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The water is rising: A personal look at the effects of Climate Change

I was privileged to spend my entire youth down in Illinois across the street from the Fox River. Historically, the Fox River played a vital role in the community by providing clean energy to the surrounding areas.

As a small child, I used to explore the trails that ran along the riverbank. However, a thin strip of trees blocked the view of the river on the north side of our street where we lived. Trees leaned over the trails and shrubbery crowded the muddy path, making it difficult to spend time close to the river away from the monstrous, roaring dam.

Fortunately, the southern half, just on the other side of Main Street, had much calmer waters. It was here that my father used to take us fishing. Along the banks sat a bunch of large stones, with one impossibly large stone sitting proudly at the corner of our summertime fishing spot. We used this rock to identify a comfortable place where we could drop our equipment and cast our hooks into the current.

I always remembered that rock as my sister’s fishing spot. Despite her small stature, she always insisted on sitting atop the largest rock. She hunched over her pole and watched the water wash over the soft, muddy riverbanks. Whenever we walked our dog along the south half of our street, I would make a game of looking over the edge of the walkway to locate my sister’s fishing spot. As I grew older, my game became more difficult as the river swallowed up the boulder inch by inch each year. Like most waterways, the Fox River goes through periods where the water levels rise after all the snow melts, and eventually returns to a normal level in the summer.

It has been years since the sun has last shone upon those rocks. I have lost hope that the water will recede to a point where we can once again call that place our fishing spot. I try to remain optimistic that the water will stop rising. After all, it’s just a small river, it couldn’t possibly get much higher, could it?

I never once as a young girl imagined that by the time I graduated high school, our beloved fishing spot would be under muddy, polluted water.

Then I think on a larger scale of all the people who live near the river, not just in my town, but in all the towns that lie along the banks. All of the people on the south half of our street constantly worry about the rising water levels. I remember once watching a father and his young son piling sandbags in front of their house to slow down the predicted flooding from a particularly large storm that was to pass through later that night.

Unfortunately, we cannot stave off climate change’s effects with sandbags or by closing our eyes and wishing the problem away. Most importantly, we cannot keep fooling ourselves into believing these occurrences are normal or coincidental.

Before we can take steps to solve climate change, Americans must first realize that climate change is a real problem affecting communities across the nation and the world.

Annie Jo Wills is a senior at Finlandia University, where she is earning a double major in English and history. She won first prize in Finlandia University’s Campus Read Writing Contest, and the opportunity to have her essay published in the Daily Mining Gazette.

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