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Eastern Washington Legislative Conference 2024

Environmental leaders present a taste of hope


John Wallingford of the Cathedral of St. John, Naghmana Sherazi of The Lands Council, Tom Soeldner of the Sierra Club and Sarah Robinson of Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light (WAIPL) spoke on "Renewing Hope for the Future" at the 2024 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference environmental plenary.

Each shared progress they see.


John Wallingford uplifts accomplishments, awareness.

John Wallingford has organized Hope for Creation conferences for two years at St. John's to raise awareness on environmental issues before the 50th anniversary of Spokane's Expo '74, the first World Fair focused on the environment. After Expo, Spokane became a leader in environmental care.

John sees hope in scientific accomplishments, interventions, and increased awareness.

"With science, we can use ethylene to improve plant growth, so we can grow more," he said. "We can capture carbon dioxide with microorganisms and improve carbon capture with chemistry. We have materials to improve solar batteries and can remove jet fuel exhaust and combustion."

He said scientists are discussing how trees recover after wildfires and farm machinery now recognizes weeds using facial recognition so farmers can spray just the weeds.

The U.S. government plans to protect old growth forests, and the Bureau of Land Management is using Indigenous knowledge to manage western lands.

Laminated timber skyscrapers in Sweden that use renewable resources are a carbon sink.

John listed local accomplishments: protecting the Saltese Flats and Waikiki Springs, and having one of the nation's best wastewater treatment plants.

"Many new organizations have sprung up on environmental issues. There are now 30,000 environmental NGOs in the U.S.," he said.

The Lands Council is 40 years old. Climate Justice is new. Earth Ministry is part of the national Interfaith Power and Light.

"Each speaker today has expertise on work in environmental care from different perspectives," he said.


Naghmana Sherazi counters those without hope.

Naghmana Sherazi, who is climate justice program director with The Lands Council and a member of Muslims for Community Action and Support, is driven by her concern that today's children may die from climate change causing heat waves and wildfire smoke.

She is heartbroken that her son does not want to bring children onto this planet.

She recently asked 300 people gathered at a Priority Spokane meeting how many want to make the world better for their children and grandchildren. Most raised their hands.

In a global survey, however, more than three-fourths of youth expect the planet to die.

To counter those without hope, Naghmana shared a video of Hannah Ritchie, a young woman who tells of changes she sees that give her hope: the prices of electric vehicles are dropping so more can buy them; eco-friendly structures sequester carbon and breathe out oxygen, and there are efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

"We can start locally and talk about what we can do," said Naghmana, urging people to influence policies, invite people to express their visions, and stand up for bills in the legislature. "We need to be sure our voices are heard."

Aware of the impact of heat in low-income areas with little shade, The Lands Council plans to plant trees in its spring Spokanopy campaign.

"We have planted 125,000 trees since 2012 to reforest urban neighborhoods. We seek to increase urban shade by 22 percent by 2030," she said, inviting groups and faith communities to help plant trees beginning May 4.

"There is hope. We need to continue to hope and continue to get involved," Naghmana said.



Tom Soeldner offers five suggestions for action.

Tom Soeldner, a teacher, pastor, member of Sierra Club's Spokane River Team and co-coordinator of the Ethics and Treaty Project, shared news about area rivers.

From 1999 to 2009, Sierra Club encouraged Avista to follow the Clean Water Act and to restore water year-round to the upper Spokane Falls in keeping with the Clean Water Act.

After more than 10 years of court battles, the Sierra Club and Environmental Protection Agency settled, agreeing to establish PCB remediation and set a daily limit for release of PCB pollution into the Spokane River.

Tom urges ongoing support for Spokane Riverkeeper.

With the renegotiation of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty, originally established for flood control and power generation, the U.S. and Canada are considering ecosystem functions in dam operations to promote salmon passage, wildlife safety and protection of lands.

The U.S. has not included tribes at the table, as Canada has, but is doing some consulting with them. Negotiations continue.

In 2023, tribes were granted $1 billion to restore salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basins. Tribes have comprehensive plans for salmon habitat, water quality and replacing services of dams, he said.

Salmon re-introduced above Grand Coulee and Chief Joe dams spawned and went past the dams to the ocean and came back.

He urges citizens to support the work of conservation organizations and Indigenous sovereign nations.

"Scientists tell us the planet has survived five great extinctions and we have entered the sixth, the first to be wholly caused by humanity's appetites and lifestyles," Tom said.

"Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world," he said.

"It is based on commitment, not optimism. Hope calls us to live into that hope and do what we can to sustain the beauty, fullness and variety of earth's life," Tom clarified.

He offers five suggestions:

1) Think holistically about sustaining all life, not just human lives, because humans depend on all living things.

2) Select a focus and put energy there.

3) Act locally and connect with local groups.

4) Connect with and support Indigenous knowledge and leadership. Indigenous people have millennia of experience and use the best science.

5) Be satisfied with enough. Conservation is the way forward. Consume less.



Sarah Robinson urges action against pipeline.

Sarah Robinson, who is the advocacy director of Earth Ministry/WAIPL, urged challenging the proposal of TC Energy to push more gas from British Columbia through old GTN pipelines that go through North Idaho, Eastern Washington and Oregon to Northern California.

"It locks us into fossil fuel use rather than renewable energy," she said.

"Thousands of residents have written letters. Attorneys general, senators, governors and faith leaders in the region have expressed their opposition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's recent approval. There will be more opportunities to express opposition," said Sarah, calling for asking the Biden Administration to review FERC's approval.

"We can write letters to bring our stories, express solidarity with indigenous communities and raise concern about health impacts," she said.

"We are responsible to keep on acting, aware there is much we can do to make the world more livable," Sarah said.

The EWLC24 videos are available HERE or directly at

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March 2024