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North Carolina is no stranger to the hurricanes, tropical storms, widespread flooding, tornadoes, droughts and other severe weather events that seem all too common amid the fast-changing climate.
This week, many eyes were on Elsa, which developed into the fifth named storm of the 2021 hurricane season on July 1 between the coast of Africa and the Leeward Islands. As it churned across the Atlantic, over Caribbean islands, Cuba and then the southern United States, North Carolina hunkered down into that familiar posture of preparing for the worst in predicted paths, while hoping for the best.
Lawmakers and others who develop the polices, regulations and programs that shape recovery and resiliency efforts after megastorms often do so claiming to be taking a long view for how to deal with climate change.
They speak of efforts geared toward their grandchildren or their grandchildren’s children.
Yet the adults often make these decisions and lay out long-term goals without seeking the voices of the youth who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
North Carolina Health News and Working Narratives/Coastal Youth Media held two workshops recently to give young people from southeastern North Carolina a greater voice in the debate over climate change.
With generous financial support from North Carolina Sea Grant through the Community Collaborative Research Program and a huge assist from Aranzuzu Lascurain, assistant university director of the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center at N.C. State University, NC Health News founder and editor Rose Hoban, NC Health News reporter Anne Blythe and Sarah Sloan, media producer at Working Narratives, worked with more than a dozen students to help them develop podcasts and essays.
They explored the impacts that climate change has on farming, fishing, backyard gardening and what we eat.
They researched what happens to sharks, small animals and even horse hooves as the oceans warm, storms grow more frequent and what were green woodlands become ghost forests.
They also dug deep on what’s happening in their own neighborhoods, schools and towns, questioning whether they and their peers can change the viewpoints, habits and actions of adults in their midst.
What they produced in just days is wide-ranging, far-reaching and, quite frankly, work that wowed us. We’ve compiled those essays and podcasts with hopes that their important voices will lend new depth and perception to an issue that will have great impact on their lives.
This is the last installment in a series we are proud to share, where these young people talk about climate change and its impact on the past, present and future of their lives.