Wild Climate has been a dream for more than a year. Today, it is finally a reality.
Virginia and I have both spent a lot of time in rural America. I grew up on a farm and we’ve both worked on ranches in Wyoming. And we’ve worked for a combined 15 years as environmental organizers. Most recently I was the Campaigns Director for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and she was the National Campus Training Director for Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate. We met working for Green Corps, the field school for environmental organizing. In our time working for some of the most strategic and powerful environmental organizations, we’ve been consistently struck by a voice absent from the conversation – rural America.
Rural communities are incredibly vulnerable to climate change, whether farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, firefighters, outdoor recreationists, or other rural Americans whose livelihoods depend directly on the environment. And climate impacts are already being felt. Federal land management agencies now exceed $1 billion per year on firefighting. California’s drought that cost $2.7 billion was intensified by 15-20% due to climate change. Drought is expected to become more common, intense, and longer in the southwest. The National Climate Assessment states that, “climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past 40 years and are projected to increase over the next 25 years.By mid-century and beyond, these impacts will be increasingly negative on most crops and livestock.”Despite these impacts, the overwhelming body of science, and the long-term threat, the vast majority of elected officials representing the rural west are actively stopping progress on climate change. While they can deny numbers, they cannot deny the people they represent and the stories they tell.
Stories are the fabric of civilization. They form our identity, build our culture, and entertain us. In movements, it is stories that compel people to take action. We know that the livelihoods of rural Americans are already being impacted by climate change. Our goal is to find those impacted people, hear their stories, and embolden them to raise their voices.
We’re focusing on the rural west - from New Mexico up to Montana and everything west - because that’s where we live (Denver), it’s an incredibly diverse region with wildly different impacts, and because taking on the entire country seemed a bit daunting. It will take time, trust, and flexibility to find what we’re looking for. So, we converted a cargo van into our home on wheels. It is just big enough for two people and two dogs (Summit & Trout) and we’ll be using it to go wherever the stories take us this spring and summer. We’ll be documenting the stories on this blog, our social media, traditional media where we can, and through photography and a short documentary film.
Our first story is from a farm outside Houston, TX where we ended up for a few weeks making some repairs to the van (Side note: don’t put a screw through the wiring of a van). But the rest of the stories will be from the west. Our hope is that these stories will help compel people to take action. We hope that they are useful in bringing rural America into the climate conversation, empowering rural Americans to speak out about the climate impacts they’re feeling, and for compelling rural politicians to start taking climate action.
You can join us on our trip by signing up for our email list. We’re hoping to have one story per week, so you won’t be inundated. You can also help us get off the ground by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Even better, share a post and tag some friends who you think you like it. And if you know someone that we should meet, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and don’t forget to read our first story about two badass women farmers outside of Houston taking on drought and flood head-on!