New Climate Resiliency Efforts Underway
By Gregory T. Federspiel
New efforts are getting underway to help us better understand some of the impacts we can expect changes in our climate will bring and to help us prioritize actions to take to make us more resilient to the changes that are occurring. One of the efforts, which I wrote about last week, is the new Water Resources Protection Task Force that has as part of it charge assessing climate change impacts to our drinking water supply. Three important regional initiatives are underway as well.
The four Cape Ann communities have teamed up with TownGreen 2025, a regional non-profit working to advance solutions to the changes an altered climate is bringing, for the “Voices for Climate Action” project. This effort aims to thoroughly document the values we hold, the places we cherish and the threats we worry about. Capturing what is the “heart and soul” of Cape Ann will allow us to formulate solutions to climate threats that mean the most to residents and thus will have the support needed to implement the solutions. Solutions with grassroots support are the ones that will be successful.
The “Voices” project is comprised of two parts – interviewing as wide array of residents as possible to hear their stories about why they live here, and an ethnographic study of Cape Ann residents chronicling the culture and character of the region. The former effort will be done by volunteers in each of the four communities and the latter will be done by Professor Gerhard Doherty and a pair of research fellows from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design as part of their American Cities Initiative. Combined, the efforts will provide useful insights into who we are what we value and what we will be motived to protect.
If you are interested in working on the Voices project here in Manchester, please let me know. Support is being provided by the four communities with most of needed funds coming from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA).
Another initiative, being organized by TownGreen2025 through the Gloucester Meeting House Foundation, is a study of climate change impacts and potential solutions in three specific areas. The first element of the study is documenting the expected impacts of a medium sized hurricane. Very few of us have experienced the destruction of a hurricane and most of us have little understanding of the impacts such a storm will have on the region. With this understanding, we can take steps now to help mitigate the potential devastation. This brings us to the other elements of the study which will look at 1) how we can provide net zero housing (housing that has a zero carbon footprint), 2) how we can prioritize which parts of our coastline we should try to protect through more “armoring” (higher seawalls, etc.) verses creating bigger natural buffer zones to absorb the higher waters, and 3) how best to manage our wastewater and solid waste disposal needs in a more energy efficient and ecologically sound manner especially in light of the likely flooding out or our existing sewer plants.
Through private fundraising and state funds secured with the assistance of Senator Bruce Tarr, a team of faculty and post graduate students affiliated with Harvard’s graduate School of Design under the leadership of Professor Charles Waldheim will be conducting these studies. In the coming months forums will be held to present the work.
The third regional effort underway is under EPA’s Building Blocks Program. Cape Ann was one of four grant recipients nationally this year to receive technical assistance through this program. The deliverables for this effort will be two public forums this coming spring. The first will focus on the shared values and concerns Cape Ann resident have (as documented in the “Voices” project) for this place we call home and a review of efforts to date on protecting our cherished places and our local economy from climate change impacts. The second forum will focus on preferred solutions to climate change impacts and recommendations for funding opportunities from state and federal sources.
It promises to be a busy few months on the climate change front. I hope that you will be motivated to lend your thoughts and suggestions as we work toward identifying the top priorities we need to pursue in order to increase our resilience to the changes that are happening around us.