Wisconsin’s Water Future
How do we tell Wisconsin’s complex water stories? From ﬂood to drought, storm intensity to changing temperatures, these stories are local, emotional, and essential.
In March, our Beyond the Headlines: Wisconsin’s Water Future project convened a diverse panel of experts to discuss the implications of “climate weirding” for the lives and livelihoods of Wisconsin residents. We asked panelists to consider inequities in the ways this “weirding” is borne by communities across the state, the laws and policies aﬀecting Wisconsinites, and the impacts we’re already experiencing.
Steve Vavrus, Senior Scientist in the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research at UW-Madison, set the stage with data on changes in Wisconsin’s climate and projections for a future of increased ﬂoods and heat. Another important part of the story of how Wisconsin is experiencing climate change came from Tony Wilkin Gibart of Midwest Environmental Advocates and Wenona Wolf, who represented the Lt. Governor’s oﬃce. Both spoke of the current state of environmental law and its shortcomings.
“We have to realize that climate change aﬀects all of us diﬀerently. You might be a citizen [who] enjoys fresh trout or walleye ﬁsh fry. When it goes up in price or it’s out of stock, we take notice of those things, right? … But for our tribal nations that depend upon these sources for subsistence…for their year-round diet and their traditional lifeway, climate weirding is devastating.”
— Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
“Storytelling [can] help people…in healing and help them process [yet] another catastrophe.”
— Caroline Gottschalk Druschke, Department of English, UW-Madison
“I would argue that the ﬁrst thing that needs to be done is ﬁnding the relevant stakeholders that can tell the stories that need to be told. Number two: what stories need to be told? Research shows that stories of doom seldom convince anyone of anything. Stories of hope, however, very often tend to change people’s view.”
— Dominique Brossard, Department of Life Sciences Communication, UW-Madison
To hear more from this fascinating conversation, watch the full recording at the project’s website, beyondtheheadlineswisconsin.org, where you will also find other useful resources.
We’re thrilled to share this Q&A with Jimmy Gutierrez, the host of our new podcast, Human Powered. Jimmy is also a Milwaukee-based journalist whose work takes an exciting, community-centered approach. Both roles are all about connecting with people through deep, sustained listening.
We’ve put together a fantastic team to help us tell beautifully produced, emotionally powerful stories about how people make places better across our state. One of the people you’ll meet is Cheri Fuqua, a community leader and organizer.
“Mary spent her life bringing people together and supported Wisconsin Humanities because she believed its programs and initiatives were so eﬀective in providing public forums for civic dialogue among people of all persuasions, something she felt was so necessary for us all.”