How water can break the climate silence, and two tools to help

Post by Jenny Seifert

Let’s talk about climate change.

You probably don’t expect to hear someone suggest that at the Thanksgiving dinner table this week. In fact, research from Yale University shows that even though most Americans consider global warming an important issue, it is an uncommon topic of conversation, which may be reinforcing people’s silence about it.

What does this have to do with water? Everything.

Climate change is a threat to freshwater resources around the world, and Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and groundwater are no exception. Yet, opportunity comes with this threat.

Survey after survey indicates people value freshwater. No doubt we all recognize how vital it is to our existence and well-being. This importance positions water as a good starting point for conversations about the changes ahead.

The Water Sustainability and Climate project recently released two new outreach products to facilitate conversations about the future of water and people given the challenges presented by our changing climate.

The first is a set of discussion guides based on the Yahara 2070 scenarios, a set of four stories depicting possible futures for the Yahara Watershed. Similar to a book club, the guides create space and structure for conversations about the future of water and people.

Self-guided and action-oriented, these tools come in both a long and short version to meet differing capacities. Both versions take groups through a process of considering possible futures and how our actions today matter, as well as envisioning a desirable future to work toward.

The second and newer of the products is a series of seven “mini-documentaries” called Changes and Choices in the Yahara. Starring members of our research team, they highlight the major lessons we’ve learned from our six research areas and how our findings could help navigate a path to a resilient future.

We hope these tools will fuel public dialogue in the Yahara Watershed and beyond about our collective future, and we invite you to check them out and share them with the people in your life.