Introducing Pualina Durham

Oregon PSR is proud to announce that we have a new Clean Air Organizer, Paulina Durham (she/her)! Paulina comes to Oregon PSR from the State Capital where she worked as a legislative aide to Senator Deb Patterson, who introduced the Covanta Incineration Regulation bill this past session. We are very excited to have Paulina on our staff and can’t wait for you all to meet her! To start that process off, we asked Paulina a few questions to help us get to know her.

Q: How would you describe your role at Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility?  

A: My role is to work with members of the community impacted by the Covanta incinerator, health care providers, and coalition partners while engaging in legislative advocacy in order to hold Covanta accountable for the harm it continues to cause. I also do quite a bit of research on the path forward to zero waste, models that have been used successfully by other communities, and the harm that incinerators can cause. 

Q: What do you see as the connection between clean air and a transition to zero waste?

A: To me, a transition to zero waste is the only way to ensure that those affected by the Covanta incinerator are breathing clean air. I see this issue as one of bodily autonomy; everyone has the right to know if they are unknowingly absorbing toxins, carcinogens, and other harmful substances, and they have the right to live, work, and study in a place in which they are not unwillingly absorbing these substances. Zero waste is the path forward to achieving agency and autonomy for those affected by the incinerator around the air they breathe.

Q: How will you balance working with health professionals and frontline community members? 

A: I believe that each group adds an important thread to the narrative: health professionals can speak to the broad health impacts caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, but frontline community members can speak to their individual experiences. I believe in treating both voices as central to our discussion and to our mission, while prioritizing the voices of those who are directly affected by the incinerator when carving a path forward.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Oregon?

A: It’s hard to pick a favorite! I guess it’s a tie between trying and experiencing the wonderful food in Oregon and walking or hiking in Oregon’s parks and trails. I didn’t grow up near so many beautiful places to enjoy nature (or with all four seasons), and it still feels new and wonderful when I walk through a Portland park in the fall or drive up the Oregon coast in the summer. 

Q: Tell us something about you!

A: I like to sew in my spare time! In high school, I used to make some costumes for the theater productions I was involved in, and I still work on clothing projects for myself.