“Climate Conversations” Highlight Different Individual Paths Toward the Common Goal of Fighting Climate Change

A Florida rancher, a young conservative, and an aspiring fashion designer show that there’s no one way to meet the challenge of a changing climate.

From coast to coast, Audubon works with people and communities who are united by a love of birds and driven by the need to protect the natural habitats that they need to survive. If our decades of conservation work has taught us anything, it’s that environmental concerns should not be divisive. Fortunately, our work regularly brings us into partnership with others who feel the same way. And while our members and network have heeded the call to protect the earth, not everyone has taken the same journey to arrive at that conclusion.

The stories below represent people who have dedicated their lives to a common cause through uncommon paths.

Kenneth Bell realized that his friends growing up in his Memphis neighborhood didn’t feel like there was a space for them in the larger environmental movement, and wanted to find a way to help get other young people like him engaged. An aspiring fashion designer, he started his own fashion line called $lumber Threadz that featured designs with themes related to the need to act against global warming.

“Art is a conversation starter,” he says. “Putting it on clothes, it makes them pay attention.” After a term as an intern with Audubon Delta, Kenneth is now a campus chapter leader at Xavier University. “You don't have to be a full-on environmentalist to make a change. My goal is to inspire people to find their own purpose within it.”

Benji Backer grew up loving the outdoors while hiking and fishing in Wisconsin with his family. But he also used to fight with his sister over whether climate change was real. A political activist from a young age, he recognizes now that he was influenced by others in his conservative circles who didn’t believe that climate issues fit in with their values.

“I thought about what can I do as a political activist and someone who cares about the environment to depoliticize the conversation to the point where conservatives are engaged,” he says. Which is how he came to start the American Conservation Coalition, a group for young conservatives to come together to help push Republican lawmakers to embrace the need to address climate change.

“This is not about Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal,” he says. “If you don't have both sides at the table, climate change will never be solved.”

Jim Strickland’s family has been ranching in western Florida for generations, and has seen the land that he works every day compromised by overdevelopment and climate change.

“If you're not gonna keep these lands viable, sustainable, and profitable you're going to lose them and your ability to compensate for climate change,” he says. “I hope everybody recognizes that, before we lose too much.”

Climate change doesn’t discriminate based on anyone’s background or beliefs. It affects all of us, no matter where we live. These conversations show that there’s a place for everyone in the effort to realize a better future for both people and wildlife.