Tagged: Frontline communities

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!

Making the “Miami Forever Bond” a Model for Equitable Climate Adaptation

Making the “Miami Forever Bond” a Model for Equitable Climate Adaptation

By Zelalem Adefris, Resilience Director at Catalyst Miami

You could say that Miami, Florida, is ground zero for climate change. As the American city most vulnerable to sea-level rise, Miami faces existential threats from flooding, storm surge and saltwater intrusion in the city’s drinking water. And growing inequity places Miami’s low-income and marginalized communities at extraordinary risk from climate impacts.

But—thanks to the Miami Climate Alliance, a coalition of citizens’ groups–this coastal city could also be at the forefront of equitable climate adaptation.

Last year, under the leadership of its outgoing Republican Mayor, Tomás Regalado, Miami’s voters passed a $400 million “Miami Forever Bond.” The measure authorized the city government to borrow money on the municipal bond market to address sea-level rise and the city’s affordable housing crisis, levying a new property tax to repay the debt. The Miami Climate Alliance is working to ensure that the bond benefits those who need it most.

How did a famously tax-averse city with a conservative Republican mayor find itself in the vanguard of climate adaptation? The answer lies, in part, with Regalado’s conversion from climate skepticism. When he was elected in 2009, Regalado thought that sea level rise was “a very distant future possibility,” he later told The New York Times. But, during a series of 4:30 am chats over Cuban coffee, Regalado’s son, Jose, convinced him of the urgency of the problem.

That urgency has become increasingly difficult to ignore. Over the last 10 years, the Miami region has seen floods increase in frequency by 400 percent; fish now swim the flooded streets even on rainless, sunny days. The ocean that laps at the region’s famed beaches has risen nearly a foot since preindustrial times, and could swell by six feet or more by the end of this century. Rising seas will combine with supercharged storms to inundate the Miami region, which is home to nearly three million people.

Of course, not all people are affected equally by climate threats. That was evident when Hurricane Andrew tore through Miami in 1992; the hardest-hit areas included the impoverished municipality of Florida City, south of downtown Miami. While neighboring areas quickly bounced back after the storm, Florida City suffered from plummeting property values and rising poverty.

And, despite the city’s booming tourist trade and glittering seaside real estate, many City of Miami residents are struggling to get by. Nearly 60 percent of Miami-Dade County households are considered financially unstable; one in five live in poverty. Poverty is most prevalent among African-American and Hispanic communities, which together make up 85 percent of Miami-Dade’s population.

As climate impacts became a daily reality for the people of the City of Miami, Mayor Regalado gathered support for the bond initiative. He got an assist from the First Street Foundation, whose Seawall Coalition (a 501 (c) (4) organization) spent $350,000 to educate the city’s  voters about sea-level rise. Ultimately, about 55 percent of Miami’s electorate voted in favor of the Miami Forever Bond.

Miami is not the first U.S. city to raise money to gird against climate change. In 2012, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved a $290 million debt measure to rebuild a seawall that protects the downtown waterfront. And in 2016, San Francisco Bay area residents approved a tax to fund a $500 million restoration of tidal marshes, which act as a buffer against storm surges.

In Miami, city officials have set broad outlines for how the bond funds will be spent: they have earmarked $192 million for storm drain upgrades, flood pumps and seawalls to curb flooding; $100 million for affordable housing and economic development; $78 million for parks and cultural facilities; $23 million for road improvements; and $7 million for public safety.

But the devil, as always, is in the details. Which neighborhoods will see the greatest benefit from bond funding? And who decides how the money will be spent? The stakes are high: if spending bypasses Miami’s most vulnerable communities, current inequities will only deepen in the decades to come.

That’s why the Miami Climate Alliance is working to make sure the Miami Forever Bond benefits all the city’s people—especially those in underserved communities.

The Alliance was convened in 2015 by a diverse group of some 100 Miami-area residents (including community leaders, students, over 80 community organizations, social justice advocates, environmentalists, scientists, teachers, and climate activists) to organize the Miami People’s Climate March. While organizing the March, Alliance members were surprised to learn that there was no mention of climate change—or funding for climate action—in Miami-Dade County’s $6.8 million FY 2015-16 budget. So the Alliance mobilized residents to speak up during the budget hearings, which led to the creation of the County’s Office of Resilience and its first-ever Chief Resilience Officer.

Since then, the Alliance and its member organizations have pushed Miami to take the lead on equitable climate action. For example, after the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, the Alliance won commitments from several local municipalities to support the Accord targets on renewable energy. And, when the City appointed a new Sea Level Rise Committee, the Alliance fought hard to make sure that Committee reflects the city’s diversity.

“If you include black and brown people, people from the community, you’ll change the dynamic,” Trenise Bryant, an Alliance activist, told the Miami Herald earlier this year.

Now the Alliance is working to make sure that communities have a real say in how the Miami Forever Bond funds are spent. To that end, the Miami Climate Alliance and Catalyst Miami organized a series of town halls, which drew dozens of community members. There, residents agreed on a set of criteria to apply to Bond-funded projects. The Alliance will work to make sure those criteria are used by a citizen oversight board that makes recommendations on Bond spending to the City Commission.

The Alliance also helped shape the citizen oversight board, making sure it reflects the City’s racial, gender and age diversity—while excluding those with overt conflicts of interest.  And the Alliance helped ensure that the board includes not only those with expertise in hydrology, architecture, and engineering, but also those with knowledge of community leadership and an equity perspective. All of these asks were incorporated into the oversight board ordinance by the City Commission and Mayor Francis Suarez.

It’s a slow-moving process: nearly a year after the bond’s approval, the city’s oversight board has still not met.  However, the Miami Climate Alliance will be there every step of the way, amplifying the voices of those at greatest risk from climate impacts.  If this effort succeeds, Miami could be a model of climate adaptation that is both farsighted and just.

The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit will take place next week on October 24-25 in Miami Beach. Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Beach are hosting the 10th Annual Climate Leadership Summit on behalf of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. Registration closes on October 19th. A waitlist is available for the first 50 people who are interested in attending.

Mentorship Spotlight: Creative Thinking for DEI Solutions

In the latest episode of our ASAP Mentorship Program, we learn that a common theme that has come out of this mentorship pair’s discussions is the need for creative, out of the box thinking for solving complex problems. Vidya Balasubramanyam (Mentee) is a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow working in New Hampshire’s coastal communities. She leads the Smart Shorelines project to inform the siting and socialization of living shorelines in New Hampshire. Josh Foster (Mentor) is an adaptation consultant and active ASAP Board Member who has over 25 years of experience working on climate change science, policy, and adaptation in the federal and non-profit sectors.