SWISLR Webinar 2 – Q1: Who is engaged in decisions about climate risk prevention, climate adaptation and SWISLR mitigation and who is excluded?
We know that while many groups are having the conversation about how to carry out SWISLR mitigation efforts, not all groups have a seat at the table or are even consulted. This excludes valuable voices and perspectives while also creating the conditions for already vulnerable groups to shoulder the bulk of the consequences of SWISLR without being recognized. In addition to the regional differences of SWISLR, the climate impacts are not evenly distributed and often those who have the most to lose often have the least capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change. The goal of this webinar was to discuss this issue of exclusion.
Dr. Ryan Emanuel leads us through some though provoking questions and valuable resources surrounding this historical issue of exclusion. He began by asking “Who is at the preverbal table where decisions are being made about SWISLR?” He later questioned the need for this table at all, and if there are better ways to communicate SWISLR mitigation efforts. In an ideal world, decisions being made reflect consensus among people who participate in these decisions and those who contribute information. If the people who participate, or contributions being made, don’t capture the diversity or perspectives on the issue at hand, then decisions made might not meet the needs of communities that have much at stake. Additionally, many decisions do not end up reflecting the consensus. An example of vulnerable communities being left out of the management plans is the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation in Louisiana. The relocation strategy that the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation originally came up with has since been changed without their engagement by the state of Louisiana who secured the funds for the relocation plan. This lack of engagement resulted in plans that would have harmed the Choctaw Nation community and ultimately that relocation has not actually happened.
Addressing issues in environmental planning in meaningful and culturally appropriate ways is more than just insuring raw participation. It is also about how we do the science that accompanies mitigation planning. The research we do is likely to become incorporated into the management and planning along the coast, therefore we need to do our due diligence to include the voices and methods of the vulnerable communities. A global review of how indigenous voices are included in our research found that the vast majority of climate studies practice an extractive model in which we use Indigenous knowledge systems with minimal participation. If we, as researchers, hope to make meaningful contributions to society than an effort needs to be made to include the communities of our study locations in deciding where to conduct the research, what questions to ask, and the methods we use. This idea of inclusion should also be extended to the institutions that serve marginalized individuals. A great resource to better our science is AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange.
The zoom room was primarily filled with individuals affiliated with universities, working with other universities or state agencies, and researching environmental science. Through our discussions we concluded that coastal residents do not want to know what is causing the flooding they are currently dealing with, instead they want to know how to fix it. However, our skill sets don’t mesh well because we don’t have the answers on how to fix it. Our roles in as scientists or researchers makes it difficult to provide solutions for people who just want to know what we can do to stop the SWI impacting my crop field. Instead, our information is becoming inconvenient and upsetting. Additionally, people on the ground are experiencing frustrations due to seeing some things work and some things not with seemingly no reason. A focus on community informed research is needed if we are to create inclusive solutions for climate change impacts.
What happens when a bunch of scientists all join a zoom room together? An interactive discussion on what is needed to better understand SWISLR! The quotes throughout this blog are taken from the seminar at the beginning of the webinar and from the discussion board created by the participants at the end of the webinar.
Saltwater Intrusion and Sea Level Rise (SWISLR) is occurring globally, causing regional impacts and outcomes due to the variability of the coast. Our goal as a Research Coordination Network (RCN) is to not only collect and synthesize the current scientific understanding of SWISLR impacts, but to ensure that future research is providing the knowledge and insights that coastal community leaders need to protect the most vulnerable communities. To learn more, you can watch the recording of the seminar found here.
To start, the RCN is hosting monthly seminars to introduce the issues of SWISLR. Emily Bernhardt starts off the first meeting with an introduction to the RCN and to SWISLR. She states that “the goal of these monthly webinars is to build out a community to hear from folks about how we can best coordinate and work together.” Coordination is increasingly important due to the increasing vulnerability and the regional differences seen throughout the eastern coastal plain. The causes of SWISLR are relatively well known, however the study and knowledge of impacts and areas of heightened vulnerability are localized and disconnected. Working with others on an interdisciplinary team can facilitate “wholistic systems thinking regarding the causes and consequences [of SWISLR]” (Ellen Herbert) which can then lead to “richer research and more relevant solutions” (Ryan Emanuel).
When posed with the questions of; “What would you bring to the RCN?”, “How would it help your work to connect with others who work on SWISLR across the NACP?”, “What would you need from the RCN?”, and “What should the RCN prioritize within SWISLR research?”, the participants had similar answers to each other. Many people were bringing their own perspectives on SWISLR to the RCN. People who have been working in the field their whole career have unique knowledge of study sites, William Conner says that he has “almost 50 years of working in forested wetlands”. Additionally, people are bringing specific methods to the RCN, like “remote sensing skills” (Xi Yang), “physics-based modeling approaches of storm surges and subsurface salt transport” (Holly Michael) and “predictive mapping” (Becky Epanchin-Niell). People wanted more collaboration and a synthesis of current research. Chris Elphick specifically wanted “a better sense of what is being done by others so as to not duplicate effort.” Some wanted better solutions and strategies for agricultural impacts, ecosystem transitions/loss, and shifts in demography (Matt Kirwan). Looking at what people would bring to the RCN and what people need from the RCN led to a discussion of the final questions we asked: What should we prioritize?
Moving forward, the RCN needs to prioritize two main ideas. First, to facilitate diverse partnerships that not only benefit but also engage people currently facing SWISLR-related changes. And second, to synthesize SWISLR knowledge, research, data, and other SWISLR-related information. A synthesis would allow us to create connections, provide a broader spatial scale of SWISLR, and identify gaps in the data.