By Anika Nykanen
Jay Bozievich, Republican member of the Lane County Board of Commissioners, revealed his climate change-denying beliefs several weeks ago in an email exchange with Eugene’s Sunrise Movement, a regional chapter of the national environmental youth activist organization.
Bozievich, a major advocate for “public safety spending” for rural sheriff patrols and prosecution services, was elected to the five-member Board of Commissioners in 2010 — during the height of the Tea Party movement. He says he was motivated to run by the board’s refusal to direct funding towards spending on jail beds.
However, over the course of his tenure as a commissioner, Bozievich has proven an outspoken advocate for the timber industry as well as law enforcement. Most recently, Bozievich cast the lone dissenting vote against withdrawing the board’s membership from a timber lobbying group, the Association of O & C Counties.
Eugene Weekly reported that according to Devon Ashbridge, Lane County’s public information officer, the county paid $76,995 in dues to AOCC and $29,263
to AOCC’s litigation fund in fiscal year 2017-18. Bozievich’s dissenting vote is comprehensible only within the context of his campaign finances — which are heavily subsidized by the timber industry.
In his most recent campaign, according to EW, $80,500 of $96,175 in donations came from timber and development-oriented firms, including a hefty $10,000 from the Seneca Jones Timber Company.
His email exchange with Sunrise, which included a link to an article describing climate change as a “hoax,” is similarly understandable through an examination of campaign contributions. In the email, Bozievich asked the youth activists “if your group is open to hearing from scientists that disagree with the IPCC or if you have closed your minds to conflicting data and information about the science of CO2 driven climate change.”
Bozievich’s astounding query disregards the function of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change as an objective organization that reviews thousands of scientific papers each year to compile comprehensive climate reports. The speciousness of his statement is underscored by his citation of a discredited conspiracy-propagating news outlet, Natural News, to back up his assertion that credible “conflicting data” exists regarding the causes and impacts of climate change.
Natural News is widely recognized by scientists and health advocates as one of the most prominent purveyors of false and misleading environmental and health information, including discouraging the use of insulin for diabetes, chemotherapy for cancer treatment and vaccination in all forms. As outlandish as these claims seem, they are no more outrageous than challenging the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is greatly caused by human activities.
More than 97 percent of climate scientists agree. “Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of such climate change, but deforestation by timber companies, including the ones sponsoring Bozievich, such as Seneca Jones, exacerbates anthropomorphic climate change by reducing the Earth’s ability to sequester and regulate CO2 levels.
Deforestation also destroys critical habitat for endangered species in Oregon, such as the marbled murrelet, and is a significant factor in the Sixth Mass Extinction, which is killing up to 200 species a day, according to the UN’s Environment Programme.
Bozievich concluded his email to the Sunrise Movement with a stab at open-mindedness: “I am hoping you all are open to all points of view and have been trained in critical thinking.”
A strange comment, considering that in 2019, it takes vacuum-sealed closed mindedness to deny the science behind climate change. Or maybe it just takes a single $10,000 campaign contribution from Seneca Jones Timber Company.
Anika Nykanen is a member of Eugene’s Sunrise Movement and a senior majoring in English at the University of Oregon.