Bomb Trains and Butterflies

[Patti Robrahn, an active member of XRPDX and of the affinity group XRArt, gave this speech on April 29, 2023 across from the gates of Zenith Energy as part of the “Bloom Not Doom” action during The Spring Rebellion.]

Once I became a mother, the reality of our changing climate started to sink in. To be honest, I don’t know how much I paid attention until I had created two new people who were going to inhabit the future. I struggled with the sadness of realizing I’d brought my daughters into a world where they would feel this great impact of climate change, without having made the decisions that led to it. While that is the way each generation leads to the next, I thought, how utterly unfair of us to see the problem, and do little more than shrug our shoulders in hopelessness. My kids were at least going to know that I did what I could to move the needle of progress. 

So, in the fall of 2021, I got involved with Extinction Rebellion. I have a design background, so I figured I could help paint signs or something. I soon learned about what’s been going on out here at the CEI Hub – how Zenith’s (and other corporations’) unreinforced oil tanks sit here on land that will liquify in an earthquake, all the while releasing unfiltered, toxic chemicals into the air our children and grandchildren breathe, and how the dirtiest oil in the country casually rolls through Portland neighborhoods.

I found myself juxtaposing a bomb train with a butterfly. Little did I know my interest in protest art would soon lead me to create images, slogans, poems, a soundtrack, and a street performance – things I hadn’t even imagined I could do. And in the midst of it all, I got to work side by side with some people whose fiery badassery still inspires me. 

On June 4, 2022, we marched across the bridge [from Highway 30] and to the doorstep of Zenith with our message. The choice was clear then, and remains so now – we can accept the DOOM that’s been forced upon us by the failure of our city leaders, or we can tell Zenith to get the hell out of our backyard! Let’s get ready to restore this land and let it BLOOM!

This isn’t just the work of activists – every member of the community has skills and interests that can advance the effort, if only they choose to share them. Folksinger Joan Baez said that “Action is the antidote to despair,” and that has been true for me.


What are you good at? 

That’s what we need.

Together we will restore this land and let it BLOOM!

About Patti Robrahn

Patti is an enthusiastic future-seeker, a homeschool parent, and an occasional soapmaker. She was born into a doomsday cult and she’ll be damned if she lets them be right.


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