The climate crisis is changing our conception of the house

In a single week in July, more than 100 million Americans, from Massachusetts to Arizona, were subjected to excessive heat warnings or notices temperatures have soared into the triple digits. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes in California as the Oak Fire burned near Yosemite National Park. And at least 100 people had to be rescued when record rains flooded St. Louis, Mo.

“Everywhere, the weather, the sky, the water, even the land on which we have built our homes, is becoming unruly,” writes Madeline Ostrander, in her new book Home on an Unruly Planet: Finding Refuge on a Changed Earth. Ostrander, a Seattle-based science journalist, is interested in what happens to our sense of place and stability when the rhythms and seasons that characterize these places change.

To answer this question, she spent time in four communities on the front lines of the climate crisis: a small rural community in Washington recovering from a wildfire, a historic town on the Florida coast in the grappling with rising sea levels, an industrial factory town in the Bay Area whose residents live in the shadow of an oil refinery, and a Native village in Alaska that is being uprooted by permafrost erosion.

“In a way, I could have picked almost anywhere and told the story of how people are coping with the impacts of climate change because it’s happening everywhere,” Ostrander told me. The people she interviews are all faced with impossible decisions. A firefighter wonders if he should break up with his crew to try to save his family home from an encroaching wildfire. A Native Alaskan community navigates to higher ground as the river level rises.

“Today, more and more communities need to ask these questions about what climate change means to them,” Ostrander said. “This is their house. These are the things that matter to them.

—Danielle Renwick

Daniel Renwick: At home on an unruly planet It’s about finding and maintaining community and a sense of rootedness in a time of “unprecedented upheaval.” What made you decide to report on the climate crisis through this lens?

MAdeline Obeaches: When I first started covering climate change over a decade ago, the conversation was much more in the realm of data or policy. It was understood as something happening far away – the melting of the ice caps.

Then, in 2010, I started spending a lot of time speaking with environmental justice groups. They were thinking about climate change in a much more local and tangible way, looking at disasters like Hurricane Katrina and having conversations like, “What does this mean for us?” and “How can we build resilience in our own communities?” »

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