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When the Waters Came

In March 2019, record-breaking floods swept through the Midwest, leaving cities and farmland razed, broken, and drowned. Hundreds of people were displaced, and millions of acres of agricultural land were submerged. Thousands of livestock died; people reported carcasses floating in the currents. Silos were crushed and stored grains were contaminated, losing seasons of labor in a matter of days. But even when the water receded and returned to the confines of its banks, there was no relief for farmers like Jeremy Mahon and his family. Ranchers and farmers are still struggling, three years and hundreds of thousands of lost dollars later. As climate change exacerbates weather variability and storm severity, areas like the Midwest are expected to see more, and worse, floods and other disasters. Agriculture is crucial to the region’s economic success and residents’ livelihoods, so it will be increasingly important to prioritize conservation and adaptation-focused farming practices to ensure the industry’s safe continuity. But there’s a challenge: for social, cultural, and financial reasons, various people and communities simply don’t want to adapt. As disasters intensify, this resistance may be one of our biggest obstacles to successfully preparing for climate change impacts — the worst of which are still to come. This thesis explores the long-term impacts of the March 2019 floods on agricultural production, specifically in northeast Nebraska. Though the state at large has mostly recovered, small rural towns and farming communities are still dealing with the repercussions. The thesis goes on to explore the question of what holds people back from taking on adaptive farming practices, which is an important question given that climate risk is increasing, that consequences of disasters are long-lasting and severe, as well as immediately damaging, and that farming is as vital as it is to this area.

Maria Rose
Written by
Maria Rose

In second grade, Maria Parazo Rose started a newspaper called Kids Weekly, which featured important news for the neighborhood children. She didn’t have access to a photocopier, so the paper had quite a limited run, but her enthusiasm for storytelling has only grown stronger (and more resilient) since. Her experiences growing up in Manila in the Philippines and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia fostered her early awareness of environmental disparities between the Global North and South. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in environmental studies, reporting experience in Australia, and a love for geologic time scales.

Since then, she spent a few years working with a small nonprofit on migrant rights and statelessness in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and has served as a producer on Resettled, a podcast that explores the refugee resettlement process in the US, and for NPR’s Morning Edition in Pittsburgh. She has also reported for several outlets, including StoryCorps, The Allegheny Front, and Pittsburgh and Richmond, Virginia’s NPR flagship stations.

Maria Rose Written by Maria Rose