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Leveraged Correctly, Values are a Much Stronger Resilience Incentive Than Fear

A National Geographic article titled Which Cities Will Still Be Livable in a Climate-Altered World (https://bit.ly/48sPB7m), like many others with similar titles, holds a dangerous premise:


There are places - communities, cities, whole countries - we should 'write off' because of climate change.


No, they don't come out and say it (well, some do: bit.ly/3rk0eZt), but that's the implication when it is suggested that there are some cities that may 'still be livable' years from now.


Although there would be much to say about the damage that fear-based messaging has for the resilience mission, especially in situations when those messages aren't even accompanied by a realistic alternative or solution (https://bit.ly/3Ru0j7E), instead consider what's hidden between the lines of such messages when they say 'this place will be livable, this place will not.'


  • They suggest risk is a 'new thing' - that there were areas that had previously existed without hazard threats, but now because of Climate Change, that's no longer true. (Risk is everywhere)

  • They suggest risk is 'avoidable'. (Spoiler...it's not...risk is a measure of uncertainty, not impacts, and we'll never have that crystal ball)

  • They suggest we are incapable of adapting. (We are very capable of adapting - every inhabited place is a place where people have previously achieved adaptation.)


One thing that is especially interesting about this article, is that it suggests there might be places that are climate-proof.


'CLIMATE-PROOF'


It suggests people might escape climate risk by moving to places like Buffalo, New York.


How so VERY quickly we forget, with extreme heat so fresh on our minds, that it was Buffalo that was brought to its knees not twelve months ago by a storm that dropped over 100 inches of snow. Eight feet of snow.


Climate proof.


Not for the 47 people that died, many of whom froze to death.


Again, climate change isn't creating risk where risk didn't previously exist. It's merely shifting the parameters.


And the effects we are beginning to see, in terms of a rising number of spectacular disasters, is the result of our adapting out of time with these changes. Out of time because people are not able to adapt, or because they have chosen not to adapt.


Here in Connecticut where Shoreline Risk is based, a recent period of higher-than-normal heat prompted most schools in the state to cancel outdoor activities.


The temperatures to prompt these decisions reached, at their high, into the upper 80s.


'But the humidity!'


The intention is not to mock the call to cancel. In fact, it was likely the best course of action because communities in the state have not yet adapted to temperatures that diverge from seasonal averages, even if what's actually observed doesn't seem so extreme.


For instance, most people who live in the US Southwest might consider the cancellations for sub-90 degree temperatures puzzling.


Cooler than 90 degrees?


This happened because Connecticut is not yet ready to manage these 'outside the norm, outside the historic' conditions.


But Connecticut will adapt (in fact, it's been included in the list of 'climate-safe' places to live! https://bit.ly/3PL2Edb).


As will any place that experiences changes in it's planning assumptions, given the right leadership.


Because the reality of our situation, is that:


  • Every place will be affected by Climate Change.

  • Every place will see planning assumptions shift.

  • Every place will have options to adapt.


Our best hope to inspire communities to become 'resilient', where the community and citizens have achieved meaningful risk accountability in exchange for choosing to live there, is to recognize it is within our capacity to adapt, as we have for eons.


Whether it makes sense to do what it takes becomes a question of weighing the costs of doing so against the costs of giving up what brought people to that location in the first place.


Yes, it's ultimately a question of what value people associate with place. These values are why, despite powerful yet irresponsible messaging, people aren't fleeing their communities. Inspiring people to maintain access to these things valued, to protect these things valued - that's the resilience motivator.

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