Topic: Blog

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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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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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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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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Volunteer for our Daily Digest Volunteer Reporting Team!

Volunteer for our Daily Digest Volunteer Reporting Team!

We are looking to recruit volunteers who can help document the sessions they participate in and coordinate with us by sending your notes and photographs in time to make it into the Daily Digest. A special thank you to all who can volunteer as reporters and contribute to the Daily Digests! This daily news edition is made possible by the dedication and commitment of your hard work. Please contact Dawn Nelson at [email protected] to learn more!

Visit our ASAP-at-NAF webpage and bookmark your browser for the upcoming NAF Daily Digests!

 

Achilles’ Heel

Achilles’ Heel

By Dawn Nelson, ASAP Communications Coordinator

 

An emergency declaration for a border wall as a measure for national security is not an incongruity lost on many Americans. It becomes troubling to learn that some of the money being diverted to fund a border wall will come from construction funding to strengthen the resilience of US military bases–thereby diminishing capacity for national security.

The Trump administration aims to grab $3.6 billion from Defense Department Military construction funds. Concerns abound across the political spectrum that this will negatively impact previously prioritized projects, such as  military family housing, schools, and service animal treatment facilities and other critical upgrades and base improvements. This has direct bearing on adaptation and resilience capacity for numerous military construction projects.

For example, military bases on the South Carolina coast are at risk for annual flooding events to nearly double in the coming decades. In Florida, the Tyndall Air Force base has already sustained severe damage from last year’s hurricanes, and future funding remains uncertain. The House Appropriations Committee identified nearly $311 million at risk of diversion in Hawaii, including $45 million for improvements at Pearl Harbor and another $123 million for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The irony that diverting funds from military construction projects to pay for a security measure that actually undermines security is stark. As  Rep. Kendra Horn, Member of the House Armed Service Committee simply states, “Pulling from our military housing does not make us safer. In fact, it makes us more vulnerable.”

Nevertheless, we find it heartening that this may afford an opportunity to reach across the political aisle and forge some unlikely allies. Consider this your call to action to reach out to elected officials today.

This article first appeared in the March 1, 2019 ASAP Member News. Join ASAP and subscribe today!

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