This blog post is by Climate Stories Ambassador Kelly Hydrick:
My name is Kelly Hydrick and I live in Worcester, Massachusetts with my family. I am a trained historian, although before volunteering as a Climate Ambassador I had no formal instruction in oral history. Currently I’m back in school, in my first semester of a library and information science degree program. One day, I hope to combine my library studies with climate change communication, although I’m not exactly sure yet what this synthesis could look like. As you might imagine, I love to read, and in fact it was my love of reading which first prompted me to delve deeper into issues surrounding global climate change.
In the summer of 2019 I read The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh (2016), a book about the lack of climate change representation in modern fiction. The way Ghosh seamlessly integrates literature, history, and politics in order to examine climate change left a lasting impression on me and inspired me to write a lengthy essay on the issue. After months of research and writing I published a three-part article about how representation of climate change in fiction writing is improving.
During my research I started to recognize the disconnect that exists between the different types of climate change communication to which people are exposed. This disconnect between science and history, policy and literature, the global and the personal, affects how (or even if) we think and talk about climate change in our daily lives. When the interconnectedness of climate change is obscured we miss opportunities to make meaningful choices about how to engage with the challenges of a warming planet.
Working as a Climate Ambassador
As a Climate Stories Ambassador, I was able to interact with people from all over the world who are just as passionate as I am about dealing with climate change and it gives me a great deal of hope, seeing the interest that is out there. Part of what drew me to volunteer is that Climate Stories Project is attempting to change the ways we communicate about climate change. By conducting oral histories, by talking with each other, we are humanizing and personalizing an issue that affects us all.
Conducting the oral history interviews provides hope as well. There are common themes that became apparent in the interviews: concerns for the future world in which our children will live, food security, and climate refugees, as well as the hopefulness in things people do everyday to make a difference, in the passion of young people to affect positive change. The interviews I have conducted have highlighted that people are aware of climate change and they want to do something about it. They want to help, but the ways in which climate change is communicated by the media so often makes the issue seem too big, too far in the future, too hard, too much to deal with.
So much of this experience as a Climate Stories Ambassador and as an oral historian, has made me realise that it is not about me. It is not about a single person or even a single group of people. Climate change is about everyone on the planet. Conducting climate change interviews with people from your community will allow the world to hear from ordinary people who aren’t politically powerful, who don’t have unlimited resources, and who will, in one way or another, be affected by climate change.
One of the questions that I’ve asked at the end of every interview I’ve conducted is: “If you could talk to the person who is listening to this oral history recording thirty or forty years from now, what would you tell them? What message would you want someone in the future to know about climate change in 2020?” Each time I asked this question I got goosebumps hearing people’s answers. There was just so much pain and so much hope in the responses. I would like anyone listening to these climate change stories to hear the pain and the hope, and to realize that so many people today do care, deeply, about climate change.