Editor’s Note: Yesterday, founding NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton, a committed champion for environmental protection, was honored as Washington Conservation Voters’ Legislator of the Year. The following is the text of Gael’s acceptance speech, which she delivered from the stage at WCV’s Breakfast of Champions.
Hello Washington Conservation Voters!
Thank you for believing we must take on climate change.
Thank you for going on offense to bring renewable energy choices to our state.
Thank you for this honor. I am so deeply grateful to be selected as your legislator of the year. I never had a plan to take on the struggle to combat climate change.
But my sisters have told me it was inevitable that I would decide to go climb the highest mountain. That I’d see the challenge of moving beyond a fossil-fuel economy and say: “I am going to give it all I’ve got to win this race.”
We’re in a different kind of race now.
For the past thirty years, we’ve been running a marathon.
Now? It’s time to sprint.
Nonstop. For the next decade.
I love the ocean. I grew up on the Atlantic coast, riding the waves and hanging out at the harbor to watch the fishing boats in a small town called Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts. This is why – when my husband and I moved to Seattle in 1990 — we chose to live on the saltwaters of Shilshole Bay with the North Pacific Fishing Fleet right down the road.
We moved here for my husband to get a PhD at the University of Washington.
But that was just an excuse. The real reason?
The call of the wild salmon and steelhead.
Every year, we’d leave our desk jobs at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. and take two weeks to fly-fish, hike and explore the Pacific Northwest. What we discovered?
The magic of the Olympic rainforest.
The awe of spawning salmon racing between our legs to get upriver.
The mystery of the pink salmon runs every odd year in Puget Sound and Elliott Bay.
The mania of the chum salmon runs at midnight on Hood Canal.
And so we headed west for good, leaving our jobs, families, friends, and D.C. behind us. Nearly thirty years later, I am desperately trying to figure out how we move beyond fossil fuels.
How we prevent more catastrophic climate events from decimating our communities.
How we protect people’s health with clean air, clean water, and clean food.
How we save orcas, wild fish runs, the ocean, forests, rivers, and wheat fields from devastating droughts, fires and hotter temperatures year-round.
The era of climate meltdown has arrived.
Now we must act – not just talk about changing the path forward – but take the new path forward. I will support Washington Conservation Voters, our partners, and my colleagues to get a low-carbon fuel standard.
I will give it all I’ve got to have Washington State get to a one hundred percent clean grid by 2030… because even if we only get to ninety or ninety-five percent, it’s better than settling for seventy percent.
I will keep fighting to protect Initiative 937, because it is helping our state adopt clean-energy solutions in every community.
And we must pass Initiative 1631 on November 6th and put a fee on carbon pollution at long last. There is so much to do. It is hard to imagine victory.
But I go to work every day with my Mom’s favorite saying running through my brain: Carpe Diem. Seize the day.
We must fight every day, for the rest of our lives, to save the Salish Sea so that it is still home to whales and salmon and tribal traditions generations from now.
We must move to a way of life that does not depend on fossil fuels.
Here’s to all of you. Let’s go win this fight for our future.
Thank you so much.