With the arrival of spring, many Oregonians are finding themselves in a new normal: fretting the unseasonably dry days, and relishing the cold, gray rainy days that bring the hope of a less fiery and smoke-filled summer. Knowing that many of us experience the consequences of climate crises, including harsh winter storms, mudslides, and wildfires, we wanted to share a powerful podcast series from the Truth to Power Club at Ashland High School that reflects on the Almeda Fire in Jackson County in 2020. The first episode, An Unnatural Disaster, highlights the many civil disasters that contributed to the loss of lives during the fires. These included the lack of emergency notification systems; the absence of effective communication about where to evacuate when the highways shut down, which left many folks navigating backcountry roads without maps or cell service; and the unfilled need for meaningful mobilization from outside of the community to support folks during and in the aftermath of losing thousands of homes in working-class communities and communities of color. The amazing community organizers and leaders in Jackson County pulled together powerful mutual aid projects to support each other because it was clear no one was coming to help them. More than a week later, the national guard arrived to help… by directing traffic. Not only does An Unnatural Disaster tell an important story about the power of community during a crisis, but it also provides a clear example of the struggles that rural Oregonians face across the state: broken or completely absent crisis response infrastructure and a complete abandonment of communities when they need the state’s resources the most.
Listen to An Unnatural Disaster by the Truth to Power Club of Ashland High School while cooking dinner, in the car, or taking a break, and let us know: what did it make you think about? Does it resonate with you and your community’s experiences with the wildfires or other disasters fueled by climate change? What could Oregon implement that would make our communities safer during climate crises?
Fired up about Truth to Power’s work? Listen to more podcast episodes and check out some of their other community projects. These inspiring high school organizers are gearing up for a regular, hour-long live radio program on KSKQ Community Radio. They already hold supply drives for their unhoused neighbors and are coordinating with their school to address dignity around menstruation. They want to ensure that all students have access to period products and are sourcing quality, sustainable supplies that will eventually be dispensed in every school bathroom. They are also working on a prototype dispenser that will be produced by the woodshop students.
Do you want to connect with groups like Truth to Power and help set the direction for our rural human dignity movements in the upcoming year? Register today to attend our annual Rural Caucus and Strategy Session, happening Saturday, June 25th, and Sunday, June 26th, in Redmond! Let us know about any amazing high school clubs in your community by reaching out to your local ROP organizer or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.