By Vickie Aldous
for the Mail Tribune
Hannah Sohl and Camila Thorndike believe that art, Facebook and YouTube are powerful tools to address climate change.
The two young Ashland women are expanding the traditional environmental activist toolbox, which long has focused on protest and litigation.
Sohl and Thorndike are inviting Rogue Valley residents to decorate cardboard tiles with artistic designs or words that reflect why they love living in the Rogue Valley and what worries they have about climate change.
The tiles are cut in the shape of simple houses to bring home the message that climate change can affect people locally.
On Feb. 17, 800 of the decorated tiles will be laid out in the shape of a salmon in the north parking lot of Porters Restaurant and Bar, 147 N. Front St., Medford.
A crane will hoist a photographer high in the air to capture a bird’s-eye image of the assembled piece of public art. The whole event will be captured on video and posted to YouTube.
The effort is also being chronicled on a Rogue Climate Art Facebook page.
Rather than delivering a gloom-and-doom message about climate change, Sohl and Thorndike said they want to stage a fun, creative event.
“We want a creative response,” Thorndike said.
“We have to think way outside the box if we want to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
Sohl said she and Thorndike wanted to create an event that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone, not just environmental activists. “We felt like an art project can be fun, and it really brings groups of people together,” Sohl said.
That’s not to say that the two aren’t worried about the potential impacts of climate change.
They are spreading the word about a 2008 report by the Geos Institute, a climate change consulting group based in Ashland that predicted rising temperatures and declining snow accumulation in the valley.
Sohl and Thorndike believe that supporting a clean-energy future can bolster the economy and create jobs.
Churches, schools and other groups are among the organizations that already have made tiles for the public art project or pledged to make tiles.
Individuals are also invited to host house parties in which people can decorate the 16-by-16-inch cardboard tiles.
People can make their own cardboard cutouts, or Sohl and Thorndike can drop off cardboard tiles.
Decorated tiles are due by Feb. 11. Sohl can pick them up if people call her at 541-840-1065.
Tiles can also be dropped off at the Ashland Art Center, 357 E. Main St.
As another option, people can decorate a tile the day of the salmon art-assembly event.
Cardboard tiles and art materials will be available from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave., in advance of the assembly of the salmon art at Porters from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. later that day.
The afternoon of events will include performances, speakers and information on climate change.
Thorndike said the event coincides with a climate change rally scheduled to take place that day outside the White House.
The Washington, D.C., event is expected to attract 20,000 people, she said.
For more information, visit the Rogue Climate Art Facebook page.
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.