Climate Change, who is s/he?

Wednesdays here are always a treat, especially when they come bearing donut holes from Orange Blossom brought to you by Baxter Miller and Ryan Stancil. Let’s back up, who are they? Besides fashion and career goals— Baxter and Ryan were our guest lecturers for the day. They are ‘Creative Storytellers’, a term they coined after finding a way to combine their talents of journalism and business with their passion of photography and history to create a niche enterprise that tells stories of the North Carolina coast from the perspectives of locals.

Baxter and Ryan were at CSI for the opening of their new exhibit “Rising”. Rising is a collection of oral histories describing the changes that local residents of the coast have seen and endured as time passes here on the Outer Banks.

Courtesy of Baxter Miller’s Instagram. This photo is one that both Baxter and Ryan find encompasses all that Rising is because as the water rise and sand erodes, five birds remain planted in their place.

These stories described natural processes such as sea level rise and coastal erosion, but more importantly how they manifested in the everyday lives of natives of the Outer Banks, and how over time these processes have shaped not only the topography and ecology but also lifestyles and livelihoods. Though, after reading all, I noticed that no one had said the words ‘climate change’, at least not after one another.

These two insallations were two that I found to be some of the most powerful. The first on the left depicts all that’s left of the Hatteras Inlet Coast Guard Station on Ocracoke Island. To the right is a photograph of the eroding coastline, which has taken its toll on the Midgett Family Cemetery washing away at the graves of loved ones.
Courtesy of Baxter Miller

We had a panel discussion that night, and I then again held out, waiting to see if the phrase would be uttered. Once more, words like erosion, sea level rise, sea encroachment, and even ‘whatever you call it’ took its place. I understand the reason, the rising exhibit is not meant to be a political tool— but rather an object of discussion that portrays stories within the community to address a problem that manifests in various ways and is and will impact all, no matter their beliefs and political leanings. However, my frustration, I did come back from the discussion with two very important takeaways. The first, Outer Banks residents are champions of resilience, and like many of us when it comes to our homes are relentless to leaving. They understand that they may be crazy for not doing so because the water will come – (The Water Will Come was our summer reading book and if you’re reading this and haven’t picked it up, you should!)— but they also understand that they bought into this risk when they accepted or chose to live in OBX. The second takeaway, articulated so eloquently by Karen Willis Amspacher, was that more resources need to be allotted in our education system to teaching our youth of the impacts of the word that shall not be named. These youths have a right to this knowledge as they will be living the effects that my generation and those before me have created for them.

Courtesy of Baxter Miller. Panelist Ben Cahoon (Mayor of Nags Head), Lauren Salter (long-time resident of Down East), Ernie (long-time resident of Hatteras Island), Karen Willis Amspacher (descendant of those who left Diamond City and long-time resident of Harker’s Island)

Marium Konsouh