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."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

One week until NAF! Join me in my session "When Armageddon is Your Day Job"

The third biannual National Adaptation Forum (NAF) is starting next Tuesday in St. Paul, Minnesota. I'm excited to see colleagues and friends from around the country!

There will be a American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) daily digest covering the NAF and I *believe* I'll be writing for it: click here to subscribe.

Find out more about the ASAP member meeting - Mon. May 8 in St. Paul (2:45 - 5:15 PM) - we've met up at the previous NAFs but this time we have an agenda.

Follow me on Twitter (@stripeygirlcat) - I will be Tweeting the conference as usual.

While I've presented or facilitated at the California Adaptation Forum and the International Adaptation Futures conferences, this will be my first time organizing a session at NAF! I'm putting this together with two colleagues who have a lot of experience with practitioner training and climate change communication - Amber Pairis (Climate Science Alliance) and Kristen Goodrich (Tijuana River NERR):

When Armageddon is Your Day Job: Coping Strategies
Wednesday, 2:30pm to 4:20pm, Meeting Room 11

We'll be talking through some of the research on primary climate trauma (e.g., from watching your house fall into the ocean) and secondary trauma for practitioners (e.g., from mapping out the erosion projections for that coast but not being able to get the government to do managed retreat in time). We'll walk participants through some exercises to help us suss out good coping strategies. Look, we made a flier for it!

I'll do a separate blog post with the interesting research links from our prep work for this session.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Story Mapping to Get Beyond Boring Bad News

My new post at WWF's ClimatePrep blog is live! Check out Story Maps: A Rising Star of Climate Change Communication, featuring an interview with the father of Story Maps at Esri, Allen Carroll. Story Maps are a set of applications (templates for different kinds of stories) available for free at the Esri Story Maps website that help turn maps into storytellers using web links, video, audio, and images.

Credit where it is due: I lifted the phrase "boring bad news" to describe climate change information from a 2014 article on Story Maps by public media outlet KCET's Environment Editor Chris Clarke.

He was covering the Stanford course on using Story Maps for global change communication, I believe one of the first courses of its kind. The course came about when the California Office of Planning and Research (OPR) went to Stanford paleobiologist Elizabeth Hadly and asked if she could get her students to produce a Story Map on climate change in California that they could use in their outreach efforts. Specializing in storytelling as a communication tool (her Twitter profile says, "Using stories told by the past to illustrate our choices for the future..."), she obliged by sending two of her Ph.D. students out to teach a course. Now courses on using Story Maps to talk about climate change (or global change) seem to be popping up at higher education institutions across the country.

Omitted from my article was Allen Carroll's response to my question about what has surprised him in the deployment of Story Maps. He said that coming from National Geographic (where he was Chief Cartographer for 27 years, "we were big on stories") he was naive, thinking people would just know how to tell a story. By "people" I understood him to mean "map-making software engineers." It sounds like his biggest ongoing struggle is to make technicians step back from dazzling new builder functions and the ease of adding data layers and other content to edit out anything that doesn't support the narrative. Simplicity and creativity are what he's looking for in a good Story Map.

Explore the gallery of exemplary Story Maps curated by Allen Carroll and his team.

My favorite Story Map at the moment: Forest Management, Gender and Climate Change: A Story Map from the Mexican Forest States (2016) by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), featuring engaging video and photographic content.

Friday, February 17, 2017

It's Sedimentary, My Dear

My newest blog post The Sea Level Rise Solution that is as Charismatic as Mud was published today on WWF's ClimatePrep blog, featuring interviews with Larry Goldzband and Brenda Goeden, respectively Executive Director and Sediment Program Manager at BCDC - the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and Doug George, an oceanographer at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, with additional input from an interview with Nate Kauffman, of LEAP - the Live Edge Adaptation Project.

In the post I delve into the latest news on sediment management for sea level rise in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the hot topic of BCDC's lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (read the 2-page BCDC brief about the suit here, read the entire filing here), filed Sept. 22, 2016, by California's then-Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Here is the full list of SF Bay sediment/sea level rise-related pilot projects that appears in my WWF ClimatePrep article in truncated form:

A SF Bay Wetlands Restoration Project Roll Call

There are many pilot projects involving sediment in various stages of development in the SF Bay.

Bel Marin Keys/ Hamilton Airfield
This ACE/ California Coastal Conservancy project is celebrated as a successful transformation of a military site into a wetland. Click here to see a 1:38 video with images of the breaching of the levee, opening the land to the SF Bay waters in 2014. This project benefited from beneficially reused sediment.

Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project
This, the first horizontal levee in the SF Bay, using vegetation on a slope to slow waves rather than a vertical wall, was set to be fully operational in 2016. It might be the first levee of its kind in the world. After more than four years in the permitting process it took six months to build (per Nate Kauffman in Save the Bay, 2016).

Cullinan Ranch
This project in the North Bay, now near completion in the Napa River Delta, came out of a movement to block fill and residential development on the former wetlands. Read about its return to recreational use in “Into the Breach: Paddlers and Ducks Return to Cullinan Ranch” (2016).

South Bay Salt Ponds
This is “the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast.” It is fully underway, and will convert 15,100 acres of commercial salt ponds at the south end of SF Bay into mud flats and tidal marsh. It will rely mostly on natural sedimentation processes rather than reused dredged material.

Montezuma Wetlands Restoration Project (Suisun Marsh)
Now completed, this is an interesting project because it used “slightly more chemically challenged” dredged material than what is usually used in restoration projects: it is designed to safely make beneficial reuse of material that otherwise would be dumped in the open ocean. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a brief description of this project by the SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. A 3-page description of the project written during its initial stages.

Living Shorelines
This subtidal restoration demonstration project in San Rafael and Hayward was begun in 2012, is ongoing and now expanding to a new location in Richmond, California. It focuses on eelgrass and oyster habitat restoration.

Bothin Marsh
This project is intended to enhance Bothin Marsh for habitat and sea level rise protection through beneficial reuse of dredge sediment from Coyote Creek. Although Marin County has received a grant to develop a feasibility assessment, it remains in the conceptual design stage.

Sediment self-distribution in the South Bay?
A 2014 study (Bever et al.) showed through modeling that dredged material dumped south of the southern-most bridge across the SF Bay (Dumbarton) could result in the nourishment of “mudflats, marshes and breached salt ponds through natural sediment redistribution.” Any actual experiments with this kind of dumping would have to wait for BCDC to change its bay fill policy.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Climate Change Communication Resources for Teachers

Yesterday I was marching in the Women's March Oakland with a friend who teaches 4th grade in a local public school, and found out she was in the middle of starting a unit on climate change. My ears pricked up and I started rattling off resources she might want to check out while she scrambled for her smart phone to jot things down in the drizzle. It occurred to me just now that it might be more convenient if I just put up a blog post with my favorite climate change teaching resources available for free online.

"What is Climate Change" in under 6 minutes

First, the Consensus of Evidence summary description of climate change from the free online course Denial101x Week 1 is the best, most concise presentation I've found on the subject.

Concepts you might want to cover/review before watching this video with kids:
  • Climate - as something that covers more than just weather, not measured in hours/days but decades/centuries
  • Evidence - fancy word for "facts"
  • Atmosphere - that it has a structure above the earth's surface, with upper and lower layers
  • Infrared radiation - fancy words for "heat"
  • Satellites - what are they, what do they do
  • Internal variability - how things change within the usual cycle
  • Why we use the word greenhouse to describe climate changing gases
  • Climate models show us the results of math that predicts the future, they don't describe past observations, but their math is based on past observations (you might want to mention the phrase oft-repeated by climate modelers: "All models are wrong but some are useful")
For audiences not accustomed to hearing an Australian accent you might want to turn on the closed captions (click on the "CC" glyph at the bottom of the video window).

See all the excellent "Denial101x" resources listed in order in a helpful post by a blogger who advocates for climate science. Otherwise, you have to enroll and click through the module to find what you're looking for.

Denial101x is a free online course (a MOOC- "massive open online course") designed to help people analyze and combat climate change denialism by John Cook, the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, and Bärbel Winkler of Skeptical Science.

Enter the Denial101x MOOC module for the full experience.

Helpful Graphics

XKCD's Timeline of Earth's Average Temperature. Comic #1732 (September 12, 2016), by Randall Munroe. The data used is cited as being from 2012 and 2013. If you love this graphic you might enjoy the "Explain XKCD" wiki entry about it.

The Temperature Spiral by University of Reading climate scientist Ed Hawkins, first shared via Twitter on May 9, 2016, with the description "Spiralling global temperatures from 1850-2016 (full animation)," and since updated. It takes about 20 seconds to run. You might want to pause it and point out the last big swerving loop that represents 2016's record heat.

Or you can just leave it on your screen in an infinite loop. It's very relaxing to watch if you don't think about its ominous implications. Click here for another relaxing-if-you-don't-think-about-it spiral, this one going inward, describing Arctic sea ice loss.

Climate change impacts summarized in 19 haiku: some beautiful watercolors and haiku giving the main take-aways of the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary for Policymakers, by NOAA researcher Gregory C. Johnson. You can poke around the full set of IPCC "Fifth Assessment" reports released in 2013-2014 here. The 32-page Summary for Policymakers can be read here.

Someone made a nice 2:28 Youtube video of the haiku.

After reviewing the main impacts with your kids, you might want to circle back to the last line in the haiku in panel #15:

Repositories of Excellent Materials 

Climate Access - Tips and Tools - Climate Access is a North American climate change communications NGO that has lots of useful resources on its site (although the search feature doesn't seem to be functioning-- you'll have to use Google site search).

- Poking around their site I found a link to a 52-min. video of a webinar on how to engage youth on climate change by the Climate Advocacy Lab, and the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). The webinar is more geared toward people planning education campaigns than teachers facing down a couple dozen bored teenagers in a classroom, but it does provide interesting public survey data on how teens are accessing information. They present an analysis of ACE's Get Loud Challenge, now called Power Forward.

The Alliance for Climate Education has a 45 min. presentation for high school students featuring the video "Our Climate Our Future" - available for cheap ($5 for 2 days' access) here. You can see the first 8:30 of the full presentation as it was given at the White House in 2015 here.

The Climate Literacy and Awareness Network (CLEAN) has 650+ middle and high school lesson plans free online.

Climate Central - simply the best source for well-written/presented pieces on current climate science. Its content is not necessarily for the younger set, but is generally designed to be accessible.

Two Climate Central articles you might check out before teaching a curriculum on climate change:

- "Should We Tell the Whole Truth About Climate Change?" - an opinion piece by one of their senior science writers

- "Think You’re a Climate Whiz? Take the Quiz" - a 12-part multiple choice quiz. Note that it was written in 2014, so the question "What was the warmest year on record for the globe?" might need a 2016 correction. NASA and NOAA agree 2016 was the warmest year on record globally (NASA).


Game of Floods - See if this award-winning game taking on the challenge of planning for sea level rise might work for your kids. You could probably get tips for how to adapt it for different age groups from one of the creators, the county's Planning Manager Jack Liebster, at +1 (415) 473-4331 or jliebster -at-

- UPDATE - I just ran into Jack at a conference and he said they have used Game of Floods in a classroom context as part of the "Youth Exploring Sea Level Rise Science" (YESS) project, a SF Bay Area curriculum.

The Grid - if you've got an Amazon gift card to burn, this is a fabulous board game that lets the players make their own conclusions about the relative benefits of different energy sources.

The U.S. EPA's game "Generate" - Free! Download it while you still can! It was launched in May 2016 as a teaching tool for classrooms- it looks like a more instructional version of The Grid.

Things You Can Do 

The BioBlitz - an event idea created by National Geographic where you try to document as many species as possible in a given place within a short period of time. The U.S. NPS has a page dedicated to BioBlitzes in the National Parks - including a map where you can click to see what parks near you are involved. The NPS works with iNaturalist, which puts together apps to help document nature. Check out the totals from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's April 1, 2016, BioBlitz on iNaturalist here. If we don't measure biodiversity we can't measure how it shifts with climate change.

The National Phenology Network's "Nature's Notebook" program - where you sign up to be an "observer" and report on changes in plants and animals around you. Check out their Nature's Notebook curriculum and activities page. The data collected here is actually used by scientists! The NPN has documented earlier springtime leafing-out and blooming dates for keystone plant species, shifts linked to climate change. The more we know about these shifts, the better we can prepare.

Rain gardens - the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), based in Marin County, did a great project with the Marin Municipal Water District called "10,000 Rain Gardens" - here's their 2010 report on the project. Although the project is long-finished, MMWD staff are continuing to support community rain gardens - see their resources here. Slowing, spreading, and sinking rainwater helps protect wildlife habitats, reduces hazardous flooding, and recharges groundwater, all helpful under conditions of climate change. From the Rain Garden Network - 10 steps to creating your own rain garden.

Plant native plants to help endangered butterflies - Here in California the California Native Plant Society provides resources for schools that want to plant native plants to support our endangered butterflies and other pollinators. Changes in climate are threatening already endangered species and moving other otherwise healthy wildlife populations toward endangerment. Every little bit of native plant gardening helps maintain sources of food and habitat for our most vulnerable creatures.

ACE's Power Forward - a youth-oriented campaign for clean energy. It recruits 13-24 year-olds to engage in their interactive digital platform through which "participants are able to seamlessly share national climate content on social media and get updates about opportunities to attend local actions in person."