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Kathy Conway and Alan Journet. Photo by Nina Egert

Act Locally: Climate change educators preach what they practice

“Once I had understood the science, I knew I had a responsibility to explain it to other people.” Back in the late 1980s, biology professor, Alan Journet, was teaching undergrads about biomes (integrated ecosystems that occur in various natural settings) at Southeast Missouri State University. He began hearing rumors regarding global warming, and realized that if these were indeed correct, the planet would be experiencing such serious shifts in temperature and annual rainfall that none of the biomes about which he was lecturing could possibly survive. Not willing to accept these early conjectures at face value, Alan investigated the scientific research behind the claims. He concluded that they were sound, and began integrating issues of climate change into his coursework.

In time, Alan and his wife, fellow (math) professor Kathy Conway, started a political-action group to address climate issues, the Southeast Missouri Climate Protection Initiative. Their group successfully lobbied the local government to set up an advisory committee on the topic.

In 2010, the couple retired from academia and relocated to Kathy’s home state of Oregon to be near family. During an initial residency in Ashland, Alan and Kathy sought out an activist organization in which they could participate. They located several groups involved with environmental issues, but none were really targeting the pending dangers associated with the release of greenhouse gasses. So, even as the couple was in the process of moving to their current property the rural Applegate Valley, they began forming the nonprofit Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN).

Since the group’s initial meeting in 2012, Alan and Kathy have developed an annual 10-week course, Master Climate Protectors in Jackson County. They also sponsor events that encourage the public to become involved with legislative action. As Alan stated, “We felt motivated to get people to understand the science behind Climate Change in order to help them make more informed personal and collective actions” (for more, visit their website at socan.eco).

During SOCAN’s Master Climate Protectors course, participants are exposed to relevant scientific studies, and then consider the implications these have upon basic elements of our culture, like agriculture, transportation, energy and water usage. The course enables participants to sort through the information that abounds in the media so that they can target genuine climate issues more effectively. For example, Alan discourages the use of the term, “carbon footprint,” preferring the term, “greenhouse gas footprint,” because an exclusive focus upon the release of carbon particulates can potentially obfuscate the fact that other chemicals, like methane and natural gas, are also a serious part of the problem.

In addition to presenting much of SOCAN’s educational program (along with several other climate experts), Alan and Kathy work to encourage citizens to lobby public officials to establish policies and laws that mitigate the production of greenhouse gasses. However, in doing this, the couple offers caution; their concern is that activists can become a bit hardline at times. Finding that some open-minded politicians are quite willing to engage in dialogue over contentious issues, Kathy emphasizes that they “try not to take actions that stop the conversation.” At the same time, the couple realizes that other politicians may only be moved into taking sound environmental action under pressure from their constituents.

In the immediate future, SOCAN is requesting that Southern Oregonians join them at the Oregon State Capitol on Feb. 6 to lobby legislators regarding the pending Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

In brief, the bill initiates a gradually declining cap on greenhouse gas emissions, and holds major polluters accountable by requiring them to obtain emission permits. For further information about the bill, or about organizing transportation to Salem, readers can contact Alan Journet by email at alan@socan.info. SOCAN will also discuss the legislative proposal at a general meeting starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 29th at the Medford Public Library.

While effective public policy is a critical component in curbing greenhouse gasses, so are the lifestyle choices individuals make. For that reason, Alan recommends that readers take time to assess their own footprint. A useful tool to help in doing this can be found at coolclimate.org/calculator.

SOCAN’s 2019 Master Climate Protector course starts with a session from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 11 at 101 South Bartlett St., Medford. The course fee is $100 (scholarships are available). Only a few of the 20 available slots remain open at this time, so interested parties should inquire immediately by email to at eric@socan.info. If the course fills up, never fear; it will be offered again in the spring of 2020.

For readers unable to attend the class, Kathy recommends looking through the course textbook, “Drawdown” (Paul Hawken, ed.), available at www.drawdown.org/the-book.

Ashland resident, author and anthropologist Nina Egert has been a lay environmentalist since the early 1970s. Act Locally appears the first and third Mondays of the month in the Tidings.

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