Art, Storms, Stories

In the climate crisis, those who help you will not be your Twitter followers. They will be your neighbors. -Jenny Odell

Princella Talley

Princella Talley lives in Louisiana. As an artist, a writer, and a climate advocate, she is deeply engaged in her community, and even more so now after Hurricane Laura brought so much damage to her town. She has organized fundraising and disaster relief efforts. On Friday she published a piece for Grist, In Louisiana, grief surges with another storm. So does hope.

She writes about Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Being on the front lines of climate change has changed people’s attitudes about a crisis that many ignored or denied for so long.

Fifteen years later, the psychological and economic destruction have not left us. And Louisiana continues to serve as a real-time state of reference for the harrowing effects of climate change. In 2016, Isle de Jean Charles, mostly home to residents who belong to the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, became known as the first place to have climate “refugees” from Louisiana.

We’re still face-to-face with grief. But acceptance is also evident. Last year, Republican Congressman Garret Graves took a stand against climate denial. In February of this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the formation of a new Climate Initiatives Task Force to address climate change by reducing carbon emissions and building resilience for the coast. Just last week, in a historic move for our state, he signed two executive orders on behalf of this initiative.

Last week I released a podcast episode in which Princella tells some of her own climate story. As a queer woman of color, she was unsure where she fit in a climate movement that looked very white and heteronormative. As an artist and a storyteller, she knows she has a lot to contribute. She speaks candidly about moving into predominately straight, white climate spaces, and how she found her place in Citizens Climate Lobby. In the episode you will also hear Clara Fang speak about and read her poem, The Children on Why They are Striking on Climate. Krista Hiser shares recommendations for cli-fi and sci fi.

Flood of 1972

I live in rural Central Pennsylvania. My attempts to learn about the history of the original inhabitants before Europeans arrived has been challenging. It takes digging around as there are no public markers or easily accessible information. Therefore, I was thrilled to chat with Elizabeth Wisler. She is part Lenape and Choctaw, and is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. For five years she lived in nearby Williamsport, PA working in theater and the arts. She walked along the Susquehanna River keenly aware of what was missing.

“I just couldn’t help but feel an absolute absence and erasure every time I walked on the River Walk. I would really like more people to understand what happened there—to the land, to the trees, to the people. An enormous amount of trauma happened in that area,” she says in the interview I feature in the most recent Susquehanna Life Out Loud podcast. She speaks about the land and the people, and reads a letter from President George Washington that made my blood go cold. He gives the command to destroy the land and the original inhabitants. It is a powerful conversation.

Joining me on the show is Andrew Stuhl, an associate professor of environmental studies and sciences at Bucknell University and someone very involved in the local Green New Deal chapter. Andrew is committed to hearing and sharing people’s stories. He believes the memories and experiences of the past can guide us today and for the future. With the Agnes Flood Project, he and his team are connecting with local survivors of the historic 1972 flood. He sees valuable lessons in what they have to share.

You can hear both of these stories in Fall 2020 episode of Susquehanna Life Out Loud.

Featured photo by Princella Talley for Vogue Italia

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