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Audubon Society Presents Climate Change Workshop

Contributed by Guest Columnist Len McKenzie

The only constant in nature, it’s been said, is change, and survival requires adapting to it. As musician Bob Dylan wrote, “The times, they are a-changin’,” and so, too, is the earth’s climate, in both subtle and dramatic ways that threaten the long-term habitability of this planet and the survival of many species.The climate change that characterizes modern times presents an unprecedented challenge that demands society develop and act on solutions to lessen the extreme consequences–Hurricane Sandy, massive wildfires across the West, intense heat, more frequent and widespread tornadoes, formidable blizzards in the Midwest and Northeast, dramatic flooding contrasting with prolonged drought elsewhere–caused by or related to climate change.

Climate change, or global warming, has moved from a potential future problem to a current problem that is affecting our weather, our wildlife and our economy. That is why former Vice-President Al Gore’s organization is now called the Climate Reality Project.

Area residents Beth Pratt of Midpines and Steve Smallcombe of Mariposa participated in a three-day Climate Reality Project training workshop with Gore last August and were certified as workshop presenters. The two will reprise a slide presentation they gave in Oakhurst in January, “Climate Change Is Happening!,” at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society’s (YAAS) monthly program Thursday, Apr. 11, at the Mariposa Methodist Church parish hall on 6th Street in downtown Mariposa. The program will begin at 7 p.m.

Their talk focuses on how climate change is influencing current events, including its effects on weather and wildlife, some of the scientific evidence, and what people can do today to help mitigate this immediate and urgent issue. The presenters will also discuss current climate change trends and projections for California and the Sierra and what those trends mean for wildlife and people of the state.

“The compelling urgency of the climate-change issue warrants our offering this presentation a second time this year,” YAAS president Lowell Young noted, “particularly since many interested local residents were unable to attend the January presentation in Oakhurst.”

Beth Pratt Ca. Director of the National Wildlife FederationPratt, the California director for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), has worked in environmental leadership roles for almost 20 years and in two of the country’s largest national parks, Yosemite and Yellowstone. Before joining the NWF, she worked on sustainability and climate change programs for Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone as its director of environmental affairs.

Prior to her role in Yellowstone, Pratt served nine years as the vice president/CFO for the non-profit Yosemite Association (now Yosemite Conservancy) in Yosemite National Park.

Pratt’s work on sustainability in national parks has been featured in Sustainable Industries, Fast Company, Sierra Magazine, Green Lodging News and on the Peter Greenberg Radio Show. She is also a member of the Association of Partners for Public Lands Training Corps, serves on the advisory committee of the non-profit Save the Frogs and is the author of the official Junior Ranger Handbook for Yosemite.

Pratt graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with bachelor’s degrees in management and biological anthropology. She received a master’s in business administration from Regis University in Denver. In 2009 she earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Accredited Professional credential.

Under her leadership, Yellowstone’s environmental programs received environmental achievement awards from the National Park Service three consecutive years, from 2009-2011. She now lives in an energy-efficient home in Midpines.

Steve SmallcombeSmallcombe did his graduate work at U.C. Irvine where he received a Ph.D. in Chemistry. He then spent five years at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech), where he was a member of the research faculty, before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and a 33-year career in the scientific instrument business.

Now retired, Steve and his wife, Rosemarie, live in an energy-efficient “green” home they recently built in Jerseydale, powered by solar panels and featuring geothermal heating and cooling. Steve and Rosemarie are on the board of directors of Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government (MERG) and are co-presidents of the Mariposa Democratic Club.

Like all YAAS programs, Pratt’s and Smallcombe’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon’s local activities are welcome. Refreshments will be available.

The YAAS will also offer its monthly field trip Saturday, Apr. 20, down White Rock Road, considered by many the best birding route in Mariposa County.

Participants should meet at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds at 8 a.m. for carpooling. Suitable for beginners, the trip is free and the public welcome. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch and beverages.

Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for additional information about either the program or the birding trip.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

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