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Ashland marchers won't give up on climate change message

Some say climate change has already “happened” and there’s not much we can do to stop the impacts from storms, drought and sea level rise. But two dozen Rogue Valley residents say they remain committed to getting the message out and plan to go to Portland to join in a nationwide “People’s Climate March” on Sept. 21.

“We’ve got to get to Congress. Many legislators now reject the science of climate change,” says Alan Journet of Jacksonville, a retired professor of biology and environmental science from Missouri. He is co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.

“It’s unfortunately necessary to demonstrate to them that large numbers of people are very concerned about it. It’s the best way — a lot of people standing up to be counted. If they accepted the science, we wouldn’t have to.”

Why don’t many conservative members of Congress accept the science?

“Because it’s very effective, the fossil fuel industry funding their campaigns and promoting the lie that the science is in dispute,” says Journet, who will be among those marching. “It appeals to our sense of comfort to hear the questions aren't settled, but they’re as settled as they’re ever going to be. Warming is happening and it’s because of us.”

It would have been much better to have acted against warming a decade ago, but we didn’t, says his wife Kathy Conway of Jacksonville, also co-facilitator of SOCAN.

"I’m not going to sit back and do nothing," she says. "I have grandchildren and have a responsibility to do everything I can to leave the planet as a place they can live in.”

A goal of the Portland march is to find out what sort of legislation Oregon’s lawmakers will support, with an eye toward tax penalties on excess carbon emissions. The Portland march will begin at 1 p.m. at Shemanski Park, 1010 SW Park Ave., in downtown Portland. 

On a personal level, Journet and Conway say they are working toward “net zero” carbon on their own home and lives.

“My parents taught us that, when you go camping, you leave the campsite cleaner than you found it,” Conway says. “You can’t leave it in worse shape.”

Louise Shawkat of Ashland says she too will join in the march.

“This is the biggest global public health challenge we face at this time," Shawkat says. "There is not one county on Earth that is doing what we should be doing to reduce the effects of climate chaos.”

Shawkat says many members of Congress once acknowledged climate change but switched sides in 2008 because to support the idea would appear to be siding with President Obama.

“It’s time to stand up and say what we believe because it’s going to affect all future generations,” says Shawkat. “I don’t believe it’s too late. I believe we are on the brink and have to make significant changes. I don’t know why the U.S. can’t be the leader in this, but we rank 46th in changing our behaviors for global warming.”

A SOCAN monthly meeting will be held at 6 p.m. today in the Medford library to discuss the Portland event as well as the main New York City march . The 30-minute discussion will feature local residents making the trip to the New York protest. It will be followed by the regular monthly meeting.

Because of the need to assemble the maximum number of Oregonians in one place, Journet said, there will be no local events coinciding with the larger marches.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


Alan Journet
Kathy Conway