The Future of Climate Migration: Evolving Cultural Norms Through Relationship-Building

This past weekend, neither widespread ICE raids nor one-time hurricane (now tropical storm) Barry wreaked the level of havoc newscasters predicted they would. However, these specific threats still exist, as do the conditions that have enabled them, displaying the complex, interconnected experiences of human migration and environmental change.

Mentorship Spotlight: Building Resilience Locally

Mentee Libby Szuflita is a Master’s student in City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in transportation planning with a Natural Hazards Resilience Certificate. Her research focus is on growth projections in long-range transportation planning, particularly how large transportation infrastructure projects impact land use decisions and how resilience can be prioritized in these decisions. Prior to graduate school, she worked for a sustainable transportation advocacy non-profit in New York City. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sociology from Bowdoin College.

Mentor Michael Dexter is a climate risk and resilience expert and Certified Floodplain Manager. He works as the Finance and Grants Manager for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, where he supports local, state, and federal efforts to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity for one of the 28 estuaries of national significance. Previously, he worked in the EPA Administrators Office, coordinating climate adaptation planning and environmental financing efforts that support federal, state, tribal, and local efforts to adapt to climate change. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University and currently resides in Sarasota, Florida.

Through her mentorship with Michael, Libby has learned about the important role that local government plays in building resilience on the ground. “Michael has shared how local transportation and public works departments oftentimes have the most direct experience managing the consequences of poor planning for hazards, and play an important role in advocating for adaptation,” she said. “I can bring lessons of adaptation to any future role I have, whether it has ‘resilience’ in the title or not.” Libby has appreciated learning about adaptation career opportunities across the US, as Michael has worked in Washington, D.C., New York, Seattle, and Sarasota.

Michael and Libby have also taken a closer look at the process behind EPA grant funding for resilience work. Specifically, they have discussed how block grants have unique potential to be utilized for environmental programs that incorporate climate change adaptation. Tribal governments have been notably innovative in leveraging EPA grants for adaptation. In their next meeting, Michael and Libby will investigate how the word “adaptation” is applied in varying contexts, and how to take action in the name of adaptation in the most productive way.

Michael has enjoyed learning about Libby’s interests in transportation and adaptation, and how these interests were fostered through her coursework and education. “Hearing how climate adaptation is being covered in undergrad and graduate programs gives hope for the continued mainstreaming of adaptation as a defined field of research within multiple disciplines,” he said.

Thanks to both for sharing what they’ve learned!

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Review Announcement: Knowledge and Competencies Framework for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Professionals

The ASAP Member Advisory Group on Professional Education is pleased to request your feedback on a Draft Knowledge and Competencies Framework for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Professionals. Please review the framework carefully and navigate to this form to submit your feedback. Deadline to submit feedback is June 30 at 11:59PM Pacific Time.

Please email Rachel Jacobson with any questions or problems.


Framework Purpose and Applications: The purpose of this framework is to articulate a standard set of foundational knowledge concepts and core competencies that are relevant, and necessary, for all climate change adaptation professionals. The intended users for this framework are climate change adaptation and resilience education providers, climate change adaptation and resilience professionals and students, and other professionals whose role requires they address climate challenges. This framework provides a complete view of the knowledge and competencies needed to ensure that existing professionals, students, and learners of all types are prepared to effectively address climate change adaptation and resilience in the context of their work. In the near term, ASAP intends to use this framework to chart pathways through existing professional education resources so that climate adaptation and resilience professionals seeking to gain knowledge or competencies can easily identify relevant resources. In the longer term, ideally within the next 1-3 years, ASAP intends to use this framework, in conjunction with the ASAP Code of Ethics and the ASAP Living Guide to the Principles of Climate Change Adaptation, as the foundation for offering accreditation to climate change adaptation and resilience education courses and programs.

Framework Design Features: This framework is meant to be customizable to any field, discipline, or professional role that intersects with climate change adaptation and resilience, at any career phase. Supplementary content features a glossary of terms and will eventually include graphics to illustrate connections between the concepts.

Framework Development Process: This framework was produced through review and synthesis of many training and certificate program concepts, higher education syllabi, and on-demand professional education course outlines for climate change adaptation and resilience and related fields. The source material synthesis was followed by intensive discussion, iteration, and further development by a dedicated subgroup of Member Advisory Group participants:

The framework also benefited from review by the rest of the Member Advisory Group participants:

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Mentorship Spotlight: Turning Momentum into Action

Mentee Amy Henry is a planner for Kimley-Horn, where she has worked for about four years, and has a multidisciplinary background, including consulting experience in environmental science and a Bachelor of Arts in English. She specializes in crafting narratives and telling the story, through maps, text, and graphics, to present complex technical ideas to non-technical audiences. As a Certified Floodplain Manager and soon-to-be AICP professional, she is particularly interested in the intersection of community planning and resilience to climate impacts such as flooding, extreme storm events, and acute and chronic stressors to infrastructure and vulnerable populations.

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Mentorship Spotlight: Starting a Career in Adaptation

Mentee Kimberly Duong is a Ph.D. candidate in Civil Engineering (water resources) at UC Irvine, working on urban drought management in southern California in collaboration with the Irvine Ranch Water District. She has a B.S. from UCLA in Atmospheric Sciences (meteorology). In past years, she has been involved with the Solar Decathlon, Carbon Neutrality Initiative, and the UCI Climate Action Training Program. She is also a co-founder and executive board member of Climatepedia, a climate communications nonprofit. In 2018, she was a Mirzayan science policy fellow at the National Academies in Washington DC, as well as a Subject Matter Expert for the Resilience Dialogues. From April 2018 to April 2019 she served as part of Voices for Science, a science advocacy program hosted by the American Geophysical Union. She will graduate with her Ph.D. in September 2019 and is seeking employment in water management/climate change policy.

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Mentorship Spotlight: The Frontlines of Resilience Storytelling

Alex Basaraba works at the interstice of environmental conservation, climate change, and human well-being using visual story-telling, research, and planning. Currently, he works as a climate resilience specialist with Adaptation International, a consulting firm focused on helping communities and organizations prepare for the impacts of climate change. Adaptation International specializes in bridging the gap between climate science and community action and invests in developing tools and strategies necessary to support climate change preparedness. In addition to pursuing his own climate and environmentally-focused storytelling projects, Alex works in Nepal as an educator with National Geographic Expeditions. He holds a Master’s in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and a Bachelor’s in Biology, both from Colorado State University.

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The Sanctuary of Nature

Contributed by Lily Swanbrow Becker, ASAP Network Manager

Last September, brought face-to-face with the ephemeral beauty of a ghost orchid while waist-deep in the cold, inky waters of a swamp inside Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, I experienced deep connection to nature.  But even as a natural resource-focused adaptation professional and proud Floridian, the state known for its prehistoric reptiles and wild places, those moments are few and far between. This week in the UN biodiversity report, we read that humans have significantly altered three quarters of the landscape and 66 percent of the seascape, threatening 1,000,000 species with extinction in the coming decades.  The report is sobering in its scale, scope and certainty, but sadly its conclusions are not unexpected.  The collective understanding that humans have altered Earth’s natural systems in profound ways began to sink in well before the concept of the Anthropocene was introduced almost 20 years ago.  We knew it then and we see it now, every time we step outside.

For adaptation professionals, the deepest significance of the report may not be its comprehensiveness on the state of biodiversity on Earth, but rather that it nails down “how closely human well-being is intertwined with the fate of other species.”  This is a fact that scientists have struggled to meaningfully communicate to the broader adaptation field over the past decade.  The UN biodiversity report represents a strong step in this direction, following a trend of increased efforts to translate and quantify the value of ecosystem services in more human-centric terms.

These ecosystem services comprise  some of the best adaptation strategies we can bring to bear on climate change.  Coral reefs provide the United States with $1.8 billion in annual flood protection benefits.  Mangroves sequester carbon, thrive in brackish waters and provide suburb shoreline stabilization as sea levels rise.  As adaptation professionals always striving for innovation, we have to be humbled by the solutions nature offers up.  Reflecting on 18 ways nature helps humans (including food, medicine, energy generation, inspiration etc) as plainly laid out in the report may have been the tipping point we needed to finally and truly get it: humans and nature are inextricably connected.

Of course at ASAP, we already get it.  As with nature, the strength of our network is deeply rooted in connection.  Still, as we struggle together towards adapting to a future threatened by climate change, it is easy to feel we must prioritize threats based on urgency.  While making difficult choices about where to direct our limited capacity is necessary at times, we must not forget our charge to be systems thinkers and strive to increase connections, as elaborated on in the Living Guide.  In this case, it is not a matter of choosing whether to prioritize human health over ecological health but of reaching the understanding that the choice has never really existed in the first place – we are one system.

News of the biodiversity report greeted me on Monday morning, just as I was beginning my first full week as Network Manager at ASAP.  The grim and frightening warnings aside, I’ve found a thread of hope this week in some of what the report offers and in my choice to embark on this new role.  For example, I am grateful for the emphasis the report places on the need to learn from “the knowledge, innovations and practices, institutions and values of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities,” acknowledging that global trends of ecosystem decline are generally less severe or absent on lands managed by Indigenous Peoples.  The report concludes that “transformative change” is needed to slow or reverse the trajectory biodiversity is on. Seeking to learn from Indigenous Peoples, as Jem Bendell describes with the concept of “radical hope,” may be one way to strive for this transformative change.

The report also ranks the driving forces of human influence on nature in descending order as land use change, direct exploitation of species, climate change, pollution and invasive species.  This type of comparison is a highly relevant policy tool and a conversation I engaged in often during my time working on adaptation for fish and wildlife for Florida state government. Asking for example, is increased sea level rise or the projection of 15 million new residents by 2070 a more urgent threat to state conservation lands?   But I would argue that this type of question cannot really be answered.  

We must explore ways of finding connection wherever possible, acknowledging, for example, that land use change and climate change will interact in compounding ways on a future landscape.  Working in a realm where climate change interacts with and magnifies other threats in a complex web touching all facets of society is one of the greatest challenges adaptation professionals must rise to.  But it is a challenge I see us stepping up to meet with increased vigor and a challenge ASAP is perfectly positioned to support. While my personal motivation for a career in climate adaptation is deep reverence for nature, I am thrilled to have the honor of supporting a network built from the strength of its connections across the broad span of the adaptation field.  I look forward to continuing to weave these connections with all of you.

Based in Tallahassee, Florida, Lily Swanbrow Becker joins the ASAP team as our new Network Manager. Lily will facilitate member connectivity and value creation across the ASAP network through support of peer-learning opportunities including the ASAP Member-Led Interest Groups, Regional Hubs and more. Lily brings many years of experience in climate adaptation, natural resources conservation, facilitation and professional development. You can contact Lily at [email protected].

Mentorship Spotlight: Adaptation Knowledge Networks

Alexander Hurley is Jr. Vice President of Operations for smart-cities startup firm Venture Smarter, Inc. and leads the company’s energy and resilience practice. He is dedicated to supporting governments, businesses, and universities that are researching, building, funding, and deploying smart and sustainable solutions to make better places to live, work, play, and visit. Alex completed a Master of Science in Environmental Studies degree through Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in May of 2018. In this degree program, he studied the nature of large organizational partnership networks focused on developing localized climate change policies and programs.

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Welcome our new ASAP Board of Directors!

The American Society of Adaptation Professional is thrilled to announce the appointment of two new directors to our Board of Directors. These two new directors, Emily Wasley and Julia Kim, will join seven seated Board Members for an initial three year term of 2019 through 2022. Emily and Julia join the ASAP Board at an exciting time for our organization. As we continue to seek out new and meaningful ways to fulfill our mission of supporting and connecting climate adaptation professionals to advance excellence and innovation in the field of adaptation. We welcome these highly respected and dynamic adaptation thought leaders and look forward to continuing to learn with them and from them in the years to come.

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The 2019 CLC Dispatch

Reflections on Climate Leadership in 2019

By Beth Gibbons

Next month, the North American adaptation community will meet in the Midwest US. Comprised of vanguards and newcomers, we will converge in Madison to share strategies, lessons learned, successes, failures, friendships, beer and cheese – it is Wisconsin, after all!

This past week, a different climate community convened on the seawall of the Inner Harbor of Baltimore at the Climate Leadership Conference. Convened by C2ES and The Climate Registry, it is the descendent of an event once hosted by the EPA by the same name.  However, unlike past years, resilience and climate adaptation were on the agenda–both literally and figuratively–for the conference attendees.

At ASAP, we have seen a marked increase in the private sector engagement in the climate resilience and adaptation conversation. We are observing shifts in the climate resilience marketplace (both demand for and support of services) and in the shifting demographics of the ASAP Membership.

Attending events like the Climate Leadership Conference and our stalwart National Adaptation Forum, we can translate lessons between events and achieve more robust discussions with our members. In that spirit, here are the top 5 observations from the ASAP Booth at the Climate Leadership Conference 2019:

  1. Companies want climate resilience (and sustainability) integrated throughout their entire operations. Kevin Rabinovitch, VP for  Global Sustainability at Mars Inc., noted that it’s not enough for climate resilience to the job of his 20 person team. Rather he wants to see principles of resilience (and sustainability) integrated throughout Mars Incorporated’s 113,000 employees.
  2. Mitigation vs. Adaptation is still being talked about. While there was robust discussion on the role of corporations advocating for climate action, there was also an expressed concern that ‘if we can only advance one policy goal – it has to be mitigation’.
  3. The lack of US federal leadership is felt across the world. When asked about whether the US is losing its reputation as a leader,  Cathy Woollums of Berkshire Hathaway Energy quipped,“Sometimes, when you want to be leader, you have to lead.”
  4. New legal challenges are coming fast and furious.
  5. TCFD – the Bloomberg driven, international framework for corporate risk disclosure is creating a pathway into this work.  However, the path through climate financial disclosure remains fertile ground for innovation and exploration.

I also noticed a few things were missing from this conference:

  1. The financial markets were missing. I don’t think there were any speakers from S&P,  Moody’s or Fitch – the three domestic rating agencies. Despite support from Bloomberg, their team kept a low profile throughout the event.
  2. The conversations were sorely missing the federal perspective. At a conference once hosted by Environmental Protection Agency and hosted less than 40 miles from the D.C. border, the lack of federal agency staff was striking.
  3. The crowd was – well – not young. While Greta Thunberg and the youth movement is dominating the global climate conversation, this conference was still about top down leadership from well-seasoned professionals.
  4. The attendees, and especially the speakers, were conspicuously white. This was definitely a crowd where the word equity was more likely to be in a sentence with ‘balance sheet’ and ‘profit’ than ‘justice’ and ‘race’.

I do not point out these missing groups to criticize or diminish the value of the conversations and interactions that were taking place. However, throughout the adaptation and resilience field, we have learned that when we change who is the room, we change the conversation. When we change the conversation, we change the actions. We also know that diversity equals profitability, and that is an equity outcome we all like to achieve.

The public sector was never going to solve this challenge on its own. There was an appetite for action and a different kind of know-how on display in Baltimore last week. Now, more than ever, I am grateful for ASAP being an inclusive community that can bridge these events, connect conversations, and drive the innovation and excellence that we need across this critical and diverse field of practice.

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