As students of Lewis and Clark College, specifically in the Environmental Studies program, it is imperative that we learn, and practice, successful engagement with a diverse range of individuals and parties in our community and beyond. In actively doing so this semester, we have officially begun creating partnerships with organizations in the Northwest Oregon regions that represent/advocate for different voices on various environmental issues, One of these is the Portland Harbor Community Coalition (PHCC), a group actively working to represent minorities and at-risk individuals in the fight to clean up and restore the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. This organization is one whose main focus is outreach and advocacy for community members. Their biggest strengths, and weaknesses, however, lie in the ways in which they are able to communicate with and involve a diverse community. While PHCC has created and maintained many partnerships, there are still certain demographics being left out of getting to have a voice. Thus, through brainstorming collaboration opportunities between PHCC and Lewis and Clark students, there seems to be opportunity for a wider range of individuals to be reached through up-to-date technological outlets!”–Collaborating in the Technocentric Age
After examining multiple opportunities to engage with PHCC and other stakeholders, and in speaking with Cassie Cohen, the executive director of PHCC, the obvious need to reconnect with younger groups of the population quickly arose. PHCC has many ties to older generations through years of active involvement in the community, but lacks the sort of communication with younger groups, aside from families, that could really make a difference. Even the coalition itself, not just its outreach targets, consists largely of those of older generations (those over 40). Meanwhile, the median age in Portland is 37.6 (datausa.io) Finding an inlet for new participants and stakeholders to get involved without previous ties or word of mouth seems most necessary at this time for PHCC.
While having the support of the ‘unexotic underclass’ (minorities, families, and older community members) is important and reflective of their core values, the involvement and support of younger generations is crucial to making change (Luyet). Almost 50% of the population of Portland is under 30, and over 40% of automatic voter registrants are under 30, despite being only 20% of the overall adult population in the US being such (censusreporter.org). Being that legislative change is much of what PHCC is a proponent of, having more voters and comments from voters could speed up the momentum behind these clean-up efforts.
Combining the groups that PHCC strives to represent and that we are examining (the ‘unexotic underclass’ and those under 40), it is also apparent that those groups are one-in-the-same to a degree. “While Oregon sees net population gains among all age groups, most new migrants into Oregon are in their 20’s and 30’s, primarily in their root-setting years” (Oregon Office Of Economic Analysis). These groups represent a portion of the population that is new to the area, and most likely, new to the issues going on surrounding the Portland Harbor Superfund Site and its clean up and remediation processes.
Being that the priorities of PHCC include providing adequate, affordable housing (in neighborhoods near the river), support of the houseless, and greater public access to the river (including community and youth projects and groups), supporting younger groups that are in their ‘root-setting’ years (and perhaps on their way to these years) is crucial (PHCC Priorities). Thus, the increased participation and engagement of this age group with the Portland Harbor Community Coalition could greatly strengthen their relationship with the community and other stakeholders.
“Community Priorities.” Portland Harbor Community Coalition. n.d. http://ourfutureriver.org/community-priorities/.
Jarreau, P. B., Dahmen, N. S. and Jones, E. (2019). ‘Instagram and the science museum: a missed opportunity for public engagement’. JCOM 18 (02), A06. https://doi.org/10.22323/2.18020206.
Lehner, Josh “Report: STEM+ Trends in Oregon.” Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. January 28, 2016. https://oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2016/01/28/report-stem-trends-in-oregon/.
Luyet, Vincent, Rodolphe Schlaepfer, Marc B. Parlange, and Alexandre Buttler. 2012. “A Framework to Implement Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Projects.” Journal of Environmental Management 111 (November): 213–19.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.026.
Nnaemeka, C.Z. 2013. “The Unexotic Underclass.” New Geography (June). https://www.newgeography.com/content/003767-the-unexotic-underclass.
“Portland, OR” Data USA. 2017. https://datausa.io/profile/geo/portland-or/