L: British Columbia forest fire drawn by Melaina at 8-years-old; R: Voting in 2020

Fire, Flood and Fury: Voting for the Climate

I am in the first generation to grow up in the climate crisis. My environmentalist journey began with fire.

Story by Melaina Dyck. Edited by Joost Backer, Mira Kinn and Rick Scherpenhuizen
United States, Northern America
Published on November 29, 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

This story is also available in tr



When I think of presidential elections, I think of ash.

On November 9, 2016, I woke up in a daze, exhausted from the devastation of the night before.[1] The first sensation I noticed was the acrid smell of smoke. I stepped outside of my tiny, ground-floor apartment in Columbia, South Carolina into an ashy haze. The air was thick with burned particles of forest from the western part of the state, blown in to accompany the honking pick-up trucks charging around town with celebratory ‘make America great again’ flags flapping off their bumpers.

What kind of cosmic joke is this? I thought. Wildfires aren’t supposed to happen in South Carolina.[2]

Fall 2016 was the second-to-last semester of my Bachelor’s in Environmental Science. I was a student of the climate crisis and of its political entanglements. Hurricanes brought massive flooding to Columbia all four of years that I lived there, along with evacuees from the coast further east. While intergenerational neighborhoods were disbanded by floodwaters and families lost property passed down since Emancipation,[3] politicians in the state capital of Columbia refused to even use the term ‘sea level rise’.[4] Now, the west of the state burned as the east flooded and Columbia filled with impromptu parades celebrating the election of a climate denier. My despair and disappointment kindled a steady rage that has burned since that day.

Fittingly, my environmentalist journey began with fire.

Growing up, I spent summers in British Columbia (BC), Canada. When I was eight years old, pine beetles ravaged BC’s forests, leaving swaths of dead trees. Those dry forests were tinder boxes and that summer fires swept the region. One night, my Dad and my Uncle took me to a hillside to look across a lake at a similar hillside engulfed in flames. It terrified me. I also wondered what could be done about those beetles.

In high school, I learned that by 2020 hurricanes would be more numerous, massive and wet, while wildfires burned all year—if we did nothing. But 2020 was ten years away, and the adults would do something, I was sure.

On election night 2020, I sat outside with a campfire—providing warmth to my friend and I on a chilly November evening. We shared our nervous anticipation outdoors because with COVID-19 cases rising, it was not safe to be indoors with friends. We checked the electoral map constantly, hoping more states would turn blue for Democrat and fewer red for Republican. But, as the campfire died, the map burned redder.

November 4, 2020, dawned clear, but uncertainty hung over everything like the ash of four years earlier. Over the next few days, votes were counted and the map turned just blue enough. In 2020, for the first time, US voters elected a candidate with a robust climate plan.[5]

I am in the first generation to grow up in the climate crisis. For me, elections are about fires and ash, hurricanes and floods. My anger is ignited by the political failures that brought us to this point of crisis. I do not trust the politicians to deliver on their plans. Yet, when the 2020 election was finally called, I felt a puff of hope on the November breeze. This too fans the flame. There is work to do.


[1] On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

[2] Scroll down to ‘2016’ for information about the largest wildfire in South Carolina history, which burned the day after the 2016 election: https://www.state.sc.us/forest/firesign.htm#:~:text=The%20largest%20mountain%20wildfire%20on,was%20controlled%20on%20December%2016.

[3] Emancipation refers to the end of slavery in the United States, declared by the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862.

[4] Sea level rise is flooding many coastal communities in South Carolina. Among those hit first and hardest are black neighborhoods, including those whose families have passed property down since the end of slavery. Some such properties fall under ‘heir’s property’ ownership, in which land has been passed down over generations without a legal will. Heir’s property is often excluded from government support to recover or move away from flooding and sea level rise, resulting in the loss of wealth, as well as community connections. For more information see: Heir’s Property Retention Coalition; Southern Environmental Law Center Broken Ground podcast, especially episode ‘Uprooted’; Charleston Post & Courier Sea Level Rise and Land Slipping Away.

[5] For more details, read Biden’s climate plan  and listen to ‘How 2020 Became a climate election’ from the How to Save a Planet podcast.


How does this story make you feel?

Follow us on Social Media

Talk about this Story

Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

* indicates required

Melaina Dyck

Melaina Dyck

Melaina is passionate about the power of stories in order to create connection. Personally and professionally, she driven by the desire to meet people and learn new perspectives.

With a Masters in Environmental Science, Melaina works at the intersection of human rights and environmental issues, advocating for communities whose stories are not always heard. Melaina has had the opportunity to travel, live and study in 11 countries (so far!). 

Melaina enjoys the challenging art of editing and writing. She is Correspondents of the World Senior Editor and USA Country Manager. Correspondents of the World combines several of her favourite things: learning from diverse perspectives, connecting with people all over the world, and working with words to tell stories.

Send her an email ([email protected]) if you’d like to chat. She looks forward to meeting you! 

Topic: Environment

> United States
California’s Other Pandemic

A story by Elspeth Mathau

We had wildfire evacuation warnings when I was a child, but the threat is now so severe that we packed bags with whichever mementos and essential items we could fit in our car, to prepare to flee if conditions worsened.

> Read More

> Uganda
Air Pollution in Kampala, Uganda

A story by Anna Adima

If no concrete action is taken soon, the capital of the Pearl of Africa will become almost inhabitable in a few decades from now.

> Read More

> Ukraine
Ask, not tell: how government should engage communities on climate change

A story by Illia Yeremenko

Communities and local NGOs know better than the government about environment policies. Communities should lead the energy transition in Ukraine.

> Read More

Get involved

At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.

Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.

Share Your Story

Community Worldwide

Correspondents of the World is not just this website, but also a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.

Join Our Community

EXPLORE TOPIC Environment

> Iran
My Relation to Water, Snow and Drought

A story by Mani Nouri

Time is ticking, and we must do anything in our hands to save water, the very source of life.

> Read More

Or read it in de it

> Colombia
Recycling in Bogota and Moscow: An Unrecognized Necessity

A story by Juan Manuel David Rodriguez

At my home we do not see recycling only as a necessity for our society, but also as an opportunity and a way to survive. A form of surviving that in countries like Colombia, is still precarious and little understood by a particular classist society like ours, where the primary link of the productive chain, the recycler or waste collector represents for many a symbol of poverty.

> Read More

Or read it in es tr

> Uganda
Air Pollution in Kampala, Uganda

A story by Anna Adima

If no concrete action is taken soon, the capital of the Pearl of Africa will become almost inhabitable in a few decades from now.

> Read More

Or read it in de es it tr

> Indonesia
When Your Country is a Case Study: Being an Indonesian Environmentalist at Yale

A story by Brurce Mecca

My experience and knowledge, and the experiences of all minorities, matter, even when those perspectives feel insignificant because of all the extra effort to make people understand.

> Read More

Or read it in de id

> United States
California’s Other Pandemic

A story by Elspeth Mathau

We had wildfire evacuation warnings when I was a child, but the threat is now so severe that we packed bags with whichever mementos and essential items we could fit in our car, to prepare to flee if conditions worsened.

> Read More

Or read it in de

> United States
Connecting through Food

A story by Sidra Kennedy

Food bonds people together. Studying abroad in Tecpan, Guatemala, I encounter an emphasis on home-cooked meals and local foods that I never experienced in the United States.

> Read More

Or read it in de es it kr tr

Global Issues Through Local Eyes

We are Correspondents of the World, an online platform where people from all over the world share their personal stories in relation to global development. We try to collect stories from people of all ages and genders, people with different social and religious backgrounds and people with all kinds of political opinions in order to get a fuller picture of what is going on behind the big news.

Our Correspondents

At Correspondents of the World we invite everyone to share their own story. This means we don't have professional writers or skilled interviewers. We believe that this approach offers a whole new perspective on topics we normally only read about in the news - if at all. And in case you wondered: Everyone includes you as well. Do you have a story to share? Reach out to us and let us know!

Share Your Story

Our Community

Although we just started a few months ago, we already have a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.

Join Our Community

Vision

At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.

Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.

Topics

We believe in quality over quantity. To start off with, we collect personal stories that relate to our correspondents' experiences with five global topics:

Environment

Discussions about the environment often center on grim, impersonal figures. Among the numbers and warnings, it is easy to forget that all of these statistics actually also affect us - in very different ways. We believe that in order to understand the immensity of environmental topics and global climate change, we need the personal stories of our correspondents.

Gender

Gender is the assumption of a "normal". Unmet expectations of what is normal are a world-wide cause for violence. We hope that the stories of our correspondents will help us to better understand the effects of global developments related to gender and sexuality, and to reveal outdated concepts that have been reinforced for centuries.

Migration

Our correspondents write about migration because it is a deeply personal topic that is often dehumanized. People quickly become foreigners, refugees - a "they". But: we have always been migrating, and we always will. For millions of different reasons. By sharing personal stories about migration, we hope to re-humanize this global topic.

Liberation

We want to support the demand for justice by spotlighting the personal stories of people who seek liberation in all its different forms. Our correspondents share their individual experiences in creating equality. We hope that for some this will be an encouragement to continue their own struggle against inequality and oppression - and for some an encouragement to get involved.

Corona Virus

2020 is a year different from others before - not least because of the Corona pandemic. The worldwide spread of a highly contagious virus is something that affects all of us in very different ways. To get a better picture of how the pandemic's plethora of explicit and implicit consequences influences our everyday life, we share lockdown stories from correspondents all over the world.

Get Involved

We believe that every single personal story contributes to a better understanding of the complex world we live in - and the people we share it with. That includes yours! We would be really happy if you would like to share your story, too, and join our community.

Share Your Story

Growing Fast

Although we started just over a year ago, Correspondents of the World has a quickly growing community of correspondents - and a dedicated team of editors, translators and country managers.

46

Correspondents

52

Stories

34

Countries

94

Translations

Contact

Correspondents of the World is as much a community as an online platform. Please feel free to contact us for whatever reason!

Message Us

Message on WhatsApp

Call Us

Joost: +31 6 30273938