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.