Why we march for climate, jobs, justice

    Southern Oregon’s agricultural and forestry economy will be severely affected by climate change if we don’t act fast.

    That’s just one of the reasons why we plan to join family farmers, farm and forest workers, other working families, students and seniors at the People’s Climate March at 3 p.m. this Saturday, April 29, at Pear Blossom Park in Medford (312 Fourth St).

    As young people living in Southern Oregon, we have seen the impacts that a changing climate can have on farms, the people who work on them and our quality of life.

    Last summer, one of us (Erica) was canvassing in Medford; she met a farmworker who showed her the severe burns on his arm and hands, and told her that summers in the fields are becoming unbearable. Farmworkers, who spend long hours outside, are already feeling the impacts of warming in our valley.

    The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute projects that temperatures in the Rogue Valley will rise 5°F by 2050 and 8°F by 2080 if we don’t reduce pollution immediately. Warming and more heat extremes will alter rain patterns, reducing water availability, which is likely to affect planting schedules, crop growth and livestock, and lower the nutritional value of foods.

    Even on the hottest days of the season, some farmworkers are not given breaks, access to water or even accessible bathrooms. As we act on climate change we also need to protect the communities most vulnerable to the impacts.

    According to the National Climate Assessment, with warmer days snow melts are now starting earlier than normal, affecting the timing of stream flows. Warming will reduce the availability of irrigation water that our family farmers depend on.

    While teaching nutrition with Rogue Valley Farm to School, one of us (Allie) met families in Jackson County who were already having a hard time getting food on the table. When water is not available for irrigation, the prices of fresh vegetables increase.

    Impacts to agriculture is one of the many reasons why over 40 local groups ranging from farm and forest worker advocacy organizations to faith communities are coming together to host the People’s Climate Movement: March for Jobs, Justice and Climate in Medford. This is part of a national day of action, like the Women’s March, to come together for a healthy climate and a clean energy economy that works for everyone.

    Another reason we are joining the March for Climate, is the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline that threatens our forests, rivers, and air.

    In order to send fracked gas through the proposed 232-mile pipeline from Malin to Coos Bay, a 31-acre compressor station would be needed to compress it. The compressor station would be one of the top 15 largest sources of climate pollution in the state. It would emit toxic pollutants known to cause cancer, such as formaldehyde and toluene.

    According to the 2015 census, the community in Malin is over 65 percent Latino, while the rest of the county is only 11 percent Latino. Studies dating back to the 1970s have pointed to a pattern of siting the largest polluters in rural, low-income, or communities of color.

    Another reason we’re joining on April 29 is because our community has a lot to gain from a transition to clean energy.

    In 2016, California led the country creating 100,050 solar jobs, according to the nonprofit Solar Foundation. This year the Oregon Legislature has the opportunity to invest in a clean energy economy and create thousands of good-paying jobs in our community by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. The bill would decrease climate pollution while reinvesting into regions, like ours, to help transition to clean energy and prepare for a changing climate.

    As millennials working with high-school and middle-school students, youths are concerned that Southern Oregon may not be a safe and healthy place to live by the time they’re adults. We are also seeing youths take leadership on this issue. For instance, youths have played a critical role in the development of the city of Ashland’s Climate and Energy Action Plan. In Medford, youths from across Southern Oregon will lead the March for Jobs, Justice and Climate.

    The march is an opportunity to bring together communities from around Southern Oregon for the positive change we want to see in our home. Please join us on April 29 to march for our family farms, our local economy, the safety of our communities and the health of our families.

    — Erica Alexia Ledesma is a lifelong resident of the Rogue Valley, a board member of Unite Oregon Rogue Valley Chapter, and works for College Dreams, a program that prepares youth for careers and college in the Medford School District. Allie Rosenbluth was the Americorps Service Member for Rogue Valley Farm to School last year and now works for Rogue Climate, a community organization that focuses on practical solutions to climate change at the local and state level.

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