What does it take to build climate resilience? Action.
While I’m speaking from my experience in climate change resilience work, the need for action holds true for building economic resilience, social resilience, or ecological resilience. An idea, a meeting or a plan alone does not usually create resilience in a community or region. That work must be followed by some form of action.
And, not all types of action are created equal.
Individual action is great, but more than anything the action we need for resilience comes when people from diverse sectors, communities, and viewpoints work together. This is why community engagement for any type of resilience action is absolutely critical. Only when an entire community is engaged can we truly identify potential vulnerabilities, and develop and prioritize actions that individuals, neighborhoods, and larger communities can take on their own to reduce those vulnerabilities and build resilience.
I’m not discounting the need to do research, make plans, develop new scientific tools and approaches, but all the knowledge in the world is meaningless without action behind it – especially when it is only a matter of time before every community faces a climate or weather related disaster. That’s why I’m excited about the exponential growth of a diverse professional community – incubated by ISC – centered on action around climate resilience and adaptation: the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP).
In 2014, ASAP membership jumped from 150 to over 800 people, but that’s not the only sign that people all over the country are taking an active role in preparing their communities for the impacts of climate change.
There were also over 200 people at the Adaptation in the Great Lakes Conference, over 450 at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, 500 at the Northeast Climate Change Preparedness Conference and 800 people at the California Adaptation Forum. That’s all before the big kahuna, the biannual 2015 National Adaptation Forum, which could easily exceed 1,000 attendees – all people who all working on climate change adaptation.
For me, those people represent hope. Hope for not just talk, but action to build climate resilience. January 1 has come and gone, but let’s all commit to making 2015 a year of action and continuing to create the healthy, prosperous, and vibrant communities that we all want to live in both now and into the future.
Sascha Petersen is a Senior Program Officer and Managing Director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals.