightline this week included the sobering detail that the Northwest region alone is seeing an average of nine freight derailments a month. Along with the trains comes fifty years of infrastructure allowing for the movement and combustion of billions of tons of coal, and billions of barrels of oil. And with that, more global warming, and more consequences. Yuck. Can’t you just see a different future? I can. And Governor Inslee can too.

After working with Climate Solutions and looking for climate solutions for the last seven years, I can tell you that it ain’t easy to transition ourselves to those solutions. It’s a time-intensive, labor-intensive transition that will, incidentally, create scads more jobs than moving dirty fossil fuels around. We have got to dig in and make it happen. Now. Today. 


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Author Bio

As a progressive, community organizer and a mother of two, Beth has spent the last thirty years in training to take on the trust and aspirations of her community, to secure a thriving, sustainable, just and compassionate future for us all. She is currently serving as a state representative from the 22nd legislative district.
When not serving in the Legislature, Beth serves as senior advisor at Climate Solutions, a Northwest-based clean energy economy nonprofit. She also served as the regional co-director for the Power Past Coal campaign.
She was the founding executive director of Washington Conservation Voters and served in that role from 1991 – 1995. In 1996 she was a field organizer for National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). She also served as a campaign organizer and later the development director for Audubon Washington. Beth has worked in public, private, and non-profit sectors, and has served in leadership staff positions in numerous political campaigns.
Beth has volunteered countless hours in the social service sector with Solid Ground and Noel House Homeless Shelter, on international development in Nicaragua, various environmental organizations, as an advocate for parks and sidewalks and in her children’s elementary school as PTA President.
Beth has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in political science and telecommunications. She has been married for 21 years to Dr. Eddy Cates, a family physician at Pioneer Family Practice. A mom of two young boys, she enjoys the outdoors, cycling, yoga, running, and traveling.