“Wisconsin, completely surrounded by the rest of the Midwest, can fairly lay claim to being the heartland of a region that is already the heartland of the nation, and though the state may not be precisely in the middle of the country, the human heart too is somewhat north and east of center.”
Climate Chronicle is one man’s attempt to bear witness to the ways the global climate crisis is altering one small community in the heart of the American Midwest — and the hearts of the people who live there.
That man is me, Rick Chamberlin, and my community is Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin. It’s a beautiful place bordered by the broad, sandy Wisconsin River, the ancient Baraboo Range and the remnants of the great Sauk Prairie. This is Aldo Leopold country.
This is also a country that’s changing, thanks to global warming and climate change. The pace of that change is accelerating. As the heartland changes our hearts change, too, because our identity — the sense of who we are individually and collectively — is tied in profound and complex ways to the places we live.
One example: because of warming winter temperatures, Wisconsin lakes have been losing a week of ice cover every decade. When people don’t go ice fishing or ice skating anymore, that doesn’t just impact our local economies, it impacts our family traditions, recreation (re-creation), and our very way of life. When a woman can no longer take her children down to the local pond to skate, or a man can’t teach his son or daughter how to icefish like his father taught him, they are all changed. Lake Wobegon becomes Lake Woe.
If we’re to respond with any degree of effectiveness to the many challenges climate change presents, we will need to better understand all the ways climate change is changing the places we live, and how those changes are changing us.
There are some good climate blogs. Some of them are written by scientists, some by policymakers and some by activists. But most if not all of those sites deal with climate change at a macro level. Climate Chronicle is about climate change on the local and the personal level. There are things that are unique about how my community is contributing to and responding to climate change, but in many ways Sauk Prairie could be Any Town, USA. How is your part of the heartland changing? And how is that change changing you? Post a comment and tell us.
Global warming is such an enormous, seemingly insurmountable problem, and such a daunting challenge, that it’s easy for observant and caring people to feel overwhelmed or even paralyzed. Many of us are unsure how to respond. Changing our incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs is a start but it’s not nearly enough. Relying on oil spills and other environmental catastrophes to change the hearts and minds of our neighbors and our leaders isn’t enough. Acting fast isn’t enough. To effectively respond to climate change, we will need action born of deep reflection — reflection on the science, yes, but also on our own experience of climate change at the local and personal level.
In short, we’ll need to know what it all means — for our own communities and for our own souls — if for no other reason than because it makes it easier for us to convince our leaders what’s at stake. But while we desperately need for world leaders to act, we can’t afford to leave it to them. We need to address this problem on a village, neighborhood, and individual level. That will require paying much more attention — at least as much attention as we pay to what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico and at the planet’s poles — to what’s happening right around us — and in us.
And that’s where Climate Chronicle comes in, because here you will find thoughtful articles from and about the places where the climate of the heartland meets the climate of the heart. You’ll find breathtaking photographs. Once in a while you’ll even find a poem or two. Share your comments about what you read, what you’re feeling and what you’re doing. Won’t you engage more deeply with me and others in the defining struggle of our time?
P.S. Climate Chronicle would not be possible without the expertise of several people, including Ben Kubs, my web host and technical adviser. Photographers Teresa Chamberlin Carroll, Richard E. Chamberlin, Hattie Chamberlin (yes, it’s a family affair), Dick Ainsworth and Reece Donihi have also been kind enough to lend their talent to this blog.