Topic: Featured

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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Rebuilding Paradise

Rebuilding Paradise – Avoiding Hell

An Update on California’s Efforts of Moving toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure

Contributed by Susi Moser, Ph.D.

As I write this, I’m returning from California, where the smoke-filled air has finally cleared, but the atmosphere is still filled with the horrors of the Camp Fire, which all but destroyed the town of Paradise. Every conversation I was in, every story I listened to, involved some experience of living through the devastating blaze, the urgency of recovery right now, or the difficult-to-imagine task but also the determination of rebuilding an entire town.

Just think away everything in the neighborhood, the city in which you live. Everything. And then try to put the pieces back in place, bit by bit: homes, businesses, and all of the infrastructure that allows people to run normal lives: electricity lines, communication towers, traffic lights, schools, health facilities, a whole new water sewage/treatment system (Paradise, before the fire, was one of the largest cities in California still entirely on septic), and of course stabilizing the hillsides through rapid revegetation, which some day may serve again as scenic landscapes and recreational areas that people might enjoy.

How do you even begin when you have lost all town government offices, the entire tax base, not to speak of every city official – Mayor and Council members included – having none of their own homes to go home to at the end of each grueling day?

At this point, there is no room for subtlety: the work ahead is about rebuilding Paradise – the actual one, and all the other “Paradises” that exist in the state. It is about avoiding hell. Making sure that whatever infrastructure gets built from now on – and California will build lots of it given population trends, the need to refurbish old and outdated infrastructure, and remake much of its electricity and transportation infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – is built with climate change and extremes in mind, rather than blind to the unfolding reality. It must be adaptable, resilient and sustainable if the money is not to be wasted. In a word: it must be made climate-safe, and for everyone, not just the rich.

The purpose of my trip to California was to brief the legislature and the State’s Strategic Growth Council on a report I helped produce this past year, released earlier this summer: Paying it Forward: A Path Toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure in California. With the legislative staff back at work and rolling up their sleeves for the next session, we reported on a project mandated by Assembly Bill 2800 (Quirk).

The 25 staffers in the briefing room were eager to find useful angles to take back to their elected members. All the right state Senate and Assembly members, Committees and Appropriations folks were represented. Just like the Mayor of Paradise, they asked, “where to begin?”

Our answers, detailed in the report, launch from a three-pronged vision of climate-safe infrastructure, which contributes to the stringent emissions reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement, ensures safety even if climate change turns out much worse, and does both with a central focus on social equity. Our report offers a systems approach for realizing this vision, which involves (1) user-relevant forward-looking climate science as well as socioeconomic information; (2) improvements in the project planning process; (3) updated standards, codes and guidelines; (4) improved economic analyses and financing tools; and (5) much greater attention to the things that help with appropriate implementation (e.g., workforce development, procurement and contractual language, incentives, waiver guidance). The ten recommendations we offer in the report address each of these five components.

After two hours of briefing and engaged questions and answers, we learned that a Republican State Senator will work to advance a previously begun initiative (ACA-21) to pass a constitutional amendment in the state that would establish a permanent funding source for infrastructure. In the revised version, language from our report is being cited in the legislative findings. Climate change is now a recognized motivation for moving this forward! You can track this over the months ahead to see if it passes. Chances are good. The incoming Governor may well support it, too. For now, it’s encouraging to know that “paradise” for climate-safe infrastructure funding may come out of the ashes of hell!

Transforming the Adaptation Field

Top 5 Ways to Use the National Climate Assessment in your job. Right Now.

Last week the White House released the 4th installment of the National Climate Assessment.  With each installment of this congressionally required, quadrennial report adaptation and resilience has played an increasingly significant role. This Quadrennial report makes adaptation the star of the show.

Start Here: Chapter 17 & 28 – These two chapters should make your adaptation professional heart sing! Chapter 17 Sector Interactions, Multiple Stressors, and Complex Systems is a primer on the art of adaptation itself. This chapter boils down the complexity of climate and non-climate interactions, plus, this chapter–like all the NCA Chapters–comes with a ready made slide deck that you can download and use today!

Money Talks – This report puts the cost of climate change front and center, with dire warnings about the cost to public health, urban infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, forests, and tourism.  This report comes on the heels of the IPCC report which painted a similarly stark picture for our global economy. The drumbeat of climate risk is permeating mainstream media and the NCA Authors understand that the economic case is as important as the science itself.  Here are a few ways climate change is impacting our economy right now:

  • Coastal erosion accounts for $500 million in damages per year.
  • The cost of wildfire management exceeded the annual average of $1 billion by 300% in 2017

Delve into your Regional Area – Hurray! This year’s report added a 9th geographic region of focus by splitting the Great Plains into the Northern Great Plains and Southern Great Plains. For adaptation professionals working in “middle America” this is great news. The report’s key findings demonstrate just how different these two areas are and why they bear having two different sections. The Northern Chapter’s key takeaways are about agricultural changes, water sensitivity, and the energy sector. The Southern Chapter’s key takeaways are about infrastructure, population growth management, and coastal preparedness. Both chapters explicitly address indigenous people, a thread that is highlighted across the report. Each regional chapter tells a story in a refreshingly unique voice:

Northeast
Southeast
U.S. Caribbean
Midwest
Northern Great Plains
Southern Great Plains
Northwest
Southwest
Alaska
Hawai‘i & U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands

Adopt a Case Study – This NCA sparkles with case study gems! From explicit chapters like, “Chapter 28:  Reducing Risk Through Adaptation Actions” to adaptation examples tucked into the regional chapters. A few examples that jump out are the implementation of green infrastructure in Utica, NY; changes by vintners in the Pacific Northwest, and changes in cattle ranching in Washington to increase productivity and reduce environmental risk.  A full summary of all the case studies is not currently available, but will be coming out soon.

For the Data Lovers – The report released last week is Volume II of NCA 4. Volume 1 was a trove of climate data, methodologies, attribution science, and definitions. If you are a local decision maker wishing for geographically significant climate data to inform your decisions – look no further. NCA 4 Volume 1 is just what your heart desires. You can find the downloads here: https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/

With all this excitement, we can’t wait to talk about this at our upcoming ASAP events! We invite you to join ASAP at the AGU Fall Meeting in Washington DC on Wednesday morning, December 12 for a workshop on Growing into Principled Climate Change Adaptation Professionals and Transforming the Adaptation Field.  On December 14th, tune in to hear from ASAP Board Members Joyce Coffee and Jennifer Jurado for a membership information session online. Topics will include an overview of our membership and event engagement, our new interest group formation process, and more! Register today and learn about how you can participate in the new 2019 Member Interest Groups process!

Can People Cultivate More Urgency Than Dollars?

Contributed by Rachel Jacobson, ASAP Senior Program Manager

In September, I was haunted for days by this New York Times story about Casey Dailey’s death during Hurricane Harvey. Today, as I mourn the losses of the 63 people killed so far in the Camp Fire, I brace for notifications of additional “direct” deaths and for information about the hundreds more whose deaths may be “indirectly” attributable to this disaster. I grapple with understanding these losses, especially the “indirect deaths”, in the context of my role as an adaptation professional: to be able to articulate why they happened, how climate change is to blame, and what I can do to decrease the number of losses projected for the years ahead.

Personally, my motivation as an adaptation professional is to reduce lives lost from climate change. It’s incumbent upon me, and all of us, to ask ourselves how each of the strategies we use in our work affects how we achieve that goal. ASAP’s Values and Beliefs, elaborated through the Code of Ethics and Living Guide, implore us to be systems thinkers and apply co-benefits. Twelve years ago, the Stern Report made a compelling economic case for action. Last month’s IPCC report put our failure to act, and perhaps with it the failure of the economic case, in sharp relief, giving us just twelve more years to leap forward. And yet we continue to refine our methodology for evaluating the economic benefits of climate action and the costs of inaction.  

But we must think beyond economic costs. As fires continue to ravage California and hurricane season comes to a close, we are approaching a reckoning with 2018’s climate change death toll. As a cross-sector community of practice, we are uniquely positioned to strengthen responsive professional capacity and reduce harm by sharing lessons learned and staying connected. Public health professionals turned the world’s attention back to the deaths caused by Hurricane Maria, using proven methodology for calculating excess mortality and outlining a research agenda for how to adapt those methodologies to the demands of climate-related disasters.

We must strive to build an accountability framework that significantly reduces loss of life. The field of public health consistently sounds the alarm about how climate change is impacting determinants of health such as clean air, water, food, and shelter. I ask those ASAP members who are part of both the climate adaptation and public health communities to step forward and help us integrate best practices for determining and communicating the human cost of climate change. We must bring the strengths from each of these communities of practice to bear and build capacity together.

Here are a few places to find public health and climate adaptation at the intersection:

The Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative has 5 Quick Guides on Climate Change & Public Health. For those at the American Public Health Association (APHA)  conference this week, here is a list of climate change related sessions. Read this article from the APHA newswire on Accessing environmental health services: ‘This is community engagement 101’ and learn more about an environment and public health collaboration with the American Planning Association called Plans4Health. You can also attend the Health and Environmental Funders Network 2018 Annual Meeting on Environmental Health and Justice Majority: Raising Voices, Building Power, taking place in Pittsburgh November 28-30, 2018.

Read our full newsletter from November 16, 2018

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2018 Carolinas Regional Adaptation Leadership Awards

Regional Adaptation Leadership Awards

Congratulations to our 2018 Carolinas Regional Adaptation Leadership Award honorees Holly White, John Fear, and Steven Frank! Thank you for your contributions and leadership in the field of climate adaptation.


Holly White, Winner
Principal Planner, Town of Nags Head
Elizabeth City, NC

Twitter: @Townofnagshead
Web: https://www.nagsheadnc.gov/

Holly White is a dedicated climate adaptation leader in her community as well as for all of North Carolina. Her tenacity in action, vision, creativity, and sheer determination to engage with others and promote adaptation strategies and planning underscores her efficacy in putting dedication into practice. Through her strength and talent for engaging a diverse set of stakeholders, she has established the Town of Nags Head as a model for other communities to emulate in their adaptation efforts. Holly crafted a vision for a resilient Nags Head by learning about adaptation and engaging the public, both those supportive and skeptical of the need for sea level rise planning. To approach adaptation planning, Holly assembled a team across town departments that included planning, engineering, public works, and septic health. Her leadership has fostered integrated, interdisciplinary resilience. Grounding in shared values, her work has strengthened support and capacity for sea level rise planning.

Holly is ensuring that adaptation addresses complex hazards, centering the interactions between sea level rise, rainfall, and water use in driving groundwater table height and consequent flooding. The mainstreaming approach to adaptation Holly recommended will ensure that complex hazards are included across all implemented plans. Holly is now sharing lessons learned from Nags Head throughout northeastern North Carolina, initiating efforts to reach across the border with Virginia as well as rural northeastern NC counties. Through her dedication to public service, she is fulfilling her vision of a resilient rural North Carolina. We are very grateful for her service in the field, and honored to name her the Carolinas RALA Winner. Congratulations, Holly!


John Fear, Honorable Mention for Building Capacity and Fostering Connectivity
Deputy Director, North Carolina Sea Grant and N.C. Water Resources Research Institute
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Twitter: @SeaGrantNC and @NC_WRRI
Web: https://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu

John Fear’s vision is a key asset for North Carolina Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute. John’s leadership as Deputy Director has shaped each program to meet crucial needs in the state. As part of National Sea Grant visioning efforts, John has helped set the stage for discussion on climate change and adaptation, integrating climate change into strategic plans and daily operations. John chairs the North Carolina Sentinel Site Cooperative, which focuses on climate change impacts along the state’s central coast. Utilizing local ecological knowledge, residents provide valuable historical context in research projects, participate in current citizen science efforts and offer input during planning sessions. A creative expression of this engagement is the innovative RISING project, which uses fine art photography and oral histories to stimulate discussions of environmental changes that include community members and scientists.

The North Carolina Community Collaborative Research Grant Program exemplifies John’s ability to identify needs, work with colleagues to develop solutions, and leverage partnerships to accomplish goals. John recognizes there is a significant training component needed to underpin adaptation practice and planning efforts. John is a mentor and facilitator for graduate studies, leading North Carolina Sea Grant, Water Resources Research Institute and Sentinel Sites programs to provide strong research experiences for students. John also coordinates recruitment and review of applications for national fellowships in marine policy, coastal management and fisheries management. Combined, these state and national fellowships offer graduate students critical opportunities to approach challenges such as climate change — and development of related adaptations — from real-world perspectives that demand interdisciplinary approaches. We are pleased to recognize John for his ability to build capacity and foster collaboration. Congratulations, John!


Steven Frank, Honorable Mention for Adaptation Integration
Associate Professor of Entomology, North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC

Twitter: @OrnaPests and @EcoIPM
Web: www.ecoipm.org

Steven Frank is an internationally recognized Entomologist known for his work to understand how urban heat islands affect tree health and pest populations, and whether the effects of urban warming can predict the effects of global warming and climate change. As trees are critical to mitigate urban heat islands, remove air pollutants, and benefit human health, Steven’s mission is to understand why urban tree health declines and develop ways to sustain urban trees and ecosystem services. A hands-on climate adaptation leader training arborists, municipal foresters, landscape architects, government regulators and others, he envisions an adaptive urban environment that supports health and conservation.

Steven leads by example on innovative public communication and integrating adaptation into his work. He is a founding member of the Southern Nursery Integrated Pest Management working group, a regional consortium of horticulturists, plant pathologists, and entomologists. In response to a member survey identifying ambrosia beetles as the most economically costly nursery pests, Steven developed a system to alert growers by Twitter when beetles are active, and created a targeted insecticide spray technique and tool to reduce insecticide use. These practices, along with his protocols for managing water stress, have transformed how growers manage ambrosia beetles throughout the US.

Steven’s passion for his work creates enthusiasm among his stakeholders about tree care and research based adaptation to climate change. He has built trust with stakeholders, municipal leaders and the general public because of his innate curiosity and willingness to listen to others, learn from them, and develop tools and techniques to help solve their problems. We are pleased to recognize Steven for his innovative integration of adaptation into his field. Congratulations, Steven!

Read more about our 2018 RALA Winners in California, the Great Lakes and Northeast. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped to make this a successful effort to recognize the adaptation champions in the field. Congratulations to everyone, and thank you for all that you do in the field of adaptation!