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Re-cap of the Ashland Climate Challenge Kickoff

acc stageMarni Koopman

On November 15th, the Geos Institute and Rogue Climate put on the Ashland Climate Challenge Kickoff at the Historic Armory in Ashland, Oregon. This event was the “kickoff” for a year of both planning and action to reduce our community’s greenhouse gas emissions. The purpose of the event was to engage people in a community-wide planning effort that is just beginning, while also motivating local residents to reduce energy use throughout 2016. It was funded by the City of Ashland, Clif Bar, local foundations, business sponsors, and local donors.

Early in the event planning stage, we started calling local organizations that don’t normally work on climate change, or even environmental issues. We called organizations dealing with low-income populations, local agriculture, theater, and equity issues. We called bike stores and the local hardware store, among many others. Call after call was met with incredible enthusiasm, support, and an emphatic desire to help. By bringing together this incredibly diverse group of businesses, organizations, and individuals, we were able to tap a huge amount of creative energy and generosity for the project.

Because of the contributions of so many residents, the Ashland Climate Challenge Kickoff was a spectacular success. It was a mix of science (Dr. Denning taught us how CO2 molecules hold energy by acting out the molecular bonds) and art (Oregon Shakespeare Festival performers provided powerful poetry and music) and local food (numerous local farms and restaurants provided food for 300 people!). About 350 people came, and 150 of them stayed for the ENTIRE FOUR HOURS. Participants had a chance to discuss solutions with the group and contribute their ideas for saving energy.

The next steps are for the Climate and Energy Action planning committee, made up of local residents and city staff, to work with a contractor to develop a community-wide plan with greenhouse gas emissions targets, specific actions to meet those targets, and strategies for reducing the ongoing impacts of climate change to natural resources and local residents, especially those that are most vulnerable.

In the meantime, we are asking everyone to POWER DOWN (reduce energy use by 10% in 2016), GREEN UP (use alternative transportation), and SHOUT OUT (talk about energy and climate change with neighbors, schools, friends, employers, and landlords).

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