Climate Reality: Personal Stories from the Frontlines of the Crisis
While climate change often looms as a distant, impending doom, it is a present and stark reality for many across the United States. The consequences of this global crisis are already unfolding, impacting cities, countries, and the entire planet. But what do those consequences look like for everyday people?
We asked Dream.Org members from across the country to share how the climate crisis has reshaped their lives and their communities. Susan, Amy, and Linda offered their stories and their words of caution to elected officials looking to defund the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other programs aimed at mitigating the impact.
Susan Mintz, Missouri
Susan has witnessed drastic changes over the past two decades in St. Louis. The city, known for its affordability and Midwestern charm, is now grappling with unusually long and hot summers. This shift has transformed the landscape, leading Susan and her husband to develop a native pollinator garden and raise Monarch Butterflies. The project has not only brought ecological benefits but has also become an educational tool to teach environmental conservation to neighborhood kids.
The changing environment has led to soaring air conditioning costs, compelling community members to establish a support fund for those struggling with high energy bills. Recognizing the financial burden, Susan urges more unified action from government officials.
"This really should not be a partisan issue. Our state, with a tremendous lack of rainfall, has been in a drought for several years. When you look at the changing dynamics of the landscape, it impacts people's employment. There is a commonality in the issues these groups are facing. And I just think too often we pit progressive and urban against rural or conservative, and it's just not helpful. We just don't have the time anymore."
Amy Atchley, Louisiana
Amy echoes a similar sentiment. A longtime resident of Baton Rouge, she recounts how the South is now experiencing extreme heat, drastically different from the cooler autumns of her childhood.
"I believe that it's gotten to the point where it's hard for some people to do their jobs because of the heat. It's really bad in the afternoon between two and six. It's horrible, it's horrible."
Louisiana faces compounded challenges from climate change due to the increased frequency of hurricanes. Amy was an unfortunate victim of Hurricane Ida in 2021, with winds so powerful that they ripped the electrical units from her home and felled neighboring trees, necessitating a chainsaw to enter her backyard. With no government financial support to recover from the devastation, she was forced to sell her damaged home.
Amy’s experience underscores the urgent need for climate change funding, and she has this message for those who want to repeal it:
"I would just like anybody who thinks that defunding programs that deal with the damage to our climate to come sit outside from two to six. I don't think those people realize how bad it is since they travel by air-conditioned car, from their air-conditioned offices to their air-conditioned homes. They live with the best, and the rest of us live with what we can afford."
Linda Carol, Washington
Meanwhile, in Spokane, Linda, an early advocate for environmental awareness, remembers her first major wildfire experience in 1968 vividly.
"That was new for us, like [Hurricane] Betsy was for New Orleans at the time. It seemed like an oddity, but in fact, it was just an early warning."
Her return to Spokane in 2017 revealed a stark contrast from her past; what remained was a state on fire.
"I'll never forget looking out the window and watching the smoke just fill the street and roll down as if the fire was only a block away. It was to the point that I thought someone's house was on fire."
Linda takes steps toward a sustainable lifestyle, like using public transportation instead of owning a car. But she now offers this message to elected officials whose next steps are to defund climate initiatives:
"I urge you with everything in me, to maintain the funding for all of the programs. Because we're doing the bare minimum. We're not doing the most we can, we're doing just enough. And the more we help the climate, the more we mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, and the more it will help everyone, humans and all other species. It isn't species-specific; it's for the whole planet."
These stories highlight the urgent need for initiatives like The Inflation Reduction Act, which enacts nearly $370 billion to combat climate change. However, this crucial legislation is under threat, with proposals to rescind funding, jeopardizing our collective ability to effectively tackle this global emergency. The firsthand accounts from Susan, Amy, and Linda vividly illustrate a changing world – from natural disasters and extreme temperatures to financial strains on energy.