By Aneesh Gupta
OES (Portland, Oregon)
Walking down the streets of downtown Portland, I felt as if in a foreign land. The sky, usually a light, baby blue, was covered in fine smoke, making it a truly dastardly sight. I was instantly taken back to my families home in India, where year-round, the pollution is a choking force to contend with. In India, this is a known constant, an afterthought in a world of hustle and hardship. In Portland, as I have heard the excited chatter of nervous OPB commentators over the last week, I have to come to realise this is likely but one example of the future to come. If our politicians continue to value monetary funds and political maneuverability over our environment’s strength and prosperity, then I worry Portlandians will soon be faced with unhealthy air quality all the time, potentially the equivalent of smoking 44 cigarettes a day.
My own work within meteorology and more broadly climate science has led me to be a strong proponent of climate reform policies. With weather ranging from raging wildfires to roaring floods, Oregonians are being wrenched from their homes. Those who are not directly affected cannot simply sit by idly. This latest spate of wildfires must act as a wake up call, to good and decent Oregonians. Not only will proper reform measures protect those on the fringes of our state, but it will even protect from future impact in Portland.
While reform may seem like an insurmountable task, the explanations are clear, and the required steps have been identified in countless studies and research papers. Yet despite this irrefutable evidence, our government has taken a back seat to scaling up the needed climate change policies.
Not only is the evidence clear, but politicians cannot use the aged old excuse, the need of political power and purview. Oregon is a mainly Democratic state, so most of the opinions that I hear are very one-sided, but climate change should not be a partisan issue. The world will be in our hands in a few decades, and we, as Generation Z, have a responsibility to make sure that future generations can live without looking up into a hazy polluted sky, wondering what blue skies even looked like.
This story was produced by student reporters as part of the WANT Summer Journalism Fellowship, an annual collaboration among aspiring young journalists. For more information, go to YouthJournalismPdx.com.
Photo Credit: Daria Devyatkina