Announcing the Climate Stories winner!

In Climate Change, Storytelling by OLCVstaff

Reading your Climate Stories was bittersweet. Sweet, because you are all great storytellers; we received amazing stories from folks all over the state, and from all walks of life. But it was also bitter, because your stories were, in many cases, stories of loss–stories of what will never be the same. There’s a word I learned back in grad school: solastalgia–the mourning of what is lost to environmental (or, in this case, climate) change. I think that applies to many of your stories. Climate change is clearly affecting our lives, here and now, in so many ways.

But, within these many instances of solastalgia and loss, there’s also hope. There’s still time to prevent the worst effects of climate change. There’s still time to save our future.

I want to thank everyone who submitted their story. It was difficult to choose a winner, but the OLCV staff voted for the story that moved us the most…congratulations to our Climate Stories winner, Ukiah Halloran-Steiner! We were moved by Ukiah’s perspective as a young person and the beautiful, emotional language she used. Check out Ukiah’s story below!

I have lived my whole life on a farm outside of McMinnville. It’s home to a forest and garden and orchard, goats and chickens, and people. And if you look out the windows in my house, there are hay fields. An old farmer, Steve Cone, and his son cut and rake and bale and buck that hay into bales to sell so that they can continue to afford to feed their wives and care for their family home. And as a little kid, before their tractors showed up on the driveway, I remember running through grasses that reached past my head, growing into the sky. Those fields were magical places in early June. The grasses were tall, green, and alive.

A few years passed and I turned 15. The summer came and went, and as it left, the smoke and fires rolled in, threatening the state that I call home. I feared for my house, my backyard forest, the food in our garden, my sweet baby goats, my life. While the flames didn’t reach me, they sure reached others, killing people and destroying more than 5,000 homes and 400,000 Oregon acres. They stung my eyes with smoky air and tears, and scarred my mind with yellow skies. And when I thought about those lost homes- I realized, it could have been me. 

7 months passed and the thermometer read 113 degrees in the shade. The temperature rose and rose and didn’t seem to fall below 95 degrees. The trees that I loved, in that lively forest, burned in the heat, their leaves and needles scorched orange. The heat baked the fields of beautiful hay, turning them brown, before each stalk could finish growing. Then they stood, up to my knees, withered and shrunken from the heat and drought. My neighbors, the farmers, worked in the heat, harvesting the meager proportion of grass, bundling and preparing it to sell. They got much less hay this year, probably less than any year they’ve been alive. “The heat,” they said, “We’re just dealing with Mother Nature.” I really wish that was all. 

–  Ukiah Halloran-Steiner from Yamhill County, OR

This story encompasses so much–the wildfires of 2020, the deadly heatwave of 2021; the way things have already changed so much in this young person’s life. There is beauty in the raw truth of these words, and it’s a reminder of what’s at stake.

Thank you so much to all who entered–don’t forget you can check out all the Climate Stories at olcv.org/climate-stories–and congratulations to Ukiah! You’ll be receiving a prize package soon.

Best,

Francesca Varela
Communications Coordinator, OLCV