Join us in organizing for climate change

"Organize, Organize, Organize!" The advice of State Rep. Peter Buckley was delivered to a gathering of approximately 500 area residents outside Porters Restaurant in Medford on the warm afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 17. The crowd of enthusiastic, concerned Southern Oregonians joined a local solidarity event producing a 110-foot salmon and supporting the Forward on Climate rally held that day in Washington, D.C. As D.C. witnessed the largest climate demonstration ever, estimated at some 50,000, the local group was the largest gathering in Southern Oregon.

Solidarity events occurred across the country for those not traveling to Washington; Medford enjoyed the only event listed for Oregon. Along with those in Washington, D.C., we were demonstrating our concern about climate change and opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. Planned to run from Alberta's tar sands to our Gulf of Mexico, this pipeline would carry oil to refineries for domestic use or export — as economics dictate. The problems with the project are many:

First, extraction devastates boreal forest — a substantial greenhouse gas-trapping ecosystem — and replaces it with thousands of acres of devastated open pit mines and tailings. This extraction process is the most carbon polluting of all oil recovery methods yet employed.

Second, Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) is a ratio that measures how much energy is extracted for each unit of energy spent obtaining it. When this drops below 1 to 1, we get less energy than we spend and the process becomes a net loser. A 2011 study revealed that 100 years ago the EROEI for oil was over 1,200 to 1. For conventional oil, we are already down to about 10 to 1. Meanwhile, tar sands oil is below 5 to 1 and dropping.

Incidentally, all fossil fuels sources exhibit a declining EROEI value and thus are becoming less worthwhile. When this value reaches 1 to 1 the resource is effectively exhausted. On the other hand, renewable sources are all climbing in EROEI and exceed fossil fuel values. The future must focus on renewable sources of energy that do not pollute our atmosphere. This is where the green jobs will be found. The Unites States can be a leader in this area, or continue as a follower.

Third, the pipeline would cross and threaten agricultural and public lands between Alberta and the Gulf. The track record of oil pipeline tells us leaks and vast spills are inevitable.

Finally, once in the Gulf, the oil would be refined, again releasing greenhouse gases, and sold to the highest bidder — which may not be within the U.S. This undermines the claim that Keystone would contribute to North American energy independence.

Internationally renowned Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate scientist Dr. James Hansen argued convincingly that if Keystone goes ahead, it is essentially "game over" on protecting our planet for future generations. The Southern Oregonians gathered on Sunday to add their voices to the pressure on elected officials to address climate change.

Rather than further subsidizing and encouraging fossil fuels, we must abandon the "all of the above" philosophy and commit to clean energy. To promote Keystone XL is to argue for short-term profits at the expense of the planet our children and grandchildren will inhabit. Keystone XL might provide a few short-term jobs, but our future must be clean energy — solar, wind and other such resources. These are where we should be investing. Federal policies should promote clean energy and green jobs, rather than promoting fossil fuel pollution and planetary devastation.

To fulfill Peter Buckley's advice, concerned Southern Oregonians might consider joining the Southern Oregon Climate Action Network. Formed last September, the organization has the mission of promoting bold action to address climate change, promoting awareness and understanding of climate change and its consequences, and encouraging reasonable actions to address it.

The next meeting of SOCAN will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at in the Medford Public Library, with an orientation session for newcomers at 6 p.m. The meeting will last until 8:30. We will work in focus groups developing plans to further our mission. The current focus groups are: communication, consumption, education, energy, political activity, research, transportation and water and forests. Participants select the group they wish to join, but other focus groups could be added.

Please consider joining us.

Kathy Conway of Jacksonville is co-facilitator for the Southern Oregon Climate Action Network.

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