Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"If I were you, that is a question I would have" - Quotes & Resources from Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Communicator Extraordinaire


Atmospheric scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe has long been recognized for her skills at climate science communication. This post is just a parking lot for some of her quotes, presentations, and articles for future reference.

On July 13, 2018, Dr. Hayhoe posted on Facebook a snippet from a new interview with her in the July 7, 2018, edition of New Scientist, illustrating her unique approach to addressing proponents of climate change myths:
New Scientist: It must be annoying to hear sunspots and solar cycles cited as evidence that climate change isn’t real, but you are always respectful in how you respond to these claims. Does that come naturally? 
Me: No! The response that comes most naturally to me is what comes naturally to a lot of us scientists: 
"Do you really imagine I’ve spent more than 20 years studying climate science and never heard that one before?!"
But the Bible says “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”, and I consciously practise those things. It enables me to say, “I understand where you’re coming from. If I were you, that is a question I would have, and it deserves a respectful answer.”
I want to share not just my head with people, but also my heart. 
~
If you don't have a subscription to New Scientist, she posted a JPG of the article on her FB feed.

On July 12, 2018, Dr. Hayhoe gave a 40-minute presentation on the National Climate Assessment for NOAA (part of their 8-part Climate Science Special Report webinar series, which is part of the OneNOAA Science Seminars).

In that presentation, she quotes John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. 
At the end of the presentation she (and some other participants) posted a bevy of helpful links for people trying to improve outcomes from their climate communication efforts. Here are some:

Dr. Hayhoe's recent articles/presentations:
Groups that are doing good work on climate communication or the reframing of climate science:
On her professional webpage she refers people to the following websites (in addition to her Youtube channel, linked above) featuring videos of her talking about climate change:
Back in 2014 she gave an interview to Guernica ("God's Creation is Running a Fever"), where she said this quotable quote:
It’s a common perception that science and religion are mutually exclusive. But there are many scientists who would consider themselves to be spiritual people. Not only that, but in the case of climate change—a scientific issue with strong moral implications and difficult decisions to be made—it’s essential to connect the science to our values. And for many of us, our values come from our faith.
This and other quotable quotes can be found at Dr. Hayhoe's page on AZ Quotes.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Brief thoughts on the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (RIP)


I've been AWOL from my blog for the past few months due to being hired by the California Energy Commission (CEC) to work on energy efficiency compliance issues as an Energy Analyst.

This is going to be a quickie dip into blogging and then back to analyzing energy.

A Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund was under discussion as part of the California budget, but was scrapped on June 8, 2018, per the Sacramento Bee (by D. Kasler & A. Ashton). The compromise that resulted involves new General Fund contributions to safe drinking water projects. The Maven's Notebook, a water policy blog founded by Chris Austin, noted that same day that the legislature is evidently (per Cal-EPA) showing "a commitment to continue discussions this summer."

I have deep respect for the Visalia-based Community Water Center, which supported the creation of this new public goods charge for water. I have to believe they aren't going to give up on this idea, which has been kicking around for a long time. There's lots of support for it, with two-thirds of Californians supporting the fund according to their background about the fund.

Their press release issued on June 8, 2018, doesn't mention that the fund was scuttled, but frames it as a victory because there is now a new commitment of resources dedicated to safe drinking water projects, and the aforementioned commitment to continue discussions this summer. Hopefully those discussions go somewhere where there is a lot more safe drinking water for California's poor and rural communities.

Meanwhile, let's talk about this idea of a public goods charge for water.

Here's an old CPUC-issued paper written in 2010 by some fellow alums from the Goldman School of Public Policy (at UC Berkeley), supporting the introduction of a public goods charge for water. My fellow water policy nerds proposed these reasons for the introduction of a public goods charge for water:

  • A public goods charge for water creates a price signal for water conservation. 
  • A public goods charge for water would provide a stable, sustainable funding mechanism to support the full list of conservation and efficiency activities specified in Assembly Bill 32. 
  • The dual energy and water conservation programs specified in AB 32, which could not be fully funded through the other mechanisms we considered, will be effective to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. 
  • Our proposed implementation strategy will help institutionalize regional water agencies, which are necessary for the state’s long‐term water‐planning effectiveness. 

(Note: AB 32, for anyone not immersed in California climate change work, is the landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which primarily addressed greenhouse gas reduction goals.)

This paper proposes that the public goods charge be assessed via "volumetric surcharges on each water bill where metered, or by alternate means in the short‐term for areas not metered."

The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund took another approach to raising funds. This was clarified in a blog post by attorney S. Holzer:
The bill would levy a 95 cent per month tax on water meters “up to one inch or customers without water meters” (see Article 5 of SB 623).  The tax would increase, depending on the size of the water meter at issue, to as much as $10 per month for customers with water meters greater than four inches.There would be exemptions from the tax for low-income customers, e.g. if the customer’s household income equals or is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or if the water meter exclusively measures flow of non-potable/recycled water.
Also, "the bill would allow farmers to enroll in a waiver program by paying an applicable fee..."

More on the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund as it was originally conceived:

A News Deeply/ Water Deeply article by Tess Townsend (May 8, 2018) California Considers Charge on Utility Bills to Create Safe Water Fund summarizes the scope of the proposed-and-now-scuttled fund thus:
A piece of legislation, introduced last year as Senate Bill 623 and later included as a trailer bill in the governor’s proposed budget, seeks to solve this structural problem by raising a $140 million annual Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, from a combination of charges on agriculture and residential water users. Money would go toward ongoing operation and maintenance costs for treatment in under-resourced districts. The charge on residential users would amount to about $1 a month for most households served by the 1,000 or so agencies collecting fund revenue.
You can read the original bill here.

From the above, I deduce that the amount collected wouldn't have been tied (or not tied tightly) to the rate of consumption of water. This means the funding stream wouldn't be choked by water conservation.

I just want to flag this point for people working on the development of future public goods charges. It's important.

You see, I have learned that the funding stream for the work I'm doing at the California Energy Commission in the Efficiency Division is tied to energy consumption. The upshot is that the more successful the CEC Efficiency Division is at its job, the less money it has.

The funding for my division comes from ERPA, the Energy Resources Program Account. The law dictating the creation of the ERPA was passed in 1974. You can read it here. It is a fee applied to a utility bill to fund public-interest programs related to that utility service. The 1974 law directs the state's electricity utilities to gather a surcharge per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed.

It wasn't thought through to its inevitable conclusion, apparently, as it now dwindles and the governor is demanding a doubling of energy efficiency in the state.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Climate Change Podcast Roundup

This year I had the privilege of being a guest on the podcast "Warm Regards," hosted by Jacquelyn Gill, Andy Revkin, and Eric Holthaus, speaking on the topic of climate trauma. In the course of preparing for the podcast recording I started making a list of all the climate change adaptation-related podcasts out there. Eventually I came up with 13.

For those curious about trends over time: one each came out in 2012 and 2013, none in 2014, three in 2015, five in 2016, and three in 2017. We're averaging two new climate change adaptation-related podcasts a year over the past six years! There are 26 podcast hosts (going by the official podcast descriptions that I could find), 9 of whom appear to be women (35%). Hopefully that will balance out over time.

I don't expect this is an exhaustive list, but it's a start. Some of these podcasts appear to cover both adaptation to impacts and GHG mitigation.

Let me know if you see an error below, or if the list is missing a juicy podcast. I'm linking names with personal Twitter accounts where I can find them, listing podcast Twitter accounts separately.

Enjoy!

1. America Adapts - hosted by conservation ecologist Doug Parsons; started in July 2016; comes out weekly. Follow the podcast on Twitter.

 2. Blue Streak Science - featuring the "Climate Lounge" - hosted by enologist J.D. Goodwin with biologists Sophie McManus and Nevena Hristozova; Climate Lounge hosted by Tom Di Liberto (NOAA NWS Climate Prediction Center scientist, El Niño–Southern Oscillation [ENSO] specialist); started in May 2015; comes out weekly. Follow the podcast on Twitter.

3. Citizens' Climate Radio - podcast of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, hosted by CCL volunteer/storyteller Peterson Toscano; started in June 2016; comes out monthly.

4. CLIMAS Southwest Climate Podcast - produced by anthropologist Ben McMahan at the University of Arizona's Climate Assessment for the Southwest; started in May 2013; comes out monthly-ish. Follow CLIMAS on Twitter.

5. The Climate Workshop - hosted by film producer/public speaker Peter Bowden and fossil fuel/prison abolition activist Tim DeChristopher started in Dec. 2017; how often it comes out is unclear. (It just started.) Follow the podcast on Twitter.

6. ClimateX: Climate Conversations - developed at MIT, hosted by mathematician/cognitive scientist Rajesh Kasturirangan, engineer/producer/musician Curt Newton, and transportation engineer Dave Damm-Luhr; started in June 2017; comes out weekly. It looks like they are focusing on climate justice-related topics for the current season. Follow ClimateX on Twitter.

7. The Elephant Podcast - hosted by radio producer Kevin Caners and journalist Charlotta Lomas; started in July 2015; comes out irregularly. It's currently supported by the EU's Climate-KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Community).

8. Forecast - hosted by Earth systems scientist Michael White, Senior Editor for Physical Sciences (AKA "editor for climate science") at Nature; started in Dec. 2015; comes out every two weeks. "Long format interviews."

9. Generation Anthropocene - hosted by geochemist Mike Osborne, geomorphologist Miles Traer, and documentarian/producer Leslie Chang; started in 2012; comes out weekly (more or less), but hasn't had a new episode since June 2017. Developed as part of a course on the Anthropocene at Stanford Earth, it has featured student work in the past. Follow the podcast on Twitter.

10. Hot and Bothered - hosted by sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen and journalist Kate Aronoff; officially started in April 2016 (after a pilot in Jan. 2016); comes out irregularly. A project of Dissent Magazine.

11. No Place Like Home - hosted by campaigner/storyteller Anna Jane Joyner and campaigner Mary Anne Hitt (Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign at the Sierra Club); started in Sept. 2016; comes out every two weeks or monthly. Focuses on personal stories. Follow the podcast on Twitter.

12. Terrestrial - hosted by journalist Ashley Ahearn; started in April 2017; comes out every two weeks or monthly. Produced at KUOW 94.9 "Puget Sound Public Radio," an NPR affiliate in Seattle, Washington. "Stories about people making personal choices in the face of environmental change." New season due out in the spring.

13. Warm Regards - hosted by meteorologist/journalist Eric Holthaus, paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill, and journalist Andy Revkin; started in June 2016; comes out every two weeks. Follow the podcast on Twitter.

Follow them all!

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Columbia River Treaty - A Watery Snarl

The 53 year-old Columbia River Treaty (CRT), dictating terms of water management for the U.S. and Canada across the Columbia River Basin, is up for renegotiation. So far things are proceeding slowly, with formal negotiations only initiated on the U.S. side thus far. Here's a quick brief on the treaty, its main issues, and what has happened so far in negotiations to read while everyone is waiting for the Canadian side to come to the table.

If you work on salmon ecosystems or the impacts of hydropower (environmental, energy, climate change, etc.) and this treaty hasn't been on your radar, I recommend you read on: the CRT has water and ecosystem management, GHG emissions, and power supply implications for the entire U.S. Pacific Northwest.

(Scroll to the bottom for a fascinating historical side-note about how Woody Guthrie took a temp job as a shill for hydropower in the Columbia River Basin in 1941.)

Image from Northwest Division U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2017) Source

The Basics 
The treaty was ratified in September 1964 and has no expiration date. However, the treaty provides that parties can terminate the agreement in 2024 (though no earlier than September 16, 2024). If termination is desired, that action requires a 10-year advance notice. As of 2017 neither side has given notice of intent to terminate, though parties on both sides are urging their governments to do so, if only to motivate the other side to move towards modernization of the treaty. Outright termination would be bad for both sides, but politics might require threatening gestures. The likeliest outcome is there will be a modernization of the treaty. But will this modernization only change the terms of U.S. payments to Canada for help with flood control, or will other factors be given consideration?

Places to read more on the CRT basics:
What are the main concerns with the treaty?
The most hotly debated topic is whether the U.S. has been underpaying or overpaying for flood control benefits on the Canadian side of the river basin. In the worst case scenario (for ecosystem management and climate change concerns) this will be the only thing negotiated in the treaty's modernization.

In 2024 the flood control terms change to "called upon" flood control, meaning that the agreement providing U.S. rental of flood storage space behind Canadian dams expires. This means the U.S. would be responsible for its own flood storage space behind its own dams, allowing the Canadian side to use its dams and reservoirs primarily (exclusively?) for power production instead of flood storage for the U.S., allowing the U.S. to "call upon" extra storage on the Canadian side only after it had carried out its own flood control measures, and then on a case-by-case basis, paying as it goes. Canadian-side treaty reservoir levels would be dictated solely according to Canadian needs for the first time since 1964.

Some of the problems this upcoming renegotiation needs to address:
  • Calculating the fair value of the Canadian contribution to the system (the "Canadian Entitlement," 50% of the value of the water in hydropower that crosses the border): as noted above, the U.S. thinks it has been overpaying for the benefit from flood control and hydropower on the Canadian side of the river basin; Canada thinks the U.S. has been underpaying. 
Also:
  • Climate change impacts: increasing drought (frequency, severity, and length) is causing lower hydropower output with reduced flow, greater flood risk from higher rainfall coming in shorter periods (e.g., associated with atmospheric rivers) requiring greater flood control capacity, and reduced snowpack with more precipitation coming as rain rather than snow potentially exacerbating both floods and late season drought (since the snowpack will be contributing less meltwater in the summer). The changes to the water regime also have implications for irrigation and migrating salmon.
  • First Nations/ Native American cultural and environmental concerns: these were neglected in the 1964 treaty. In particular the cultural and environmental value of salmon needs to be taken into account.
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of increased water storage if new dams are built: new studies are showing that hydropower, long considered a "clean" or GHG-free power source, produces significant GHGs, mostly coming from methane from rotting vegetation behind dams. 
  • Other environmental concerns associated with the hydropower dams governed by the treaty, including terrestrial wildlife impacts, sediment loss downstream, and implications for recreation, transportation, and economic development.

What Happened with CRT Negotiations Oct. 2016- Oct. 2017?

A year ago, on the doorstep of the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. took the formal steps necessary to officially begin negotiations on the CRT.
  • June 21, 2017: Letter sent to President Trump from "bipartisan group of Northwest House members" urging him "to 'take any and all necessary actions' to initiate negotiations with Canada over the future of the Columbia River Treaty, including sending a notice of termination so as 'to incentivize Canada to come to the table.'" (NW Fishletter, July 3, 2017
  • September 2017: Premier of British Columbia John Horgan met with Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, agreeing to advance negotiations toward formal engagement in the fall. (Based on e-mail from expert source, see * below.)
  • "Mid-September" 2017: Jerry Rigby, legal counsel for a committee representing water storage holders in Idaho’s Upper Snake reservoirs, together with other officials representing Idaho water users met with Trump Administration officials in D.C. One source reporting on this meeting said, "Administration officials are [...] sympathetic with Idaho’s position on the proposed inclusion of 'ecosystem' considerations in the treaty, regarding minimum flows for endangered fish..." (Capital Press :"The West's Ag Website," Oct. 4, 2017)
  • October 16, 2017: New U.S.-side CRT negotiator appointed: Jill Smail. (NW Fishletter, Nov. 6, 2017)

    From the NW Fishletter: From 2009 through September 2017, Smail served as a water advisor in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs for Environment, Science, Technology, and Health, where she negotiated transboundary water issues in the Middle East. She joined the U.S. Department of State in 2001. 
  • "Mid-October" 2017: New Canadian-side CRT negotiator appointed: Sylvan Fabi. (Trail Times, Nov. 2, 2017).

    Taken from coverage of Fabi's appointment as Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica in 2015: Sylvain Fabi [...] worked in sales and marketing for pharmaceutical multinationals before joining a consulting firm specialized in small and medium-sized enterprises. He joined the Trade Commissioner Service of External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1992 [...]. He then worked as a trade commissioner at the Canadian embassy in Moscow from 1995 to 1998. [...] From 2005 to 2009, he was senior trade commissioner and counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Santiago. [...] Since [2013], he has directed the North America Policy and Relations Division. (Source 1; Source 2)
  • Nov. 2, 2017: The U.S.-based Columbia Basin Development League annual meeting was held in Moses Lake, Washington. At this meeting Washington state’s agriculture department director Derek Sandison said, "British Columbia recommended modernizing the treaty, but Canada has not yet formally engaged. [...] Signs indicate they’re prepared to engage soon. [...]." And, "[Sandison said he] expects movement on the treaty by the end of the year." (Chinook Observer, Nov. 14, 2017)
* On Oct. 3, 2017, I asked the Research Director of the Climate Adaptation Team at Simon Fraser University, Jon O'Riordan, one of the co-authors of The Columbia River Treaty: A Primer (Sanford, Harford, O'Riordan, 2014), for an update on where things stood on the Canadian side. He wrote:
"My understanding is that Premier Horgan and Minister Freeland met in September and agreed that a Cabinet Note on the Canadian mandate for the Treaty negotiations would go to Cabinet this fall. I am not aware that this has yet happened. The change in the BC Government extended the time frame for seeking Federal approvals." 
I followed up with Mr. O'Riordan on Nov. 27, 2017, to see if there was any progress, and he alerted me to Sylvain Fabi's appointment and added, "Canadian officials have drafted a mandate for the Treaty negotiations and this is to be discussed by federal cabinet in the fall."

As of this date the Canadian side has not yet formally engaged in CRT negotiations.

Treaty Text

The Columbia Treaty: Treaty between Canada and the United States of America relating to Cooperative Development of the Water Resources of The Columbia River Basin - 62 pages, ratified Sept. 16, 1964.

Official Government Websites Pertaining to CRT Negotiations
Canadian positions:
British Columbia's official site on the CRT.

British Columbia's stakeholder engagement process in the CRT review:
Meeting materials from the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee's only 2017 meeting so far (June 20-21, 2017). Includes: BC Hydro PowerPoint "Climate Change in the Columbia Basin" - by  Stephanie Smith, Manager of Hydrology, BC Hydro, presented at a Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee meeting, June 20, 2017, 39 pages. (See p. 22: "What does this mean for the Treaty Review?" - "Same or more water available, particularly in Canadian Columbia; Timing of runoff is changing.")

Official website of Katrine Conroy, BC's Member of the Legislative Assembly for Kootenay West, appointed in 2013 as opposition critic for the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) review. She also oversees the Columbia Basin Trust and Columbia Power.
U.S. positions:
CRT 50th Anniversary Press Release from U.S. Government (Sept. 16, 2014). It clarifies the nature of the U.S.-side CRT management entity:
"The U.S. Entity, which consists of the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division Engineer, is charged with formulating and carrying out the operating arrangements necessary to implement the Columbia River Treaty in concert with the Canadian Entity."
Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) official CRT page.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division official CRT page - under the Columbia Basin Water Management Division.

U.S. Government official site on the CRT - managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

More Useful CRT Resources
Educational Videos
  • "Columbia Basin Treaty History" (9:15), posted in 2010 but with an unclear provenance/date, based on video quality possibly 20+ years old, and based on the narrator's text probably of Canadian origin ("the United States pays us..."). It includes the perspectives of people flooded out by CBT dams.
  • The Columbia River Treaty, Climate Change, Tribal Rights and Water Scarcity (1:27:00), posted in 2015. This is a recording of a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County featuring panelists  Scott Simms (Secretary to the U.S. Entity for the Columbia River Treaty), Paul Lumley (Executive Director at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) and Rachael Paschal Osborn, (public interest water lawyer at the Center for Environmental Law and Policy). 

An Interesting Pre-CRT Historical Moment Involving Woody Guthrie Shilling for Hydropower (!)

Roll on Columbia: Woody Guthrie and the Bonneville Power Administration (56:29) -  the story of how in 1941 Guthrie took a temp job with the BPA writing songs to promote using dams for cheap electricity. In 30 days he wrote 26 songs, the most prolific period of his career.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

When Armageddon is Your Day Job: The Discussion Continues

I was invited to write an article as a result of the workshop "When Armageddon is Your Day Job: Coping Strategies" -- a workshop I coordinated/co-led at the National Adaptation Forum back in May -- and it has finally, after months of back and forth, gone live on Ensia, the independent publication supported by the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota:

Is Climate Change Driving You To Despair? Read This. (Sept. 19, 2017).

While my mind has since wandered to other things (the parade of deadly hurricanes competing for headlines with the current U.S. administration's exhausting parade of bad decisions), I still often wonder if people are taking this seriously, the question of how to cultivate hope. It turns out people are ready to dig in. In the last few days I've been invited to participate in a conversation on the podcast Warm Regards, meteorologist Eric Holthaus' biweekly production, co-hosted by paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill and ProPublica journalist Andy Revkin. I've also been contacted by the host of the podcast America Adapts, conservation ecologist Doug Parsons (formerly of the NPS Climate Change Response Program and Society for Conservation Biology). I'm not sure where this will all lead, but hopefully the discussion will continue after the recording mics are turned off.

If you are on the West Coast and looking for places to talk about preparing our communities for the psychological shock of climate change, take a look at the two upcoming conferences being organized by the International Transformational Resilience Coalition:

I am planning to attend both: look for my report-back summaries here!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Head in the Clouds: The Dream of Harvesting Water from Fog

My new blog post at WWF's ClimatePrep blog is live! Check it out:

Head in the Clouds: The Dream of Harvesting Water from Fog (June 2017)

The hardest part of this article was winnowing down the examples and lessons-learned for people who might want to start a fog water-collection project. I had so much fun exploring the history of fog water use and learning about new cutting-edge projects such as the fog water aquaponics project in Falda Verde, Chile (read more about the fog-water-->fish farm--> agriculture plan here - in Spanish) and of course the Hangar 1 "fodka" (fogwater vodka) being made practically in my back yard, in Alameda, California, to benefit fog collection research.

I hope I did justice to the many facets of fog collection research!

I took special pleasure in the coincidence that my last article for WWF was on Story Maps as a tool for climate change education and my first point of entry in my research for this article was a fog water collection research Story Map.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Aftermath of "Armageddon:" Reporting back from NAF

I want to give a report-back on my May 10, 2017, National Adaptation Forum session "When Armageddon is Your Day Job: Coping Strategies." I co-organized this with Amber Pairis (Climate Science Alliance) and Kristen Goodrich (Tijuana River NERR). We had about 33 people (with some people sneaking out the back early and some sneaking in late). We wanted to give people something to put on their badges so we could find each other to continue the discussion after the session, so Amber brought wonderful color-your-own-sticker stickers and colored pencils, which yielded some really lovely art. I was afraid everyone would be too professional to color stickers, but someone Tweeted from the session as it was starting "Join us in Sticker Club, Room 11!" People were way into coloring.

We started by stating our intention (to share coping strategies for adaptation professionals and frontline communities) and hearing more about Amber's work with her Climate Kids program, where she finds hope and inspiration in a new generation taking hold of environmental conservation and climate change. We were hoping to steer the workshop in the direction of ways to find hope and inspiration.

Then we reviewed some relevant concepts and research, including:
  • "Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance," EcoAmerica's new report released March 29, 2017, authored by its Climate for Health staff working with the American Psychological Association, which outlines some of the acute and chronic ways climate change is affecting the mental health of both individuals and communities.
  • The principles of "Presencing" and "Purposing," from Bob Doppelt's Transformational Resilience approach to climate change-induced trauma and toxic stress. In preparation for this session I listened in on a series of talks he gave over the month of April, and also watched the recording of the California Department of Public Health's Climate Action Team Public Health Working Group meeting held on Oct. 18, 2016, entirely dedicated to the theme of mental health and climate change, which included a talk by Mr. Doppelt. The recording is available here (IE browser recommended) and you can jump to Mr. Doppelt's talk at 1:20:00 (running to 1:37:38). See the PowerPoint presentation he shared with that talk.
The idea of "presencing" is to meet the basic human need of feeling safe and OK in your body (i.e., meditation, breathing exercises, taking walks), and "purposing" is to meet the basic human need of feeling like you are part of something bigger, that you matter (i.e., connecting with organizations and communities that support your core values). I've been thinking about these concepts almost every day since I learned about them. I think most self-help mechanisms fall into one or the other category. 

We also introduced the term "pre-traumatic stress disorder," coined by Harvard psychiatrist Lise van Sustern. (Read an article by Daniel Oberhaus that quotes her on this topic from Feb. 2017.)

Next, we elicited from participants some reactions to the questions:
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • How do you foster optimism?
  • Where do you find opportunities for growth?
  • Do you have any examples of where you found new meaning or opportunities in an adverse situation?
Then we asked participants to add their contributions to flip chart sheets posted in each corner titled respectively:
  • Greatest fears
  • How you are coping right now
  • Ideas for coping that are working for you and can be maintained
  • Greatest hopes
At the outset of the talk we had given everyone two index cards, and asked participants to write their greatest hope on one card and take it with them, and to write their greatest fear on the other card and leave it with us in a special box we brought to collect them (asking them to imagine they are leaving those fears behind, for someone else to carry and take care of). 13 people left cards in that box. I read them later. People are grappling with issues on the scale of being afraid we've killed God. This is not something that a garden-variety work-life balance workshop will treat.

I rang a bell every 5 minutes to cue people to move on to the next sheet. A lively discussion was in progress at each station every time I rang the bell. During this time a participant came up to me and suggested the next time we do this workshop we shouldn't ask people to look for hope, essentially saying there is no hope, the best we can look for is "peace." 

I've been sitting with that thought. 

An alternative view that I heard later from a friend who was sitting outside the session and overheard some of it was that we shouldn't despair, we should "fight harder." 

That's another thought with which I've been sitting.

I wonder which perspective is most helpful to whom and at what point in their struggle to make a difference.

Next we asked participants to return to their sticker coloring stations and I and my co-organizers read out some things that were written on the various lists. The "how I'm coping now" sheet included a fair range of different types of alcohol and other routes of escape. The sheet we intended to be for "sustainable" coping mechanisms had some interesting items like:
  • Release the need to be right 
  • Stay offline after work
  • Talking to friends, hugging friends
  • Humor
  • EMDR
  • Walking dogs for the Humane Society
  • Contemplative practices (including ceremony, quiet retreats, chanting, lectio divina, walking, prayer)
  • Outdoors activities like gardening, hiking
  • Yoga
  • Sleep
One person pointed to a healthier beverage for unwinding.
    One person's response to how s/he's coping
I remarked that most of these things were solitary, more about "presencing," not necessarily connecting to a larger community, so I asked for some more suggestions in the "purposing" category, and someone said:

"My mom always said that if you're feeling bad go do something for someone else."

... I noted that this lined up with things I learned in the Science of Happiness, a MOOC run out of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. (Read more here: Kindness Makes You Happy and Happiness Makes You Kind [2011].)

Lastly we discussed the possibilities for creating a community of practice around supporting climate change practitioners' mental health. More to come on that, I hope!

Further resources:
...Even further resources (added 24 May 2017):

More reading

Beyond Storms and Droughts: the Psychological Impacts of Climate Change (51 pages, EcoAmerica 2014) - the report on which EcoAmerica based its 2017 report.


Climate Depression is for Real. Just Ask a Scientist. (Thomas 2014) - a short article in Grist about the emerging problem of climate scientists experiencing trauma from their work. It includes a link to Gillian Caldwell's 2010 Grist piece 16 tips for avoiding climate burnout, which goes more in depth into climate trauma survival tips from psychiatrist Lise van Sustern.

Resources associated with the book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy (Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone 2012)

More on Bob Doppelt's "Transformational Resilience" Movement

Webinars & workshops - on the right-hand sidebar find links to webinar recordings.

Upcoming Workshops
  • Lane County Resilience Summit, Eugene, Oregon, June 6, 2017 (registration is almost closed- 10 spots left)
  • Pacific Northwest Conference on Building Human Resilience for Climate Change, November 15-16, 2017, Portland, Oregon (registration opens June 1, 2017)
  • California Conference on Building Human Resilience for Climate Change, January 24-25, 2018, Oakland, California (registration opens July 1, 2017)


One more "resilient communities" resource 

Transition US - "Growing a Movement for Resilient Communities" - this is an organization recommended by one of our workshop participants. It is an NGO that works closely with the UK-based Transition Network. It "seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis."