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Climate Stories: Bringing the personal impacts of climate change to light

Posted Dec. 13, 2012 / Posted by: Adam Russell

At the height of Superstorm Sandy there was a five-foot surge of water rushing down Don's street. Then, in the middle of the storm, a fire sparked in a neighbor’s house and, by the next day, most of his block was in ashes.

“The fire started around the corner… and with the wind, blowing so much it was just like a blow torch from one house to the next house.”

Don is a retired firefighter from New York City. Many of his neighbors are also firefighters and the community lost 37 first responders in 9/11. It’s a neighborhood of hard-working Americans, and they’ve all had their lives turned upside down by Superstorm Sandy.

“There was a newborn infant across the street, two houses down, Jimmy O’Connor went over and got her and held the baby over his head while he walked through the water.”

What Don and his community experienced is happening in different ways all over our country, and it’s one of the reasons Friends of the Earth is launching www.ClimateStories.us, a groundbreaking new climate change awareness campaign. The experiences of Americans combating the brutal and widespread effects of climate change have been long overlooked. But the fact remains that climate-driven extreme weather -- such as pervasive droughts, stronger hurricanes and frequent wildfires -- is impacting people across the country, regardless of location or background.

Americans from all walks of life, from Alaska to Nebraska, from Louisiana to New York, have shared their stories of how extreme weather is changing their lives -- sometimes in devastating ways. Farmers in Wisconsin have been grappling with strange seasons and sparse apple harvests, while families in Colorado have struggled to recover after widespread wildfires. And some of the voices come from people no one would expect.

Click here to call for President Obama to take action on climate change

Stories are the most powerful way to move people and change minds. Communicating the harsh scientific realities of climate may be unwieldy at times, but by illuminating neglected personal accounts, Climate Stories aims to clarify what is at stake for ordinary Americans in a future of climate change. Superstorm Sandy is projected to have cost a colossal $71 billion in damages to New Jersey and New York State alone, but the stories and experiences from community members like Don speak louder than straight statistics.

By raising awareness and provoking Americans to ask serious questions about climate change, the Climate Stories campaign will also help push President Obama to take serious action on the issue. As he starts his second term, the president has a unique opportunity to make climate change a major theme of his next four years. Fully denying the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and pushing for a carbon tax in the fiscal cliff negotiations would mark clear climate action by President Obama and set the tone for the years ahead.

While the president decides the future of his climate policy, it’s imperative to recognize how climate change is already affecting people across America. Don and his community’s struggle to rebuild what they’ve lost demonstrates the great personal stake in the choices that we make now.

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