Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adaptation Maven's Column: Whole lotta adapting going on!

For those of you adaptation fans out there who couldn’t make it to Denver the first week of April, you missed out on an event that is getting rave reviews. Despite restrictions on federal agency staff travel (a.k.a. the sequester), the Inaugural National Adaptation Forum drew nearly 500 people to its 60 symposia, 28 working group and 12 training sessions. Representing 43 states[1] and the District of Columbia, two territories, five Canadian provinces and two continents, a diverse crowd shared their ideas and questions relating to the challenges climate change brings to their work and lives. Depending on your perspective either none of us was an expert or we were all experts. Regardless, we were all engaged in the issues and eager to create solutions where today there may only be problems.
People came from far and wide to attend the Forum!

Here’s what the Mavens took away:

You are not alone! There were 500 people who made it to Denver to discuss these issues, and many more who wanted to come. Apologies to all on the waiting list, but the fire marshal said we couldn’t register any more than that! If 500 people could find out about this event and get to Denver, just think how many more like-minded resourceful, creative thinkers there are out there. So if one of your 499 new colleagues isn’t around to help you, or if you couldn’t make it to the Forum, try chatting with folks in your region and create your own regional hub of adaptation brilliance.

There are great ideas being tried all over! Many of the adaptation examples shared at the Forum were solutions to problems not initially identified as climate change-related or were not sold as climate change adaptation action. Many more were methodically planned as climate change adaptation. All of them are going to move us towards deeper understanding of what works and what gets the preferred outcome. We need to be doing more to capture, celebrate, and share this learning…including lessons in what did not work so we can figure out why. Stay tuned. The plenaries were all taped [they will be posted on the Forum website ( soon so you can see for yourself] and the presentations from the sessions will be posted as PDFs linked to the Forum program so you can find more details on those as well.

We have work to do. There are heaps of great ideas but that does not diminish the heaps of challenges people are still thinking through. There was much talk at the Forum about how we learn from others (both from successes and failures), as well as how we build more connections between efforts to work toward more holistic adaptation practice (“Hey, don’t put that levee in my wetland!” or “Hey, can we restore more wetland habitat where we built all those impermeable parking lots so our city won’t flood anymore?” or more generally “Hey, why are you doing something that doesn’t protect what I care about?”). The power of a single adaptation action is magnified when we share it with others.

We can do it. There are heaps of great examples, innovative people and powerful tools (like the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange) out there to help us make this happen. There is a growing community of people who are just starting to find each other, learn from each other and work together to come up with even better ideas!

The Inaugural National Adaptation Forum was just a stepping stone in the path to a climate savvy future. Don’t lose momentum, don’t forget about your community, and don’t forget that even actions that seem trivial to you can be inspiring or enlightening to others (“oh, so THAT’S what adaptation looks like! I can do that!”). We’re all in this together!

See you in 2015! Or sooner!

[1] This of course leads you to want to know who wasn’t there. Well not to name names but...Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska (which was right next door for goodness sake!) and North Dakota. If you know adaptation practitioners in those states make sure you reach out to them. They may be a little lonely.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Guest Blog: Director of Arctic Documentary “KIVALINA PEOPLE” Seeks Support on Kickstarter From Climate Adaptation Community

Hi, my name is Gina Abatemarco and I am the Director and Producer of the feature documentary film Kivalina People, which takes place on the island of Kivalina, Alaska.

In 2010 EcoAdapt scientist Rachel Gregg wrote a case study on the pressures that Kivalina is facing and invited me to share the work that I have done in Kivalina with the climate adaptation community.

For those who don't know Kivalina, it's a small barrier island located 80 miles above the Arctic Circle and home to 400 Inupiat Eskimo people who face the grave effects of climate change on their infrastructure, foundations, and cultural and subsistence livelihoods. Made of silt, sand, and permafrost, the island is eroding into the waters that surround it and has been determined by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to be in “imminent danger” of flooding. Kivalina has received international press not only for its desperate need to relocate, but for its 2008 $400 million dollar lawsuit against 24 oil and gas companies including BP America and Exxon Mobile. 

Spurred by a 2007 newspaper article about these issues, I have been working in Kivalina for the past five years on a feature documentary called Kivalina People. Kivalina People is a cinematic and intimate portrait of everyday life in Kivalina for its Inupiat people during today's period of unprecedented environmental and cultural changes in the Arctic. It is a visual and creative work, intended to provide audiences a rare and palpable experience of the complexities of living in the modern Arctic and within an Inupiat culture. As the Arctic continues to warm, changing conditions have facilitated interest from oil companies in particular for future exploration in the region, which may further threaten these Arctic communities. It is important that we finish Kivalina People promptly and add it to the growing dialogue of the future of the Arctic.

We need your help!

Kivalina People is currently on Kickstarter and needs the help of our extended communities to raise funds for post-production. For those who are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is a safe and legitimate way to raise money where all payments are processed by Amazon. We hope you will take a moment to see our Kickstarter page and view a clip of the film. We have until April 25th to raise $25,000. If we do not reach our goal, none of our donors will be charged, and we collect none of the funds raised.

We are very excited to share our work with this community and hope that Kivalina People will contribute to the dialogue on the future of small Arctic communities and others affected by climate change. Please consider supporting Kivalina People by making a donation and/or sharing our campaign with your community. In supporting Kivalina People, you will be joining a community including the Tribeca Film Institute, IFP's Spotlight on Documentaries, The Puffin Foundation, NYU's Richard Vague/Columbus Award, and Vision Maker Media who will bring the film to public television.

If you would like to contact me with questions or would like to find out how to alternatively make a tax deduction you can reach me at:

Gina Abatemarco

Director/Producer Kivalina People

Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ever wonder what others are doing about the effects of climate change? Get a quick overview in The State of Adaptation in the United States!

By Lara Hansen

Unlike the weather, about which it has been complained that much is said but nothing ever done, there is action underway to address the effects of climate change in our communities and ecosystems across the country. The State of Adaptation in the United States, a synthesis commissioned and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and undertaken by EcoAdapt, the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University, and the University of California-Davis, provides examples of societal responses to climate change in our planning and management of cities, agriculture and natural resources. These examples include regulatory measures, management strategies, and information sharing.

But we can’t rest on our laurels just yet!

The State of Adaptation in the United States also identifies the gaps that need to be filled to better prepare society for climate change, as well as actions that could fill those gaps.

Recommended next steps include:

  1. The Inaugural National Adaptation Forum: Action Today for a Better Tomorrow. Being held this week in Denver! It will serve as a capacity-building opportunity and has a meeting flow designed to increase cross-sectoral linkages among adaptation practitioners. Participants include >500 governmental, NGO, academic, and private sector representatives.
  2. The American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP). Launching in 2013, this society aims to organize and support the needs of climate change adaptation professionals – in academia, public, and the private and non-profit sectors – working on adaptation from national to local scales and within or across multiple sectors. This group plans to use the National Adaptation Forum as an opportunity for its first public convening.
  3. Take stock of existing guidance: direct people to what is already available through websites such as the Adaptation Clearinghouse and the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange, assess the efficacy of the tools, and create what is still needed.
  4. Climate change adaptation marketing. Most people don’t know what adaptation is by name and many don’t know what it is even when you explain it. It needs to be made understandable, approachable, and embraceable.
  5. Kick-start adaptation implementation (especially at the state and local level). Provide incentives to implement more challenging or experimental approaches that include mechanisms for assessing efficacy through monitoring and evaluation.
  6. Identify Pathways for Success. This includes an analysis and synthesis of technical mechanisms (including project, process, and monitoring design), legal mechanisms, and metrics of success for effective adaptation. From this good replicable models of successful adaptation can be developed.
  7. Move the climate change agenda beyond its current perception as being an environmental issue. Make it central to good planning and management for social and economic sustainability and well-being. This includes efforts to broaden the scope of climate change adaptation to show cross-sectoral linkages and the synergies that evolve through multi-sectoral cooperation.

Monday, April 1, 2013

EcoAdapt Goes to the National Adaptation Forum!

This week our staff is busy participating in the National Adaptation Forum in Denver. Practitioners from around the country are convening to spend three days focused on the most pressing issue of our time and we are thrilled to be part of it! Here’s some of the activities that we’ll be engaged in:

April 2
  • Climate Savvy Quick Course: Join Lara, Alex, Rachel, and Jessica as they introduce you to the adaptation ladder of engagement and provide a primer on how to get the most of the Forum.
  • Successful Adaptation in Space and Time: Join Eric and Jessi for a workshop uncovering best practices in using spatio-temporal data in successful adaptation decision-making.
  • Overcoming the Barriers to Making Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Climate-Smart: Join Jessi and Rachel in a symposium (April 2nd) and working group (April 3rd) as they examine the obstacles to climate-smart CMSP and explore approaches for officials, stakeholders, and practitioners to improve the integration of climate change into ocean planning and management.
  • Adaptation Tools Cafe: The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE; will be hosting a tools cafe on Tuesday night. In addition to CAKE, we will be featuring a new tool of ours, the Adaptation Marketplace, which is now live in the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle Adaptation Marketplace aims to provide project developers with essential funding information for coastal and marine adaptation projects, presented in an efficient and more accessible format. It will help investors understand Coral Triangle adaptation needs and select projects that match their funding requirements while eliminating the burden of excessive consultation that impacts a country’s capacity to absorb funds.
April 3
  • Fish Manager’s Guide to Climate Change: Join Alex and Lara as they convene a working group of the fisheries managers and adaptation thinkers to start a longer process to develop a Fish Manager’s Guide to Climate Change. Following on the model of the Reef Managers Guide to Coral Bleaching this product aims to assist fisheries managers and fishing industry leaders also realize that they require robust information and tailored guidance to better understand these implications and respond to the challenges of climate change. This working group session will be the first convening of the interested parties developing this product.
  • When Sandy Comes Knocking: Will your community be ready when Sandy comes knocking? Find out how communities were and were not adapted to the effects of a superstorm or similar events. Late October 2012 was described as the watershed moment in which the need for climate adaptation was fully appreciated. While still very early in the recovery process, this session will explore what adaptation practitioners learned from the Sandy experience, as well as what other regions are preparing for. Moderated by Lara Hansen (EcoAdapt) and Steve Adams (Institute for Sustainable Communities).

April 4
  • Is it Doing Any Good? The Case for Adaptation Monitoring: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to monitoring climate change adaptation, but opportunities exist for creative thinking and engagement around this issue. Practitioners will have the opportunity to share examples of monitoring and discuss approaches that may be effective in achieving specific adaptation objectives. This working group will explore examples of monitoring, and create an ad hoc think tank to discuss and develop ideas to support the evaluation of climate-smart strategies. Join Rachel and Lara for a conversation about the role of monitoring in climate change adaptation.
If you’re at the conference, come say hi! If not, we’ll be sure to update you on our conversations and findings in the coming weeks.