The Rev. Angelo Te of Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in Ashland says "to be a good shepherd, you have to have the smell of the sheep on you," he says.
That's why he's joining in a global solidarity fast today as a call to action to address climate change and support the Philippine people, who were devastated Nov. 8 by one of the most powerful typhoons on record.
"The pope said that about being out there with the sheep and I am going to be there, fasting," says Te. "It's part of the Catholic faith. It heightens other senses and makes you aware. It makes you know so many people in the Philippines have lost homes and barely have enough food."
The 370-mile-wide typhoon and its sustained winds of 195 mph left more than 4,000 people dead and 3 million without homes, according to the United Nations.
Angelo will join others gathering on the Ashland Plaza from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. today to show support for Nadarev (Yeb) Sano, the Philippines delegate to the Conference of Parties at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland. Sano is fasting for the duration of the conference, Nov. 11-22, as a call for action to reduce global warming, which many blame for typhoon Haiyan.
A similar gathering is planned in Medford at 8:30 a.m. today in Vogel Plaza at Main Street and Central Avenue.
The public, fasting or not, is welcome to the vigils, says organizer Hannah Sohl of Rogue Climate, which is sponsoring them.
The goal of the Warsaw conference, Sohl says, is to reduce carbon emissions among the wealthy nations and to support the poorer nations located in low-lying, tropical regions most exposed to devastating storms.
Sohl says locally, hotter, drier summers, increased forest fires and less productive oyster beds are signs of global warming.
Weather forecaster and climatologist Brett Lutz of the National Weather Service in Medford agrees that global warming has arrived in the valley.
"The summer wildfires (locally) and typhoon are consistent with climate change predictions," says Lutz, a member of Rogue Climate. He adds that last summer tied for the warmest on record here, since weather records started being kept in 1911.
"That's what the International Panel on Climate Change said to expect," he says.
Participant Pam Shepherd, pastor of Ashland's United Church of Christ, said she's fasting and taking part in the vigil to draw attention to low-lying nations, such as Micronesia and the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, which are vulnerable to rising ocean levels caused by melting ice caps.
"They're being hit first and hardest," says Shepherd. "It's reaching our valley and everywhere on the planet. We're very lucky so far, but the ways the weather is changing will hurt the Rogue Valley in time."
Climate change is happening now, says Marni Koopman, a scientist with the Geos Institute in Ashland. "However, it would be a mistake to think we can't do anything. We're in a window now where we can still do a lot."
Those interested in joining the fast can visit Rogue Climate Art's Facebook page.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.