July Cheers & Jeers

We’re a week into August already, so our first Jeers for this July Cheers & Jeers column should probably go to the fact that rainy, dismal months like January and February seem to drag on forever while the sunny days of July and August fly by faster than a reporter typing on deadline.

Of course, summertime in the Pacific Northwest isn’t nearly as pleasant as it was before the realities of a quickly warming planet began to hit us — sending temperatures soaring above 100 degrees for an entire week, contributing to more intense, more destructive forest fires, stressing our flora and fauna and, as we witnessed during the summer of 2021 and again just last month, harming vulnerable outdoor workers and other neighbors who could not find respite from the relentless heat wave. Our second Jeers goes out to the people who could be helping tame runaway climate change but who, due to politics or greed or maybe just years of believing the fossil fuel industry’s disinformation campaign that promised climate change wasn’t real — or was real, but wasn’t caused by humans … or was real and maybe caused by humans, but was overblown … or was real and caused by humans and critical but way too expensive to do anything about — have failed to act and have even voted against legislation that would provide the resources necessary to reduce our nation’s carbon emissions.

The League of Conservation Voters has given our local congressional representative, Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, a lifetime score of 13% when it comes to the environment, and noted that, in 2021, Herrera Beutler joined 212 other Republicans in the House who voted against the $555 billion Build Back Better Act, which would have invested more than $320 billion in clean energy jobs and environmental justice and cut our country’s carbon emissions in half by 2030.

The League of Conservation Voters called the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House in November 2021, by a vote of 220-213 but failed to come up for a vote in the Senate thanks to the opposition of Senate Republicans and at least one Democratic senator, “the most transformative climate and environmental justice legislation in American history.” And our representative, along with every Republican in the House, voted against it. Jeers to that. We all need to keep our officials’ votes in mind as we continue to cope with record-breaking heat waves, more intense wildfires, droughts and other climate-related crises. And if you are a Republican voter who truly believes fighting climate change is too costly, keep this in mind: a report released in April showed disasters like floods, droughts, wildfires, heat waves and hurricanes, which have been made worse by climate change, are expected to cost the United States close to $2 trillion every single year by the end of the century. When we say we can’t afford to combat climate change, we have to ask ourselves how we (or, more likely, our children) will be able to afford it if we don’t back serious climate-change reduction strategies.

On a more positive note, July brought us some very good news in Camas-Washougal.

Our first Cheers of the month is for the long-awaited reopening of the Camas Public Library’s Second Story Gallery and its new focus on local artists, as well as on local young artists. If you haven’t seen the current show inside the Second Story Gallery with artwork created by students from Camas High and Hayes Freedom High, you’re missing out.

The second Cheers is for the fact that, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Camas Days celebration returned this July and seemed to go off without any major hiccups. The three-day festival, which regularly took place on the third weekend of July for decades before COVID put a temporary halt to large gatherings, arrived just before the height of the July heat wave and festival-goers seemed thrilled to gather along the streets of downtown Camas once again for the annual Kids Parade, Grand Parade, bathtub races and other popular Camas Days events.

Our third and final Cheers is for all of the folks who have pushed for a new Washougal library to be built in the city’s downtown core. After more than a decade of planning, dreaming and fundraising, Washougal library enthusiasts may have reason to celebrate in 2023, when the new library’s backers hope to be able to start construction on the new downtown library building. The Fort Vancouver Regional Library Board has committed nearly $3 million for the new Washougal library building and community fundraising has raised another $363,000. This weekend, a new fundraiser — a farm-to-table event hosted at Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner John Spencer’s Get To-Gather Farm in Washougal — will help contribute to the final push to build a new, bigger, more inclusive library for the Washougal community. Cheers to that. For more information about the library building project, visit washougallibraryfriends.org or fvrlfoundation.org.