You don’t exist yet, but I think about you a lot. You’ve stayed on my mind more and more after I became knowledgeable of and extremely concerned about the imminent impacts of climate change and our ability to live comfortable, safe lives. I actually worry more for you and your children now than I do just thinking about you and what kind of person you will be.
One day you’ll hear a lot of memorable stories about my childhood, which truly couldn’t have been better. I grew up about two hours north of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in a rural region known as the Piney Woods. But once I got older and went to high school, I realized that I perceived the way the world should be quite differently than many of my classmates, mostly thanks to my parents who were closet liberals in an extremely conservative small town. I didn’t leave the South until I finished grad school, moving to Boston three days after graduation. It wasn’t until I had lived in Boston for more than a year that I became concerned about climate change, and since then it has become my biggest fear — for my future and for my family’s future.
What makes things even more difficult for me is that I don’t have many family members with whom I can discuss my worries, concerns, and personal efforts to affect climate change. I’m not allowed to talk about it around family; as my mom warned me, “climate change is not something that people think about in Mississippi. People don’t believe in global warming, and they don’t want to hear anything about it.” She and my dad don’t mind me talking about my concerns every once in a while, but I’ve been explicitly asked not to rock the boat by bringing up the topic around any extended family or anyone else when I travel back home.
But I’m worried for my family’s future. I’m worried about the rise in sea level near the Gulf Coast. I’m worried about stronger hurricanes, more extreme heat and humidity; I’m worried about the spread of disease and the impact of climate change on the Mississippi economy (which is already unable to support its citizens’ basic healthcare and education needs); and I worry about Mississippi’s (and the rest of the South’s) inability to elect Congresspeople and Senators who understand the reality and danger of climate change and who are willing to do anything about it. I’m worried about my sister and her future children and for their safety.
And I’m worried for you. I’ve traveled and seen many places in the world, and I chose to settle (for now) in Massachusetts. I want you to have the same opportunities and options ahead of you, and I don’t want you to be limited by climate change.
At this point in my life, my true passion is being an archivist. Soon after I became concerned about climate change, I considered the many ways in which it’s going to affect my profession. As an archivist, I’m responsible for the preservation of history for future generations. I believe whole-heartedly that archivists should be equally as passionate and concerned about the preservation of a habitable, safe planet for future generations. If there’s no future for which to preserve the record of history, what, then, is the point of being an archivist?
Last year, I gave a presentation at an annual archives conference outlining four ways in which archivists should be acting on climate change, and I’ve since founded a task force called ProjectARCC (Archives and the Reality of Climate Change) which focuses on addressing the four issues. The task force consists of archivists who are striving to motivate other archivists to take action against climate change, including ensuring the protection of our collections against the risks of climate change, reducing our professional carbon footprint, elevating archival collections to increase awareness and understanding of climate change, and preserving this moment in history.
I hope that by the time you read this I’ll have contributed in many more ways to improve the chances of you enjoying as safe and comfortable a life as possible. I also hope that much sooner will I be able to discuss climate change at home in Mississippi with family members and friends who care equally about preserving a place to live for you, your kids, and many generations to come.