New Year, New Leaders

New Opportunities for Sustainability and Justice

A letter from our Executive Director, Mike Riley. 

It’s a relief to have adults back in The White House. It’s hard to imagine a more disturbing start to a new year than an armed insurrection incited by a sitting president and carried out by a mob that paraded the Confederate flag through the halls of Congress.

After the last four years, it should be clear just how much leadership matters. What leaders say, what they do and who they serve matters. It’s exciting to have elected leaders at all levels of government who are committed to achieving an inclusive and just future for our country rather than a future of carnage, destruction and division.

And it’s not just new leadership in DC. We have four new members of the Bend City Council. We have a new State Representative. And we have a new County Commissioner. 

This new crop of leaders won’t always get it right; they’ll inevitably make mistakes. And the division of the last four years means that governing will remain very challenging and that the outcomes our leaders achieve will be far from perfect. But as poet Amanda Gorman said on January 20, our goal should not be “to form a union that is perfect . . . but a union with purpose.” And that is what I find most exciting about this new set of leaders: they share a common purpose of a sustainable and just future.

Our job at The Environmental Center is to persistently remind our leaders of that purpose and to ensure they take meaningful action to make it a reality. We must all recommit to hold elected leaders accountable, remain attentive and engaged, and to participate in policy and budget making processes. We are doing that work in a number of ways. We’re supporting bills in the legislature that will accelerate the transition of Oregon’s electricity supply to 100% renewable, advance electric vehicles and modernize Oregon’s reuse and recycling laws. We’re advocating for a new set of goals for the Bend City Council that will continue to prioritize a safe, walkable and bikable transportation system that serves all community members, including those who do not drive.

We’re also learning how our work connects to and supports social justice. We know that our mission–to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon–is inherently connected to the health, safety and wellbeing of all community members. We will continue to support policies and actions that protect and uplift people of color and those who have historically been oppressed and left behind. 

Our purpose remains clear: to help shape a future that’s good for all people and for the planet. We are excited to keep leaning into that purpose, in partnership with leaders and our community. Thanks for joining us.