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Forging Powerful Partnerships for ResilienceGrounding Adaptation in Community Engagement | Creating Pathways for Social Resilience | Transforming the Governance Paradigm | Taking Action Under UncertaintyInvesting in Climate-Smart InfrastructureIntegrating Solutions for the Built EnvironmentEnhancing Natural and Working Lands Resilience

Creating Pathways for Social Resilience Track

Track Summary by Julian Ruzzier-Gaul, Graduate Student, Presidio Graduate School

Collaboration, community understanding, and relationships are key to building resiliency. The various sessions touched on the agencies, case studies, individuals, and communities that focus on providing power to communities to build resiliency. Key takeaways and conversations from these sessions included:

  • Successful regional collaboratives in California rely on foundational partners to provide institutional knowledge and support if these collaboratives are to grow and thrive.
  • Outreach and engagement on resiliency should be inclusive and provide opportunity for all audiences to understand and engage in the process.
  • Emergencies and long term climate stressors are intertwined. Practitioners are incorporating science on both issues into resiliency planning and implementation.
  • Storytelling allows us to share optimism and historical knowledge on what is possible when we collectively act.

Two of the most important actions that should be taken to make California more resilient:

  • Leaders should provide power to communities affected by climate change. This can only be done by building strong, long lasting relationships with these communities and providing them the tools and knowledge to be more resilient.
  • Collaboration at the regional level is difficult, but key to providing the necessary assistance communities need to be resilient to climate change impacts. Power dynamics are slowly shifting to allow communities, and those that represent them, to equitably build resiliency.

What About the People? Stories and Resources for Social Resilience

Session report by Patrick Pelegri-O’Day

Emily Wasley, Cadmus (moderator)
Mike Antos, Santa Ana Watershed Protection Authority
Kristen Goodrich, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Lil Milagro Henriquez, Mycelium Youth Network
Theopia Jackson, Department of Humanistic & Clinical Psychology, UCSF

This session covered one of the most important and least discussed aspects of climate resilience – social resilience and the psychological aspects of climate change. Speakers discussed psychological and social resilience and challenged the audience to face the longstanding structures of inequity and marginalization that create the context in which agencies are attempting to build climate resilience. The session concluded with the audience asking how a culture of “in it togetherness” – between science and policy, between agencies and communities, across other perceived boundaries – can be fostered within the rest of the conference.

Social resilience is critical for climate resilience. We need to foreground community expertise in what have traditionally been engineering processes. We’re redefining community away from a geographical sense, into a sense of shared purpose. We are at an extreme crossroads in human history. Grappling with climate disruption, and its interaction with existing social and economic challenges, is emotionally heavy work. It’s very inspiring and hopeful to see leading practitioners talking about the personal and emotional impacts of climate change – both on front line communities, and on policymakers and scientists.

Twitter Summary: Inspiring speakers discuss social resilience – asking communities what they need and eschewing an “us vs. them” language for community engagement altogether.

What about the People? Stories and Resources for Social Resilience

Session report by Jennifer Carman, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan


Moderator: Emily Wasley, Director of Corporate Sustainability and Climate Resilience, Cadmus
Mike Antos, Senior Watershed Manager, Santa Ana Watershed Protection Authority
Kristin Goodrich, Coastal Training Program Coordinator, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Theopia Jackson, Program Director for the Department of Humanistic & Clinical Psychology, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
Ayako Nagano, Co-Chair, ITRC California (panelist)

This session focused on principles and practices of working with and for communities in developing and implementing adaptation strategies, particularly in communities that are traditionally marginalized. The speakers emphasized that climate change affects people, not just infrastructure, and understanding how climate change affects people is a critical component of equitable and sustainable adaptation. Kristin Goodrich discussed her research in the Tijuana River National Research Reserve working with communities at the U.S.-Mexico border to identify potential flooding threats in the Tijuana River watershed. Dr. Mike Antos discussed his work conducting ethnographically informed strengths and needs assessments in the Santa Ana watershed as part of implementing Prop 1 water bond projects with disadvantaged and economically distressed communities. Ayako Nagano discussed a toolkit for community resilience developed by the ITRC, which emphasizes building both “presencing” (i.e., providing and receiving social support) and “purposing” (i.e., turning toward community rather than away) skills for responding to community trauma. Dr. Theopia Jackson discussed the importance of maintaining a historical and cultural perspective as adaptation professionals. Working with people requires that we adaptation professionals recognize the role of historical oppression and the role of traditional power structures, but also recognizing the validity of the lived experiences and strengths of the people in those communities.

The major theme that emerged from this session was that all adaptation professionals need to listen to and learn from outside perspectives. Engineers and social scientists need to collaborate to provide usable interdisciplinary research, but scientists also must listen to the communities that they are working with to develop plans that help the communities address their problems, not just the problems that scientists think are there. This session was inspiring because it showed that everyone has a role to play in adapting to climate change. It is important to remember that adaptation is not just “hard” solutions like infrastructure, and there are already practitioners on the ground who have lessons they can teach us all about working with people.

“People are the resource and the solution. We have an abundance of people are who are going to experience trauma, and we can build the skills to help people” – Ayako Nagano

Twitter Summary: How do communities build the skills to respond to climate shocks and trauma? Many of them have the skills already, we just need to listen.

Heat Resilient Transit and Cool Streets

Session report by Julian Ruzzier-Gaul, Graduate Student, Presidio Graduate School

George Ban-Weiss, Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California
Sabrina Bornstein, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer at the City of Los Angeles
Yoon Kim, Directory of Advisory Services at Four Twenty Seven
Cris Liban, Executive Officer, Environmental Compliance and Sustainability Program Management – LA Metro
Jason Vargo, Lead Research Scientist, Climate Change and Health Equity Program – CA Dept. of Public Health

This session explored how stakeholders engaged in research and planning efforts are assessing the impact of a changing climate and implementing cooling strategies that strengthen social resilience. Rising temperatures have obvious social impacts. Practitioners need to identify the existing resilience practices in communities and build upon them to successful adapt to rising temperatures. The City of Los Angeles has set specific targets for reducing heat in the short and long-term. The urban heat island effect causes urban areas to have increasingly higher temperatures than their surrounding rural areas. The urban heat island effect can be reduced through various mitigation practices (i.e. constructing cool roofs or planting more vegetation). Over 80% of sunlight in the City of Los Angeles region is observed by buildings. Constructing cool roofs on all buildings in Los Angeles could reduce the city’s temperature by one-degree Celsius.

There are simple improvements available to mitigate social, health, and environmental impacts of raising temptations. Specifically, cool roofs could reverse a large portion of the heat effects associated with climate change in Los Angeles by 2050. There are benefits associated with better air quality but may cause increased particulates in the area. The City of Los Angeles set targets for heat reduction and provides a “cool roof rebate” for residents that retrofit their homes with cool roofs. Cris Libon emphasized that we must take a systematic approach to effectively address the impacts of extreme heat. Elected officials in Los Angeles support citywide cool roof adoption, which allows the city to more quickly progress towards the goals outlined in the city’s resiliency plan.

Twitter Summary: Organizations in Los Angeles are helping communities be more socially and environmentally resilient to rising temperatures.


The California Adaptation Forum is hosted by the Local Government Commission