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Residents worried for the world

A wildfire- and smoke-filled summer in the West, coupled with an onslaught of hurricanes on the other side of the country, have many Rogue Valley residents worried about climate change.

The group Southern Oregon Climate Action Now captured those concerns for an art exhibit running through October at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.

Located on the second floor, the exhibit includes small photos of local residents, slips of paper they filled out with their opinions, and a few life-sized cut-out photographs of participants with their quotes.

"When our beautiful Rogue Valley is consumed by smoke, and Houston is under water, we are once again reminded of the realities of climate change," Anne Meiring wrote on her paper. "We need to act now!"

While scientists are loathe to tie any single natural disaster to climate change, many say warmer temperatures over time are leading to longer, hotter and dryer wildfire seasons in the West.

For states near the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, warmer temperatures add energy and power to hurricanes. Hurricanes are like giant engines that convert heat energy into mechanical energy in the form of powerful winds and waves, according to NASA.

Members of SOCAN wanted to discover whether residents of Southern Oregon worry about climate change, and if so, what their chief concerns are. They gathered photos and opinions from more than 60 people — from kids to seniors — near places like the growers' market in Medford.

With the Rogue Valley encircled by wildfires, and flooding on the other coast, Linda Price wrote she is worried for her daughter and granddaughter.

Nana Dot wrote that with four grandchildren who will in turn have their own children, she is worried about climate change.

"What sort of Earth are we leaving for them?" she asked.

Terry Bateman expressed concerns that humans have not acted quickly enough to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

"My worst concern about climate change is that the effects continue for years after we change from fossil fuels to renewables, because there is no method currently to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere," he wrote.

Writing in Spanish, Maricela Otozco said the issue of climate change has hit home.

"This topic is very important to me because my 8-month-old child got asthma because the environment was very polluted and they recommended that I move to another state where the environment was better," she wrote. "This is why we should try to care for our planet."

Middle school student Bebe Starr, smiling in her photo with a reptile perched on her arm, wrote, "I hope that global warming calms down a bit and the ice caps come back. This will help the polar bears get their home back."

Bill Jennett of the Jackson County Fuel Committee, which provides firewood to people in need, said global warming is hampering the group's sustainable harvest of wood. When the fire danger level hit extreme and equipment restrictions tightened, they were no longer able to use chainsaws in the woods, he wrote.

With the sky-high costs of fighting wildfires and restoring cities devastated by hurricanes, Rebecca Pearson argued on her piece of paper that reducing climate change is the fiscally conservative thing to do.

The exhibit is part of SOCAN's larger "Voices of the Valley" project, which will include a full-length documentary featuring interviews with people speaking about climate change from various points of reference, ranging from health issues to effects on local businesses. SOCAN plans to release the documentary later this year.

The Medford library is open from noon to 4 p.m. Friday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The branch is closed Thursdays.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

A Southern Oregon Climate Action Now exhibit on display at the Medford library reflects residents' concerns over climate change. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]