Two graduates bond over action and common beliefs forged in college
As every Hampshire alum knows, an unofficial part of our educational experience is the Div IV, which comprises the unexpected yet creative projects and journeys we pursue long after graduation. We leave the close-knit campus environment only to carry the College’s values and pedagogy into the wider world.
In our case, we’re two Hampshire alums who never knew each other on campus. Our first meeting took place across the country — in the governor’s office in the Oregon state capitol building — yet we immediately recognized in each other signature imprints of the Hampshire spirit.
In our home state of Oregon, for more than 15 years a dangerous proposal has been threatening our communities: the Jordan Cove fracked gas pipeline and export terminal, proposed for construction by the Canadian company Pembina. If built, this project would compromise the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, destroy tribal territories and resources, and become the state’s largest source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Despite this, Gov. Kate Brown had been neutral on the issue since she took office, in 2015.
In this time of climate crisis, the stakes are much too high and the timeline much too short for our elected officials, especially those who self-describe as “climate leaders,” not to take a stand. So on a cold morning last November, we were part of a group of people from across the region — led by landowners and tribal members who would suffer a direct impact from the project — who began a historic and peaceful sit-in inside of Governor Brown’s office, refusing to leave until she joined the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who oppose this dangerous project.
Eight hours later, after our demands were still not met, we were among the 21 individuals arrested by the Oregon State Police. We spent the rest of the night in the Marion County Jail.
Although victory was not immediate, we believe that the action applied public pressure at a critical time. In December, the Marion County District Attorney decided not to press charges against us and the other protesters. In January, the Oregon Department of State Lands was set to decide on the removal-fill permit, one of the three state permits Pembina needs to begin construction. Amid speculation that the permit would be denied, the company withdrew its application. This is a major blow to the pipeline’s efforts, but the fight is not yet over.
As we reflect on the events of that November action, we celebrate a small victory in an ongoing battle. Our individual journeys to this battle are unique, but Hampshire is our common headwater.
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This essay reflects the opinions of the authors.