La Crosse-area community members share stories of climate change

Climate change and how it is affecting community members was at the forefront of a discussion held at the La Crosse Public Library Saturday. Panelists shared stories of how the area’s climate has changed their lives over time.

About 50 people came to the library for the event hosted by the La Crosse Chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Change Lobby and Coulee Region Sierra Club.

“One of the trends that we’re definitely seeing is warming winters,” said Casey Meehan, sustainability coordinator for Western Technical College.

Meehan started the conversation by saying the average temperature in La Crosse is three degrees warmer than it was in 1970.

“And now the average coldest temperature each year is a balmy -14. The average in 1970 was -25,” Meehan said.

Panelist David Bange remembers running in those frigid temperatures.

“I want to show you how things were back in, let’s say, 1975 up to about ’85 when it became fairly obvious things were changing,” Bange said.

Where Bange once had to wear layers upon layers, he found that they weren’t as necessary during winter runs anymore.

Others brought up the economic side of climate change-related events. Because of flash flooding followed by drastic droughts in recent years, Jack Hedin’s farm is suffering.

“Although it is well known from Chicago to Minneapolis and all around this region, it’s still hanging, and I’m not kidding, by the very thread of existence,” said Hedin, founder of Featherstone Farm.

It’s something Jamie O’Neill has noticed too as a small vegetable grower. However, if something were to happen, she’d be able to start over again much more easily.

“We keep our fingers crossed that through floods or through droughts that we’ll be able to have a successful year,” said O’Neill, executive director of Grow La Crosse.

Local and regional groups will present steps they’ve been taking to slow climate change during the 3rd Annual Climate Action Festival. The event will take place at La Crosse’s First Congregational Church on March 3rd from 1 to 4 p.m.