Emma’s Climate Story


Emma Hurst


Oshkosh, WI 54901

How are you sensing climate change?

Near my college apartment, there is a small nature preserve. Located behind an elementary school, the space doubles as an outdoor classroom, harboring endless discovery and appreciations of Wisconsin nature. The ponds, swift-flowing creeks, timeless trees are ever-present observers of the people who make the short walk along the beaten path. I spent a month observing this space, placing myself silently amongst the privacy of the forest. While these observations began initially as an assignment to observe a natural space of our choosing, it led me to make more astute observations about what I was really seeing. All through the month of February, I was noticing subtle changes in the ways a typical Wisconsin winter was evolving. The temperatures fluctuated between negative 20 degrees and as high as 45 degrees. This caused the ice and snow to grow and shrink rapidly, leading to periods of both spring-like slush and subarctic ice within the span of one month. The trees were whipped around by the high-speed winter winds, while also expecting spring growth with the sporadic rise in temperatures. Even the birds would come and go to the area, anticipating a spring that never seemed to stick around.
All of these observations, along with countless others that may have escaped my senses, I couldn’t help but notice the stark differences from this February compared to previous ones. While it was wonderful to have warm breezes and singing birds back, it felt wrong for them to be here so early. February, as it is in most midwestern states, is unbearably cold. And yet, they are becoming more and more tolerable as the years go on. And while this may seem like a positive change for Wisconsin, it rubs me the wrong way. The subtle changes of both weather and nature are the ones I find myself paying the utmost attention to. Living in Wisconsin for my whole life, I know the ins and outs of what to look out for in the climate. However, it is impossible to pinpoint where seasons end and begin, when the snow will fully cover the ground, and when the ground will thaw enough for the first planting of spring flowers to start. All of these prior observations, coupled with my observation assignment, helped me to realize that what I was seeing was my own monitoring of the climate.

How do these changes make you feel?

After gathering all of my observations together, I realized that they really made me feel numb. While I understand the overarching consequences of climate change as much as the next college student, I cannot place myself in the narrative. Namely, I am unable to fully comprehend what the changes in the climate will do to me, specifically. While this seems like a self-centered approach, it is nearly impossible to view the effects of the climate without it. These are the changes that I am able to see, while others may not. Because of this, we have to be able to see ourselves within this “grand scheme of things”. We try to do so, staying informed with informational Instagram posts and reading the occasional article that piques our interest. And yet, it’s all too much. I constantly find myself drowning in the waves of information about climate change. Because of this, I am now numb to it. Especially now that I see it happening around me, rather than in a distant land, I cannot wrap my head around everything. It scares me to sit and contemplate how the world is seemingly melting under my feet, and that I am just watching it happen with a miniscule grasp of how it will really affect me. It makes me feel small and seemingly helpless, despite my best efforts to educate myself and observe as often as I can.




Oshkosh, WI 54901

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