As the InsideClimate News Finding Middle Ground series nears an end, I had a chance to speak with the lovely Heather Goldstone of WCAI’s Living Lab about some of the experiences I’ve had as I traveled across the country.
Seventh piece from “Finding Middle Ground,” the series I’ve been working on for InsideClimate News about perceptions of climate change:
“It flooded in early January, and then it happened again two or three months later,” says Matt Teague of Barnstable, Mass., about the slew of storms that hit Cape Cod in the winter of 2017. “We’re like, what are we doing here?” he says, opening his arms skyward.
It is now the peak of summer as I stand with Matt in the seaside community of Blish Point at the front door of the house he owns—a house that’s about to be demolished. Matt, 43, with a trim graying beard and a belt buckle in the shape of a fishhook, is the owner of REEF Design & Build, which works all across Cape Cod. He bought the house with his brother and father more than 10 years ago as an investment. Blish Point, an area where native fishermen once laid out their nets to dry, today contains a couple hundred homes nestled between the mouth of Barnstable Harbor and the verdant marsh of Maraspin Creek. Some of the homes are upscale; others are simple cottages. The Teague house, one of the simple cottages, was ruined by flooding: five major storms in the past three years alone have struck this area, and two of the four nor’easters last winter inundated the ground-level home.
Matt pushes his sunglasses atop his head, revealing a pale strip of untanned skin along his temple, as he stretches out his hand 2 feet above the door’s threshold to show me where the water rose to during the storms. Over his shoulder, a hungry excavator sits ready to begin its work….
It’s an annual ritual, this first day of the oystering season. Some falls I’ve been off traveling, but I’m home this time, and get off a phone meeting just in time for the approach to dead low tide at 2:42pm. The downpour of earlier has lifted though gusts of wind are still wrenching colors from the trees. No, stay, just a little longer….! But to everything there is a season, and the leaves must go, but the oysters are now ours to take. I gathered my half bucket in about 3 minutes, barely moving my feet, they were so plentiful. And then I played around with video. Have a look…
If you happen to be in Boston on Oct. 24th (6pm – 8 pm), join Tom Zeller, Jr, Editor in Chief of Undark magazine, MIT climate scientist Susan Solomon, and me as we discuss studying and covering climate change. It’s part of the Inside Media, Politics and Policy series of Northeastern University’s Myra Kraft Open Classroom. Here’s a link, and more:
You can watch the event here:
The IPCC just released its latest climate report and the situation is more dire than ever. It was great to talk with In The Thick hosts Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela, along with Grist journalist Justine Calma about how communities of color will be (and are being) impacted by the changes underway.
We have a ten-minute break from talking about #climatechange at the #SEJ2018 conference in Flint, MI, and I walk outside seeking air. I find a heavy police presence, notice the Flint River is right there, wander over. See cops on the water’s edge, along with a scuba diver gearing up. I ask an older black man on my right what happened. He says a man drowned a few days ago and they’re looking for the body. A younger white man, tattoos on his neck, comes up on my left, and I ask him, too.
“It was my friend. Tripping on acid the other night and he thought he could walk on water.”
He’d been walking on some object that was floating, and then he slipped in. Couldn’t get out. Vanished below the water.
“I’m sorry,” I say. He’s stoic.
“Just another one down in Flint,” he says.
“Why?” I ask him.
“I dunno, drugs,” he says, shrugs. I’m silent.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” I say again, putting my hand on his arm. I’m utterly lacking. He says thanks.
Back in I go to the old building that was once a Sheraton and now is a conference center just this side of shabby to talk about carbon and climate and journalism in a windowless room. A couple hours later I go back out. I take a photo of the river, lazy & brown, framed by trees whose leaves are blushing red. I leave out of the frame the medical examiner, bent over the body of the 32-year old man who, the tattooed man had told me, left behind a twin brother. Somewhere, the twin that remains is walking through the city, solo for the first time since the moment of conception.
Here’s the latest from my Middle Ground series for InsideClimate News, documenting how people across America are thinking about climate change.
DIVIDE COUNTY, North Dakota — I walk in the front door of Byron Carter’s house as others are entering in the back, and Koda the dog can’t decide which way to direct her barking. I’m in Divide County, North Dakota, but borders seem a little meaningless here. Last summer’s drought, which was calamitous for Byron and the other farmers and ranchers now filing into his kitchen, leaked over into Canada, Divide’s border to the north, and Montana, to the west. By April of this year, they’re on the cusp of a new season, and Byron has gathered his neighbors—defined as anyone living within a 30-mile radius in this sparsely populated corner of the state—so we can talk about drought and climate change.
Drought is an especially wily adversary. As an officer of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services told me recently, “You can’t put up a sandbag wall to stop a drought.”
And be sure to watch the great accompanying video by Anna Belle Peevey:
Anyone who takes fly-fishing seriously behaves like a scientist. These anglers are biologists, knowledgeable in what’s eating what, when and how. They are hydrologists, studying riffles and stream flow. They are naturalists, observing clouds and sunlight and the circulation of air as their rods flick back and forth across the big sky. They are, in a sense, climate scientists. And some, but not all, are deeply concerned about the effects of a warming climate on the cold-water species that inhabit blue-ribbon trout streams.
But to the extent that they act as climate scientists, partisan politics plays a role in many anglers’ understanding of climate change. Here in Montana, with pristine rivers that are home to some of the best fly-fishing in the country, a majority of votes went for President Trump—and climate change is considered by many of them to be a natural phenomenon beyond human control. Nonetheless, climate change is having a profound influence on fly-fishing, from the timing of insect hatches to the long-term survival of the fish that give this sport its meaning….
And I had a great conversation with Nicky Oullet of Montana Public Radio about the story, and you can listen to it here.
Here’s the latest in Finding Middle Ground series, from Sweetwater, Texas:
All along the straight-shot roads of Nolan County in West Texas, wind turbines soar over endless acres of farms, the landscape either heavy with cotton ready to harvest or flushed green with the start of winter wheat. The turbines rise from expanses of ranches, where black Angus beef cattle gaze placidly at the horizon. Here and there are abandoned farmhouses dating to the 1880s, when this land was first settled and water windmills were first erected. Occasionally a few pump jacks bob their metallic heads, vestiges of a once-booming oil industry still satiating an endless thirst.
Every industry creates an ecosystem around it. If the wind turbines that sprouted in West Texas were huge steel trees, spinning sleek carbon-fiber blades 100 feet in length, then the wind farms—including Roscoe Wind Project and Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, some of the largest in the world—were their forest. Spread out across the expansive vista, invisible air currents feed the structures, their imperceptible roots extending out to the community that contains them.
Pogo pressed her paws into the ground impatiently, the sound of her yelps joining with those of the three other Alaskan husky mixes that Mel Omernick and her husband, Keith, were hooking up to their tug lines. It was the first weekend of November in Pearson, Wisconsin, and mushers had come from all over the region, and as far away as New Hampshire and Quebec, to race their dogs. They had parked their vehicles across the field at the Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Boy Scout Reservation—the young women in a Prius, the Trump supporter in a huge trailer emblazoned with “To the victor the spoils.” All year, the mushers had fed and watered and trained and cleaned up after their teams, awaiting the moment when they could let them loose across the starting line. Now the big weekend had finally arrived, though it had gotten off to a rocky start. Once again, the weather was to blame.
Be sure to check out the great accompanying video done by Anna Belle Peevey: