Fighting for the Environment
Growing up in Oregon, Nora Apter spent countless hours exploring the state’s mountains and valleys, rivers and beaches. Throughout her high school years, she saved up money for a trip to see the wildlife in Botswana. Her affinity for nature matured at Lewis &Clark, blending seamlessly with her study of international affairs.
“I wrote my senior thesis about the greening of the major political parties in Germany between 1960 and 2010 and the sustainable policies they enacted,” she says. “My advisor Cyrus Partovi and my thesis advisor Cari Coe were incredible mentors who took a genuine interest in my education and my success.”
Apter is the climate program director for the Oregon Environmental Council. Founded in 1968, the council works directly with businesses, elected officials, and community leaders to advance lasting, equitable solutions to protect Oregon’s environment. Previously, she served as a legislative advocate and deputy director of federal affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. She also worked with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden as a legislative aide and correspondent.
“I’m constantly learning every day, whether it’s a new approach to building relationships with partners or identifying new and emerging technologies,” she says.
Apter, who grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, planned to attend college out of state. But when she visited Lewis &Clark, she felt at home in a community of like-minded students who were devoted to civic engagement and social responsibility. She’d traveled extensively with her family and recognized the enormous privilege and power America asserted around the globe. “I was drawn to international affairs to learn how to harness those dynamics for the greater good,” says Apter, who also studied economics.
At the Oregon Environmental Council, Apter forms coalitions and partnerships that include representatives of business, BIPOC populations (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), rural and low-income communities, and advocates in the state legislature and administrative agencies to advance strong climate protections in Oregon. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions, she says, would have immediate health benefits. It’s especially relevant during today’s pandemic. “Climate stressors like extreme heat and wildfire smoke may worsen COVID-19 outcomes,” she says. “Evidence shows that people who live in places with higher air pollution are more likely to die from the disease.”
During Oregon’s 2021 legislative session, Apter is working with coalition partners to advance a package of bills that would support an equitable transition to a clean energy economy, including requiring that Oregon’s electricity be generated by 100 percent clean, emissions-free energy sources. Her organization is also focused on advancing energy affordability by allowing different rates for low-income households as well as enabling more energy-efficient buildings and appliances; advancing transportation electrification; and supporting investments in home retrofits and weatherization for low-income Oregonians. Oregon, she says, has been an environmental leader, passing coal to clean energy legislation in 2016 and embracing Governor Kate Brown’s executive order for the Clean Fuels Program in 2020. But she says the state is in danger of losing ground. Still, she remains hopeful.
“If I get frustrated or discouraged, I’m able to channel those feelings into my work,” she says. “Fighting for the environment is my dream job.”
—by Pattie Pace