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Delta Cities in Times of Climate Change: The Role of Green Infrastructure

The Delta Cities in Times of Climate Change Conference was particularly interesting due to the wide range of diverse specialists it brought together – including planners, scientists, designers, economists, and engineers – all working at various scales. Despite this array of expertise, a strong singular thread was present throughout the conference – the notion of adaptation. The idea that communities across the globe will need to take increasing measures to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change.

In talking about adaptation, I was particularly interested in the debate of green versus gray infrastructure or using natural systems to manage water versus traditional impervious infrastructure. This debate has an even greater importance when placed within a global context. The countries across the globe who have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions are often the most vulnerable. Additionally, many of these vulnerable countries lack the large capital investment resources necessary to fund traditional gray infrastructure. So, out of necessity, they are implementing low-cost ready-to-implement green infrastructure strategies. For example, countries like the Philippines are replanting large swaths of mangrove forests to protect themselves from typhoons and storm surge. These types of solutions improve their resiliency, provide opportunities to educational opportunities, and contribute to economic development. How can we adapt a similar approach to more developed countries?

In countries like the United States, equivalent strategies should be implemented more readily. Smaller scale interventions like planting more vegetation at the waters edge, wetland restoration, and the installation of living breakwaters such as oyster reefs could be implemented relatively quickly – especially compared to the time intensive process of building the political will, community support, and financial capital to build large traditional infrastructure. These simpler strategies could be designed to build into larger scale, more complex green infrastructure networks as well as traditional gray infrastructure. We have moved beyond preventing the impacts of climate change. We must now seriously consider the best ways to adapt our communities and environments. We must take action, and do so quickly.

– Christopher Rice


People’s Climate March: Amsterdam

On our way to the Delta Cities in Times of Climate Change Conference, myself, along with fellow City and Regional Planning student Kat Joseph and recent Sustainable Environmental Systems alum Kristin Bell, made our way to North Amsterdam to participate in the People’s Climate March. The protest called for a circular economy dependent on renewable energy as well as a shift away from the current greed and growth based economy. People marched, bicycled, and sailed from all parts of the Netherlands to converge at the iconic EYE film museum. The celebrations included art installations, music performance, and words from well known speakers such as Freek de Jonge and Jan Rotmans.

– Christopher Rice

Resilient Adaptation: How to Practice What Is Preached

Resilient Adaptation was a rather interesting Deltas in Practice workshop. This workshop was made up of four international panelist who have some community level field experience.

The discussion of this workshop was geared towards “solutions that would generate high impacts with minimal investments now.”

The experience that I had at the Deltas In Times of Climate Change Conference really exposed me to numerous approaches and theories on how to address climate change resiliency. On a global scale it really surprised me on how little of an emphasis is placed on the community-based approach to resiliency. And more importantly how climate change relates to people as opposed to physical infrastructure.

TeamWorkOne of the major over-arching questions of this panel discussion was how to we create an urgency in peoples willingness to invest in climate change resiliency? And how do we educate the people that will be affected?

Creating timelines was a great first step to developing these solutions. A simple equation that would look at land value, the cost of occupying that land plus the costs of possible damages. Based on those numbers cities can determine when it is best to enact certain mitigation measures. Reflecting on the return on investment. Creating high impact but minimal immediate investment.

We then moved on to the matter of community engagement and some of the challenges people from Australia, Ireland, and the Netherlands are faced with when it comes to outreach.  Most of which rely on social media platforms to accomplished the outreach. The other challenge has to do with the mentality of leaving it to the professionals. Or the dependability and trust the Dutch have on their government to resolve these issues.

From this conversation I extracted a major take away point. My major “ahhh” moment when the illusive light bulb above your head turns on.

The idea of experts and their role in planning. This really helped people focus on this absence of traverse between the professionals and the citizens. For example, why is it that whenever a professional speaks we flat line and abandon the decision-making capabilities of our right brain.

The experts can also learn from the established public who are on the ground dealing with these issues everyday.

This helped me to really reflect on my role as an Urban Planner or as an expert in field you pursue. What is your role exactly and to what extent do you exert your knowledge and personal ideologies. To what extent should you be open to other ideas and possibilities. And more importantly how do we use our expertise to uplift and enable the people who are affected by our decisions and the numbers that we put out into the world.

– Kat Joseph