Annabelle’s Climate Story

Annabelle Wilkinson

A number of years ago before I made Grand Rapids my home I was living out in Portland, Oregon. I considered myself so lucky to live in a place where I felt comfortable walking and biking to work. I was always filled with gratitude when crossing the bridge home each day when I could see Mount Hood often glimmering in the distance. Despite what people tell you, Oregon is not all rain! When I moved there it was 90 to 100 degrees every day, sunny, and dry heat for months. It was (and I’m sure still is) a great place to go hiking, connect with nature, and overall enjoy the outdoors, but as the next summer came so did wildfires. I woke up one day, walked outside and found that it was raining ash from the sky. I looked up and noticed that it wasn’t cloudy, the cover above was just an endless view of smoke. Honestly, it looked post-apocalyptic, like the end of the world.

This was something we were just supposed to accept as our new normal? As someone who has asthma, the air quality quickly affected me, I started coughing and felt unable to take deep breaths and quickly went back inside. I didn’t have access to a car at the time, so I spent the next month choosing to risk my health to walk to work (5 miles a day), wearing a makeshift mask to keep out the fumes and particles. I ended up staying inside more, which wasn’t great for my mental health (I’m sure we’ve all experienced that now). Ultimately this experience made me afraid for our future on this earth. It was a wake up call that all the natural beauty I loved so much and my ability to be with community was directly linked with our ability to address climate change. That is what led me to this work in the hopes that we can begin a conversation in our hearts on how we each can contribute to what can sometimes feel like a really overwhelming topic.

– Annabelle Wilkinson