Large turnout seeks answers to climate change

By January, the city of Ashland will have a Climate and Energy Action Plan. The rather ambitious goal is being met with enthusiasm as evidenced by the several hundred people who recently gathered at the Historic Ashland Armory for an Energy Action Plan open house. The event Tuesday, May 24, played out more like a pep rally than a city conference. 

People mingled, dropping beans in glass jars to represent their concerns, wrote on huge sheets of paper on the wall what they are most proud of about Ashland — the winner was solar power — and gave video-taped statements about how they want to see a world more conservation-based and energy efficient.

“It’s a drop in the bucket, but that’s how grassroots movements begin,"Ashland resident John Kloetzal said of the value of public transit and bike riding as part of the process of a greener world as fellow residents Steve and Diane Kish nodded in agreement. "It’s also happening in cities across the country.”

Two seniors at Ashland High School standing at a welcoming table with name tags and hand outs spoke in excited tones. “Did you know there will be a 21 percent decrease in wheat? Isn’t that insane?” said Claire Pryor, a young, energetic woman with braids and a notepad, to fellow student Sarah Lasoff as they discussed the impacts of global warming if left unchecked. They both agreed accountability and action are key elements of any plan.

“I need to push for progressive policies. I want something legally binding to hold the city accountable,” Lasoff said as she explained her role on the ad hoc committee for Climate and Energy Action formed by Ashland Mayor John Stromberg. Both Pryor and Lasoff are also part of a 10-person high school panel working to slow climate change. 

The group of residents from climate scientists to students and everyday residents with skin in the game of slowing climate change were welcomed by Mayor Stromberg. “The quality of work this community can do will ripple out,” he said of Ashland creating a template for other cities. He encouraged the crowd to keep momentum going. “Let’s take this and, as a group, translate this into real action.”

The chair of the city ad hoc committee charged with boiling down input into tangible change, city Councilor Rich Rosenthal, told the crowd, “I can’t think of anything more important and significant than this.” 

To back up his point, a few facts about global warming were presented: By 2080, without major change in energy consumption, expect temperatures eight degrees warmer than in past decades, plan for 89 or more days of extreme heat, a 30 percent increase in wildfires across the west, more rain in winter with longer dry spells in the summer and a continued decline in snowpack, as well as a 50 percent decline of all living species, according to the statistics presented at the summit.  

The meeting concluded with a request to residents to stay engaged, fill out surveys, attend meetings and give suggestions on ways to curtail energy consumption, as well as creating new, cleaner sources of energy. 

Tuesday’s meeting was the first in a series. There will be two other open houses, one in September and another in December. For those who can’t or don’t want to attend, the city of Ashland has several surveys they will be putting on line so that you can give your input.

“I don’t think it’s hopeless at all. Get energized and get involved!” Lasoff said as she and Pryor continued comparing notes about what they see as the most significant ways of creating impact.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at akinsj@sou.edu and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

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