Leaders of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now say the organization's goals are to help people realize climate change is happening and to help them “get it” that lawmakers in Washington aren’t going to do much about it.
That means efforts to combat climate change can be most effective at the local and state levels, a “bottom-up” model preached by Alan Journet, prime mover of SOCAN. The organization is staging a gathering in Medford on Oct. 13 and 14, called “Our Critical Climate: Trends, Impacts & Solutions: A Rogue Basin Summit.”
That title, Journet says, highlights the need for educating people on what climate change means — and what action they can take, here, in the Rogue bio-region.
Climate change is a global issue, which can make the thought of tackling it daunting. But that's no reason not to try, Journet says.
“It’s a moral imperative to do my share, to do what I can do," he says. "This puts us in the position to persuade family, friends and then elected representatives to do what they can do.”
The three-year old SOCAN doesn’t have “members,” but signs up people — 700 so far — to be on its mailing list, get educational emails and invitations to events and join in as they choose. That includes environmental science interns from Southern Oregon University, who are helping organize educational networks, not just for local lawmakers, he says, but for every legislative district in the state.
“Our mission is to promote education and awareness about the consequences of climate change and to stimulate action,” says Journet.
Examples of that include three-session mini-courses at North Mountain Park Nature Center and Coyote Trails School of Nature, teaching a course at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, helping install solar energy at Ruch Community School, showing the Emmy Award-winning “Years of Living Dangerously” series at libraries and lobbying legislators.
“The best way to get people energized,” says Journet, “is to talk to them about what’s happening.”
And what's happening, SOCAN warns, is a buildup of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel use, leading to warming of the atmosphere and oceans, extinctions of many species, a rise in ocean level, increases of extreme weather events such as wildfire and hurricanes, low snowpack, drought and impacts on food and water supplies.
Many people bemoan that the release of so much carbon has already happened and can’t be undone, so they walk away from the troubling issue. But Eric Dittmer, SOCAN activist and SOU emeritus professor of environmental science, says that's no answer.
“If my granddaughter someday asks me, ‘What did you do back then to stop it?’ I don’t want to tell her I did nothing,” Dittmer says.
“Despair is not an option,” says SOCAN participant Elizabeth Hallett of Ashland, who adds that watching “Years of Living Dangerously” succeeded in “really getting the whole thing out of my mind and into my gut – and you do not get this from our media."
"It sobered me up," she said. "I got the Earth is withering and humans are responsible for it. We are in the sixth great extinction now and it wasn’t caused by any asteroid.”
Much of the educational effort of SOCAN is teaching people that it’s not just a forest management problem here and a water shortage problem there, says Journet.
“It’s all one problem," he says. "People don’t see that. We’re going to have to live with it. Snowpack is down to 10 or 20 percent of normal in the West. That means less water and more fires, more storms, drought, floods. ... We — and the media — need to connect the dots.”
As a teaching tool, SOCAN advocates can estimate how, if everyone lived at your standard, with your house, cars and fuel use, “How many Earths would it take to support it?”
Dittmer did the process for his family and, he says, “It would take 4.5 Earths to support everyone if they lived as I do. Our footprint is pretty big.”
For more on SOCAN and its events, see socan.info.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.