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Fighting Climate Change in Southern Oregon with SOCAN


Fighting Climate Change in Southern Oregon with SOCAN

Leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd, Insight to Ashland has presented three articles over the past few weeks from Southern Oregon Climate Action Now co-founder Alan Journet. You will find the three articles below, as well as our final article, a Q&A with Alan.

Part 1: Rogue Basin’s Climate Trends and ProjectionsLINK
Part 2: Concerns on the Keystone XL pipeline. LINK
Part 3: Saving the Environment One Person at a TimeLINK

Ashland will be celebrating Earth Day at ScienceWorks tomorrow from 11:00am – 4:00pm, among other great events. SOCAN is sponsoring a walk against climate change starting at the Ashland plaza and walking to ScienceWorks. All are invited to participate.

Insight to Ashland: I understand you and Kathy Conway are the founders of SOCAN. Could you talk about yourselves, your history with environmental activism and explain a bit about when and why you two decided to start the organization?

Alan Journet: Dr. Kathy Conway (born and raised in Eugene) and I relocated to Southern Oregon in Fall, 2010 after teaching for several decades at Southeast Missouri State University (located in Cape Girardeau – Rush Limbaugh’s home town), Kathy in math and elementary education and me in biology. For many years we were involved in the local Trail of Tears Group of the Sierra Club and more recently started a group called the Southeast Missouri Climate Protection Initiative which had similar objectives to those of SOCAN. It was my teaching of ecology for many years that generated concern in me about the consequences of climate projections for natural and agricultural and forestry systems that stimulated my activism and led me to explore the science of climate change to assess its credibility. Having been convinced of this, it became necessary for me to promote community awareness and understanding about the issue whenever possible. Upon moving to Southern Oregon we were surprised to discover that although there are several organizations that undertake climate related activities, there existed no regional organization that targeted climate change as its primary concern. After participating in organizing and attending several local climate related events, and giving several presentations on the issue of climate change, we joined with a number of locally concerned individuals to establish a regional organization that soon became Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.

ITA: SOCAN stands for Southern Oregon Climate Action Now. Why did you come up with that name specifically?

Alan: When the organization first started meeting, those attending decided on the name Southern Oregon Climate Action Network. After a few months the leaders proposed changing that to Southern Oregon Climate Action Now because network seemed less related to what we are doing than did the action imperative “Now”.  The name reflects where we live and what we are trying to do: namely stimulate citizen action to address the problem of climate change.

ITA: There is a lot of information that people are presented with in terms of climate change, and there is a portion of the population that is still unsure about the human impact on climate. Could you speak to some of the doubt that exists and display your case as to why you believe climate change is such threat to the environment?

Alan: While there exists some doubt in some corners of the public arena, there really exists none in the scientific arena. The reality is that fully 97% of climate scientists agree with two key ideas: “The planet is warming” and “Human activities are almost certainly contributing to this warming”. Furthermore, every professional scientific society that has expressed a view on this issue agrees as do all National Academies of Science. While there remain a few climate scientists who reject the consensus view, they largely report their opinions on web sites and in vanity publication and refuse to subject their analyses to review by the climate science experts. Furthermore, they claim that the professional societies and academies in collaboration with the 97% of climate scientists who agree with the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (2007 views expressed above) are part of a huge international conspiracy to subvert the global economy and promote a left wing political agenda.  Not surprisingly, sectors in the fossil fuel industry are using their huge profits (and taxpayer subsidies) to support the climate skeptics in their views and fund a campaign of lies and distortions about the issue. This campaign is designed to promote doubt among an electorate that is largely uninformed about the science of climate change, the consequences as it happens, and the imperative of addressing it. Regrettably, this campaign seems more successful in the United States than it is elsewhere.

ITA: Speaking of threats, what do you think are the main, major threats to (of/posed by) climate change? The Keystone XL Pipeline is in the news a lot lately, is that considered a major threat to climate change?

Alan: Since local issues are what most grabs attention, let’s think about those. The first point to make is that climate change is not an event that may or may not happen at some stage in the future; it is here and it is now. Patterns we are already seeing are a consequence of our changing climate. Should these projections come to pass, our natural, agricultural, and forest systems will be devastated. And this does not even take into account destruction of marine systems resulting from ocean acidification caused by the same Carbon dioxide that is responsible for much of the atmospheric warming.

The reason Keystone XL is a problem is that it will allow extraction, shipment, and processing of the worst possible fossil fuel.

*What are some of the projects that SOCAN is involved with currently? What are some of the goals that SOCAN has in the near, medium and long terms?

The SOCAN Mission is to acknowledge the need for bold action to address climate, change, promote awareness and understanding about the science of climate change and the consequences, and motivate individuals to take action to address it. Projects that are underway include:

*Encouraging individuals, and entities to divest (remove money from) fossil fuel corporations.

*Helping teachers increase attention to climate change in the schools.

*Encouraging weather reporters to spend more time connecting the dots when it comes to weather patterns and the projections that climate science indicates.

*Engaging elected representatives and public agencies at all levels in discussions about climate change and stimulating appropriate responses to the issue.

*Promoting energy efficiency and the benefits of renewable energy generation.

*Offering presentations on the issue (global, national, local) to any groups wishing to learn about it.

ITA: It seems like many people are extremely disturbed by what’s happening with our environment, but just don’t know what they can do. What advice do you have for those wanting to make a positive impact for the environment?

Alan: Individual action is a necessary but insufficient response to the problem; it is necessary because without a personal commitment we cannot persuade others, including elected officials to respond appropriately, and thus cannot become a national role model in addressing it. It is insufficient because ultimately, addressing climate change will require considerable national and international effort.

Individually, what we each need to do is add into our week-by-week accounting energy use – especially when much of that energy is generated from burning fossil fuels (as most of it is locally). This means we should reduce, reuse and recycle – reduce travel costs whenever possible, reduce our consumption of ‘stuff’ buying locally produced items whenever possible, and avoid throwing items away that can be re-used or recycled. This requires that we each develop a consciousness about energy consumption that previously few of us have maintained. From turning lights off to avoiding unnecessary travel we must think before we act.

Collectively, we must start supporting candidates at all levels of government who are committed to factoring into all their decisions the impact of proposals on climate change. We should also support proposals that are designed to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane (natural gas), nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases.

ITA: What do you think the local business community and local governments can do to play a role for positive change environmentally?

Alan: Many local businesses are already stepping up to the plate by reducing consumption, promoting energy use efficiency, and reducing unnecessary energy use. Consumers can help them by rewarding those that do pay attention to their impact – and avoiding those that don’t. In the same way, local city and county representatives can make sure that activities within their jurisdiction (city or county) are undertaken with a view to minimizing fossil fuel consumption. Additionally, representatives can commit to helping their communities prepare for the climate change that is here and now, and will inevitably get worse before it gets better.

ITA: If someone wanted to learn more about climate change, what are some resources that they might want to utilize to educate themselves?

Alan: Probably the best source of current knowledge is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2013 report Chapter 1 – The Physical Science Basis. The ‘Summary for Policymakers’ offers a brief summary, while the complete report is quite readable and understandable. These are free, and available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/.

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t urge readers to visit http://socan.info and consider joining us in our efforts to promote Intergenerational Justice by doing what we can to assure a livable planet for future generations.