How prepared are American cities for increased natural disasters? Over the years, Americans have insisted on expanding and building cities and suburbs in locations that are clearly threatened by natural hazards. This week’s monster tornado in Oklahoma demonstrates this. Cities and states have encouraged people to live in these areas through city planning, architectural design, and the so-called need for “economic development.”
Thus, instead of encouraging people to not live in these hazard zones, city leaders have created methods to help people survive relatively normal lives there. Houses in California must meet specific earthquake design standards, buildings in Oklahoma have “safe rooms,” and countless structures must be stable enough to handle floods and erosion along American coastlines. These are adaptations. Not good adaptations (I believe people should not be encouraged to live in these areas), but there it is.
With the climate changing, the impacts on communities are likely to increase. Incidences of natural disasters are expected to rise, costing many lives and causing a need for an endless stream of disaster aid.
Researchers at MIT teamed up with the non-profit ICLEI to survey cities around the world. The goal was to compare how they were adapting to climate change impacts, or preparing for future impacts. Progress, the researchers found, is very slow in the US, while cities around the world are far more advanced.
It’s a great read, very visual so if you don’t have time you can skim it.
A new book, Novel Ecosystems, edited by Richard Hobbs of the University of Western Australia and others, shows how many superficially natural ecosystems are heavily influenced by the introduction of alien species. Whether intentional or accidental, most introductions seem to have human origins.
This is disconcerting. “Over large parts of the globe, the ‘wilderness’ that people refer back to never existed,” says one of the book’s authors, Michael Perring, also of the University of Western Australia.
Nature has always had open borders for alien species on the move. Those itinerants may have been a driving force of evolution. But human activity has dramatically increased their travel options. We move many deliberately, as commercial crops or domesticated animals, for instance. Today, others can hitch a ride on ship hulls or in ballast tanks, aboard planes or on the wheels of trucks or the backs of domesticated animals. This phenomenon seems to have been going on for much longer than we sometimes imagine.
What is Resilience? is a nifty, free, 20page, visual ebook overview defining resilience. It’s free, and published by the researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. (Free ebook is free.)
Resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about the capacity to use shocks and disturbances like a financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.
This publication presents the major strands within resilience thinking and social-ecological research. It describes the profound imprint we humans have had on nature and ideas on how to deal with the resulting challenges.
The publication is based on three scientific articles that were prepared for the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on global sustainability, which took place in Stockholm in May 2011. The articles were later published in the scientific journal Ambio. They represent a mix of necessary actions and exciting planetary opportunities. They also illustrate how we can use the growing insights into the many challenges we are facing by starting to work with the processes of the biosphere instead of against them.
Chapter One describes in detail the complex interdependencies between people and ecosystems. It highlights the fact that there are virtually no ecosystems that are not shaped by people and no people without the need for ecosystems and the services they provide. Too many of us seem to have disconnected ourselves from Nature. A shift in thinking will create exciting opportunities for us to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.
Chapter Two takes us through the tremendous acceleration of human enterprise, especially since World War II. This acceleration is pushing the Earth dangerously close to its boundaries, to the extent that abrupt environmental change cannot be excluded. Furthermore, it has led scientists to argue that the current geological period should be labelled the ‘Antropocene’ – the Age of Man.
Chapter Three highlights the fascinating paradox that the innovative capacity that has put us in the current environmental predicament can also be used to push us out of it. It introduces the term social-ecological innovation, which essentially strives to find innovative ways to reconnect with the biosphere and stay within planetary boundaries.
EnviroPop is the first game application from WWF-Philippines. The app aims to educate people about sea creatures, and the need to address the marine pollutants that harm them.
EnviroPop is a puzzle game that allows users to clear marine threats such as PET plastic bottles, fish trawl nets, cyanide bottles, and oil drums.
The objective of the game is for players to eliminate these hazards and save the WWF marine characters like Clara the clownfish, Pattie the Green Sea Turtle, Bobby the whale shark, and Gary the grouper.
The app serves as one of WWF-Philippines’ alruist weapon to arm people with the knowledge of their marine programs and and their aim to fortify the marine biodiversity.
The full version of the app costs $0.99. For every download of the app, proceeds will go directly to WWF-Philippines’ marine conservation program.
As WWF-Philippines Individual Donor Program Officer Honey Carmona explains, Philippines is nestled at the apex of the Coral Triangle making the island the geographic point of marine life. This concludes the call to prioritize marine conservation as most Filipinos depend on the sea for sustenance and ecotourism.
Our species still hunts elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other large animals. Now these animals are gunned down for body parts sold on the black market rather than for food.
People still kill these Pleistocene remnants, even as others among us try to protect the animals (a kind of inter-species benevolence never seen before in the history of life on Earth).
But even with our best intentions, we are altering the planet on a scale and with a speed that stretch the imagination.
Climate change at the end of the Pleistocene was a natural process that had been cycling back and forth for the previous 2 million years. Now we, not natural geological cycles, drive the climate, and the planet is abruptly on its way to a greenhouse world that hasn’t been seen in 55 million years.
We have already seen what happens when hunting and climate change create a deadly synergy. The question is, how long are we going to ignore this lesson, passed down to us in bone by long-lost mammoths and other vanished species?
“Invasive Species.” A clever tree made it onto Canada’s currency.
“It’s a species that’s invasive in Eastern Canada and is displacing some of our native species, and it’s probably not an appropriate species to be putting on our native currency,” Blaney told CBC News. Sean Blaney, senior botanist of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, said he never expected to see the Norway maple leaf on a $20 bill.
This promises to be a good webinar. “Downscaling” is a fancy term for making climate science available in your community. Keeping it simple, most climate science is based on computer models that predict where impacts will occur, like flooding, droughts, and storms.
For example, these models show that the southwest U.S. will be come drier, and there will be water shortages. But the models cover huge areas, like thousands of miles. That doesn’t really help you or your town figure out what could happen.
So scientists came up with a solution to help better predict what will happen in smaller, geographical areas. Instead of modeling the entire state of Arizona, “downscaling” allows for predictions at a much smaller area, such as your county or city.
There are a lot of problems with these computer models - climate impacts are often more severe than the models show. But the general trend is they are reliable predictors of what will happen as the climate changes.
This particular webinar covers how scientists are using downscaled climate models to manage wildlife habitat on the coasts.
Why does this matter? It helps locals, businesses, and governments plan for the future. If there is going to be water shortages, for one example, then all three constituencies can (and should) work together to figure out how to make better use of their water infrastructure. It’s the same situation for coastal communities that face sea-level rise. Communities can use downscaled models to figure out the best places to move homes, protect habitat, stop development, restore wetlands, dredge deltas etc…
Downscaling is technical. Yet it’s one of the most important tools the public can use to make their communities more resilient to disasters and other environmental impacts. So push through the tech-jargon if you can. This webinar will give you an idea of how climate science is being used in the real world, and should spark neato thoughts on how you can use it to help your community.
Dr. John Y. Takekawa (Research Wildlife Biologist, USGS Western Ecological Research Center) will provide an overview of the project. It examines the potential climate change effects on transitional coastal habitats with high-quality local habitat data, downscaled climate models, and projected storm effects. It also links habitat responses to wildlife using vulnerability assessments.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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