Climate Wisconsin is a project that tells the stories of communities who are being impacted by climate change in different ways across the state of Wisconsin. Nine different highly produced videos tell the stories not just of what climate change is, but more importantly how it’s affecting people.
This localization and personalization of climate stories is really important for communicating climate change and showing that climate change is not about polar bears and international treaties. It’s about the worst season ever for maple syrup production and how that affects Tony Schultz and Kat Becker on their family farm in Athens, and how they’re dealing with not just the loss in revenue, but the change in family traditions that have always revolved around the maple syrup season.
Some of the other videos describe how lower water levels are affecting shipping lanes in the Great Lakes and how uncertainty around the seasons affect people’s jobs on the docks; how the small temperature window for trout makes it difficult for the fish and the fishing guides who love their local rivers or how the lack of ice on lake Monona near Madison makes ice fishing more difficult and dangerous.
All of the videos were excellent, but the ones that resonated most with me were the spoken-word poetry by an artist in Milwaukee about extreme heat in urban areas where he said ‘and we’ve only just begun to boil’ and the story about the Birkebeiner cross country ski race in Hayward.
The Birkebeiner ski race has grown from 30 racers and is now the biggest cross country ski race in the U.S. with 8,000 racers. The founder of the race spoke about how the identity of the whole town is intertwined with the race and with skiing. Special events are held, families plan trips around it, the main street of Hayward is crowded with spectators at the finish line. It’s getting harder each year to predict the conditions required for the race, and the idea of facing the potential loss of the race over the next few decades is emotionally too difficult to think about for local residents.
This is the great thing about the Climate Wisconsin project – it’s not talking about climate change in an academic sense, it’s talking about people and what they’re experiencing and how they feel about it. As climate change impacts continue to harm the livelihoods and traditions of people across the globe, it’s through telling local stories like these that we’ll be able to come together and deal with the human and emotional losses.
All images via (c) Climate Wisconsin