"We've had a tremendous number of people who want to get involved now and we need to engage now more than ever before. People are discovering that non-involvement is not going to get us to where we need to be."
— Diane Hodiak
"People call us a political organization, but we're not. We're just doing what is right," Diane Hodiak says. "We've been politicized by the fossil fuel industry. Since when is science political? It shouldn't be."
Hodiak is executive director of 350Deschutes, one of the groups in the global "350" network, working to educate and organize around the cause of climate stability.
It's Hodiak's belief that for change to happen, everyone will have to become more involved. She tells a brief story about meeting a young school teacher, also a mother of twins, who wanted to do whatever she could to help make this planet a better place for her children. Hodiak says she understood that the woman already had her hands full being a mother and a teacher, but the woman was adamant about helping, saying, "No, I want to do this!" That's exactly the type of commitment Hodiak believes is necessary in the current climate scenario.
"We have a grandchild," Hodiak says. "We're concerned about the future for our children and the future of our world, and we're concerned that we make the right decisions and encourage others to engage at a level that they feel is appropriate for them."
350Deschutes has a roster of about 1,100 volunteers, Hodiak says. The group's annual People's Climate March is set to begin at noon at the Drake Park bandshell on Saturday, April 29. Youth are encouraged to gather just up the hill near the restrooms in order to lead the march, Hodiak says. "They're the ones who will be most impacted by the decisions we make today. It's our moral responsibility to act."
350Deschutes has been helping organize the annual march since its inception in 2014. Hodiak recalls that back then, the march's motto was, "To change everything, we need everyone." She says the organizers are trying to encourage that sentiment again this year.
The "350" in the group's name refers to the "safe" level of carbon in the atmosphere (in parts per million). According to information posted on the group's website, "We are now at '406,' a 'climate emergency' level. We believe that in order to return to the safe level of '350' PPM, that we must make a just transition nearly completely away from fossil fuels to clean energy, preferably by the year 2030 or 2040, but no later than 2050."
Hodiak's background is rich in work for nonprofits. Throughout her career she's started four of them. She and her husband, John Reuland, moved to Bend about eight years ago from Seattle, where Hodiak says she spent most of her adult life. "We love Bend. My husband was a mountain climber." These days, Hodiak says they enjoy birdwatching, hiking and other outdoor activities.
Speaking for 350Deschutes, Hodiak says, "We want to keep our air clean and keep Bend a livable place. Our goal is to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure, provide education and engage in climate actions with all sectors of the community." The nonprofit wants to see a transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy, she adds.
"To effect change we really do need everyone. Every action, no matter how small, adds up." Hodiak says a person doesn't have to give up their car entirely, rather, just walk more and drive less. "Or eat less red meat, sign a petition, vote for people who are climate leaders."
Hodiak says that since the presidential election last fall, "We've had a tremendous number of people who want to get involved now and we need to engage now more than ever before. People are discovering that non-involvement is not going to get us to where we need to be."
The group is now urging the Bend City Council to follow up and fund the Bend Climate Resolution that it approved last September with broad community support, according to Hodiak. She says the resolution follows the guidelines of scientists to reduce fossil fuel use, both for the City of Bend and for the community at large.
In a follow-up email after our interview, she wrote, "Following outcomes in other cities with similar policies, Bend could expect cost savings on many levels. But there are more compelling reasons to act: Climate inaction is jeopardizing our future. With the mounting expenses of extreme snow and wind this winter, council needs to review the big picture, considering these climate-related extraordinary costs. Responsible leadership implies that they protect people and businesses from the tremendous costs of business as usual. The best way to manage these huge risks is to reduce the polluting emissions that contribute to global warming."
The goal, she adds, is for Bend to reduce its carbon use and eventually become carbon neutral. She says she'd like to see the City hire a sustainability director. "Other cities that have this are saving money in the long run. Sometimes, in order to save money, you have to invest money."