By Sanne Specht
More than 150 people gathered in Medford to cheer speakers discussing the changing ecosystem, and calling for community-based and global solutions to environmental threats at the Sunday afternoon rally titled “It’s a Rogue Thing.”
The exhuberant crowd cheered and waved at photographers atop a 65-foot crane who were taking photos of them as they encircled a 120-foot-long colorful salmon created out of 1,200 individual cardboard tiles created by local residents who ranged in age from 2 to 87-years old.
The goal of the event was to gather support in protecting the Rogue Valley from the effects of climate change by inspiring creative and collective solutions, said event organizer Hannah Sohl of the Southern Oregon Climate Action Network.
“We asked the people making the tiles What worries you about climate change?’ And What do you love most about the Rogue Valley?’ ” said Sohl.
A Rogue Valley native, Sohl said the local event was being held on the same day as the national “Forward On Climate” rally in Washington, D.C., to show solidarity on the environmental messages.
The Rogue Valley call to action began at the Medford library and paraded its way through city streets to wind up at the north parking lot at Porters Restaurant. Photos of the Pacific salmon, and the eco-friendly crowd, will be sent to local leaders, state representatives and on to President Barack Obama, she said.
“We are asking them to move forward on climate action,” Sohl said.
Young and old strolled around the collaborative art pieces, and also danced to live music under sunny skies.
Medford resident Dierdre Rapp, 36, and her two sons, Gavin, 9, and Kellen, 7, created tiles for the salmon earlier in the day.
Both boys said they enjoyed the creative process. Their mother said it was a kid-friendly way to get her children involved and educated on the climate issue.
The fate of the world’s next generations was a common theme as the speakers took their turns at the microphone.
Jack Griffin, a third-generation member of the Confederated Tribe of the Grande Ronde said a Native American tradition requires adults to take a long view of the world by looking out seven generations past one’s own needs.
Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, told the crowd it would need to “organize, organize, organize” to get action from legislators.
Sign up for emails, phone lists and “pressure your elected officials,” Buckley said.
Stating any event that had a healthy mix of adults, kids and dogs already had good momentum, Buckley challenged those attending to look in the eyes of any of the children and ask themselves if they were willing to walk away from the challenge of creating a healthier world.
“I am never going to walk away,” Buckley said.
Tonya Graham of the Ashland-based GEOS Institute said her nonprofit organization and consulting firm uses science to help people predict, reduce and prepare for climate change. Explaining the disastrous effects of incremental weather changes to those who don’t believe the climate is changing is challenging, but necessary, Graham said.
Temperatures are expected to rise in the Rogue Valley by 1 to 2 degrees by 2040, and by 4 degrees by 2080, she said. But it can be hard to understand that a few degrees warmer or cooler means anything more than whether or not they put on a coat, Graham said.
“But the insurance industry has been tracking climate change for decades because it has a huge impact on their business,” she said, adding the U.S. military, half of the Fortune 500 companies, and even the Southern Baptists are on board with the science.
Still, many people don’t accept or understand temperature’s impact on precipitation, wind and the power of storms, she added.
Graham said that the question “Do you think climate change is real?” actually is a red herring for “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?”But added that the issue crosses party lines.
“It’s really about the economy, public health and fairness toward other countries. It all comes to us through the environment,” she said.
Lesley Adams of the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center said she was “nourished” in body and soul by the rally. But she voiced concerns about the changing atmosphere, and its effects on the planet and its inhabitants.
“We need to take action today,” Adams said.
Fossil fuel billionaires and their high-priced lobbyists have turned Washington politicians into “sock puppets,” Adams said.
“They’ve captured our government and it’s time to take it back,” Adams said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.