By Shaun Hall of the Daily Courier
There were a few heated words about global warming for members of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
A week after commissioners Dan DeYoung and Darin Fowler were dismissive of fears of climate change, a trio of activists called on the board to take a stand in favor of the environment.
“Stop making weak excuses,” longtime local resident Cindy Ogier told DeYoung and fellow commissioner Lily Morgan. “If you don’t act, people will vote you out of office.”
Ogier and Josephine Climate Alliance members Brian DeLaGrange and Michelle Keip attended the board meeting after Fowler last week said the science is “not settled” and DeYoung said full conversion to clean energy, which includes wind and solar power, would put other people in the energy field out of work.
On Wednesday, DeYoung stuck by those words, although he agreed that “climate change is here.” He added, however, that he is a “firm believer in science when science tells the whole story, not just part of it, one side of it.”
Fowler was absent.
DeYoung’s comments came the same day that a grim new report, issued by a United Nations panel, warned that sea levels are rising at an ever-faster rate as ice and snow shrink, and oceans are getting more acidic and losing oxygen.
Keip pointed to a recent study showing that bird populations were down significantly, and she urged commissioners to take a stand against special interests and for healthy forests and clean drinking water.
“We need your leadership,” she said.
DeLaGrange, an organizer of last Friday’s climate strike rally outside the county courthouse, said climate change “isn’t some liberal hoax,” and he urged people “to listen to the science.”
“Our futures depend on it,” he said.
DeYoung agreed to meet with DeLaGrange at a later time.
“We’ll just hash it out,” DeYoung said. “It won’t be combative. You can help me understand and maybe I can tell you what I think.”
Morgan, the third member of the county commission, mostly stayed out of the fray and voiced support for recycling. She mentioned that she wasn’t sure how to recycle the huge battery in her Prius, a hybrid electric car. She also congratulated the organizers of the rally “on a successful event.”
“As we talk about not using fossil fuels … I don’t necessarily think carbon’s the bad thing,” she said. “We just have to figure out how to be in balance with it.”
After Wednesday’s meeting, DeYoung wound up speaking with the trio of speakers and a few of their supporters for more than half an hour. The gathering was cordial, with plenty of back and forth.
“I’m not willing to say our economy needs to stop everything we’ve been doing,” he said at one point.
DeYoung also said he was a Republican, but that the issues at hand were nonpartisan.
DeLaGrange said he would speak with DeYoung about “local solutions,” including creation of a clean energy action plan modeled after one adopted by the city of Talent.
“Let’s do this civilly, instead of getting in my face,” DeYoung said.
Ogier said her comment about voter backlash was an effort to gain the attention of Fowler and DeYoung, who she said had “dismissed” climate concerns last week.
“I think he finally got the message,” she said. “When I saw how they treated people, I said, ‘No, that’s not right.’ I do appreciate the fact they do work hard and are willing to listen.”
Ogier, who uses a solar power system to power her home, urged DeYoung to research a town in Texas she said had gone “off the grid.” She said the mayor of the town was a Republican.
Replied DeYoung: “I might give the guy a call.”
Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.