By Chris Allan
I’ve just returned from the National Adaptation Forum in St. Louis, which brings together people from across the United States to share practices on how we can adapt to climate change. The big development this year? Greatly expanded inclusion of poor and minority communities.
Like all grassroots groups, these groups didn’t limit themselves to the narrow world of climate, but linked adaptation seamlessly to issues of environmental justice, social justice, and just plain fairness.
Jacqui Patterson from The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Climate Justice Initiative turned out to lead sessions on community and climate. As their web site says,
“Climate Change is about Katrina, Rita, and Ike devastating communities in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas, Climate Change is about our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas who will be losing their homes to rising sea levels in the coming few years. Climate Change is about people in Detroit, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere who have died and are dying of exposure to toxins from coal fired power plants.”
So while most of the discussion was among government officials, consulting firms and academics about how to do vulnerability analysis and build resilience, we also heard from community leaders in St. Louis, like Romona Taylor Williams from the Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity (M-SLICE). She told us that working for environmental justice in her home town is part of working to be included in local politics in general. Turns out it’s not just about Ferguson.
And there were lots of other grassroots groups – from Oakland, San Francisco, Gulfport, Longview, Prichard – who are now part of the national dialogue about what we do about these big changes that are already happening.
These groups brought in the idea that it’s not good enough to have good analytical techniques and better engineering. A movement of people working for better adaptation will be more powerful than the best engineering. And linking them all together is what it will take.