“This Is Where I Grew Up”

I was invited to lead a small-group session at an event about pesticides and herbicides and their disproportionate effects on poor people and people of color.

A hundred of us traveled to a small Oregon (USA) community where a long fight has been underway against the spraying of herbicides and the resulting health effects, including miscarriage and cancer.

The speakers at the event were mostly working-class residents of rural communities. They had been personally affected by and were waging fights in their communities against the aerial spraying of herbicides (a huge component of clear-cutting1). A few people came to defend the use of spraying on their land. There were ten breakout sessions on a range of great topics related to organizing.

I had been asked to do something on listening, in part as an antidote to despair. I led two forty-five-minute sessions—introductions to RC, called “Listening Partnerships: A Key Resource for Social Change.”

The first one was lovely. Four people attended—including two students of color and a woman who teaches theater arts. They were great, loved it, and said they’d like to pursue it further. In such a brief time they got a picture of RC, our thinking about humans and society, and a taste of our listening process and how helpful it might be to them and the larger effort.

Just one woman came to the next session. She loved it and asked me to come out and teach the same thing to her women’s group in her small rural community, which I might do.

Powerful for me was noticing how personal the issue of herbicides is for those of us who grew up here. During a bus tour, we drove through west Eugene, where poor people live and the big polluting industries are. A man talked at length about forest practices. A woman wondered why people working in the forestry industry don’t get it,2 when their children are also being exposed to herbicides. I stood up and said, “People have pride in their work. Tremendous skill is involved in this industry, and people need to be appreciated for what they do.” I also wanted to say that the industry is part of the culture here, has been the life here, and is the work that has been available. I had a lot of feelings about it. Later I got to cry hard, noticing that this is where I grew up; this is the industry I grew up with. My dad was a forester, and my classmates’ dads worked in the mills.

I’m inspired to have more conversations with people from here and listen to how deep this goes for them. Facing environmental issues and changing our practices mean facing how important forestry work has been, and everything about our connection to this place.

Cameron Hubbe
Eugene, Oregon, USA


1 “Clear-cutting” is a way of logging a forest in which every tree in a large area is cut down. Herbicides are sprayed in the clear-cut areas after new trees are planted, to keep all the other plant species from competing with the newly planted trees. Biodiversity, soil quality, water quality, and habitat are vastly reduced in clear-cut areas.
2 “Get it” means understand the issue.

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00