Having moved around many times as I grew up, I have been exposed to the humidity and heat of the low south and the arctic temperatures of the high north. Even though I planted shallow roots in each of these places, I quickly got to know local people and deeply understand the culture of the place that I was current inhabiting. One of the most memorable experiences I encountered that really made me start thinking about climate change and the effect that it was having on me in real time was the record breaking drought in Texas. My family lived in a neighborhood on the edge of the city where we could hear long horn cattle bellow from a few blocks over yet we were a minute away from dense traffic. During this summer of intense drought, change was easy to see in the landscape and what problems were being created for humans and wildlife. By the end of the summer, water was so scarce that the DNR came to each door to alert the neighborhood of sightings of cougars and wild hogs. The wildlife were moving in to drink from pet water bowls and backyard pools. Eventually we got rain again. However the soil was now very hard and when the rain poured down it could not soak into the soil, instead it flowed and flash flooding occurred. Although the water subsided, the washed up turtles and copperhead snakes remained in our yards. This left them stranded out of their habitat and added a danger element to backyards for pets and people.
It is unavoidable that we will encounter extreme weather events, but this drought has lasted for five years now and has broken many records. It makes me wonder if Texas is just going through a very unlucky weather period, or if they will need to begin making permanent adjustments to function in this new climate. For me this is first hand proof that climate change is occurring. I now live in Northwest Minnesota and work as a sustainable community outreach coordinator. With the intentions of making Crookston a GreenStep City, I have a goal to educate people and the local government on how to make changes that are healthier for our environment. With everyone working to make these changes, I believe that there is still hope for places like Texas.
DeAndra O’Connell is the Sustainable Community Outreach Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Crookston and helped lead the process of establishing Crookston as a GreenStep City.