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The children's crusade grows up

After being major players in winning passage in 2017 for Ashland’s Climate & Energy Action Plan, young people organized under the aegis of Rogue Climate realized they need more community outreach.

They decided to train more young people to learn how the local government works, how to recognize council members and speak to them on the street, as well as how to testify for their initiatives at city council meetings.

That’s what they were doing Friday evening at Phoenix Grange Hall: laying out photos of local council and school board members to learn their names, and how to succinctly state a case while speaking for large numbers of other people.

“We’re focusing on how to get involved,” said Kellen Rice, an Ashland High School senior. “We want to see them making decisions that help us live in ways that don’t exploit the environment for profit.”

Some 20 tech-savvy students loaded the Kahoots app on their phones quizzing themselves on basic questions about government and immediately see each other’s answers.

What is power? The right answer, according to Kahoots, is the ability to make positive change by getting it in the right hands, that won’t be corrupted by it.

The students, being trained by Rogue Climate, noted that everyone knows the leaders in Washington D.C. because they’re on TV and the internet every day, but few know local leaders, whose decisions often “go unnoticed,” said AHS senior Marcus Mullen, “but a small group can influence what they do.”

His older sister, Nicole Mullen, who is heading off to University of Oregon this fall, has volunteered for Rogue Climate for three years and fought for CEAP, and protested against the liquid natural gas pipeline proposed through southwest Oregon to Jordan Cove, “so that Oregon isn’t building a large fossil fuel infrastructure.”

She said, when she started volunteering, she was a mid-teen and couldn’t even vote, “so I thought there wasn’t much I could do, but now there’s so much work in opposing permitting and not letting our guard down and we hope to encourage more local governments to pass programs like CEAP to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Nicole Mullen plans to carry her skills to Eugene, she said, where Rogue Climate learned the teen climate warrior strategy, and successfully used to limit that town’s carbon output.

Ashland High senior Maris Evans, who plans on being an ACLU lawyer, said, “A lot of people don’t pay attention to local government and they get away with a lot. I want to change that and will be testifying a lot on environmental issues in the future.”

Her mother, Devon Evans, said she was attending because “I’m interesting in preserving the environment and an important part of that is being a responsible citizen. I’m also supporting my daughter’s leadership abilities. She’s passionate about being an ACLU lawyer.”

Phoenix High School student Vivian Tauer said youth have to create the opportunity to have a voice in local government and “this is an important training to empower our community by learning how to take action for more renewable energy. CEAP is going to make a big difference and help us back away from the point of no return on climate.”

The group decried the fact that local government councils and boards seem loaded with middle-aged white people — and began exploring whether laws prevent those under 21 from getting elected. In addition, youth has a big edge, they said, because of their mastery of texting and other cyber-tools to get their message across to large numbers of voters.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Jamie Lusch / Ashland TidingsRogue Climate Change hosts, "Youth Taking Action in Local Government, at the Phoenix Grange on Friday.