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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Cottage Grove, Oregon, USA

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Cottage Grove, Oregon, USA
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Registered: December 2007
Posts: 1
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I passed the threshold and entered the room in Lane County Courthouse. I saw a ledger and signed my name. I took a seat to the side of the room, surveyed the five commissioners, and waited. I did not come to the courthouse as a criminal, but as a concerned citizen protesting a claim under Measure 37, a law which allows Oregonians to ignore land use restrictions from after they purchased their property. Head Commissioner Faye Stewart excused himself from the meeting because of a conflict of interest: Bruce Stewart, the claimant, was his father. The moment when I would defend the environment and productively use my speech skills was coming. The hearing would finally begin.
I have always cherished the environment, but had never before had an opportunity to defend it. When Mosby Creek fizzed with legally sanctioned pollutants, the issue was too big. How could I act against the seemingly monolithic institution that dumps toxins into the water, changes the landscape, and darkens the sky? Since 2004, thousands of people have used Oregon Ballot Measure 37 to remove environmental restrictions on their land, but only property owners who live close to a claimant receive invitations to speak at Measure 37 hearings. When such an invitation came, I immediately started working. What was once monolithic was now decentralized. I could not solve the world’s problems in one fell swoop, but now I did not have to. This hearing marked the beginning of my environmental activism.
Those in charge declared that it was time for speeches by community members. I looked around. I was the only community member present. I took a breath, stood up, and walked to the podium. I treated this process exactly like a debate: I used quotes from law to craft an interpretation of Measure 37 and identified why Bruce Stewart’s interpretation was illogical, set a bad precedent, and stood against the measure’s intent. Along with my legal demand, I included an emotional plea, a narrative begging for regulations because of the pain of seeing the land polluted, overdeveloped, and abused.
In the end, I convinced two of the four commissioners to vote against Mr. Stewart. Despite the conflict of interest, Faye Stewart broke the tie, so Bruce Stewart’s claim was upheld. Though I was unsuccessful, I now see the power of my voice. I felt outraged about environmental abuse and influenced people in power to act. Debate showed me how to use my rhetorical skills, but not when. This was the first time I had spoken for an issue that was so personally important. I now know that my research abilities are not confined to debate, but can also be used for reform. This hearing was instrumental in my decision to continue debating in college and to volunteer at the Oregon Debate Institute. I discovered that debate is not just a training ground for lawyers but is an essential part of democratic participation. Now when I see injustice, I think, I research, and I speak.
· Date: December 28, 2007 · Views: 5232 · File size: 21.0kb, 249.5kb · : 1040 x 1392 ·
Hours Volunteered: 14
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 15
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 9
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): NA
Native Trees Planted: NA
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