Musings on a plethora of adaptation workshops

By Jennie Hoffmann

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been to three workshops related to climate adaptation. One, focused on the Great Lakes, included participants from U.S., Canadian, and tribal governments as well as folks from environmental, academic, and industry groups. Organized by the National Wildlife Federation, the Great Lakes Commission, the Council of Great Lakes Industries, and the US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the workshop aimed to inform GLRI funding and action, identify needs across sectors for carrying out adaptation, and provide input to federal agencies on incorporating climate change into their work. The second was a Climate Camp-style workshop I was helping to lead at the annual Land Trust Rally ( Participants came from diverse land trusts, non-profits, and government agencies, and the focus was approaches to incorporating climate change into land acquisition, management, restoration, and policy. The last was a scenario planning training workshop for National Park Service employees run by the Global Business Network and the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program. Scenario planning can help managers and planners focus on making robust decisions in the face of uncertainty, and this workshop was one of several being held to help the Park Service adapt to climate change.
Although the settings, participants, and particular foci of the workshops were different, the similarities underlined some key realities. First, the very existence of these diverse workshops shows that more and more people understand the importance of adapting their work to climate change, regardless of how they feel about whether humans are contributing to it. Second, the fact that all three workshops involved some level of active participation and engagement by participants underlined the growing realization that the “loading dock” approach of dumping heaps of information on people and expecting them to sort it out simply doesn’t work. People need to be able to engage with material, question it, dig deeper to figure out its relevance to and implications for their own work.

Finally, discussions at each workshop brought home the reality that while there are some guidelines and standards that can be applied across the board there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution. The goals and context—ecological, cultural, climatic, regulatory, etc.—strongly influence what is needed and what will be effective. For me, this is what makes the case studies in CAKE so valuable. They help move us towards a set of good practices for adapting to climate change while illustrating the range of options, forming a menu of choices on which others can build.