Lessons From the California Adaptation Forum

Authors: Michelle Medley-Daniel

Last week’s California Adaption Forum brought together over 800 people working on the challenges of climate change impacts, including California’s fire season, which is now 70 days longer than historical average. During CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott’s remarks he offered some statistics: since January of this year California has had 4,100 wildfires, over 500 more fires than average, and 400 of those fires occurred in January.  While he stressed the necessity to take action at all levels, he also acknowledged that wildfire is not new to the California landscape. What is new are the conditions, and the convergence of climate change impacts and a growing WUI population require coordinated efforts.

The forum covered a broad range of topics including sea level rise, multi-jurisdictional organizing and public health. While not all of the issues presented pertain directly to FAC, throughout the event speakers focused on several of the same foundational underpinnings that our FAC work is based on: community resilience, proactive planning and broad collaboration. Among the multidisciplinary sessions were two panels I attended that took very different, but equally relevant, approaches that apply to FAC:

Building Community Resilience into Climate Change through Art: Stories from the Artists

This panel featured several speakers from the arts community who shared how their work engages the public in powerful ways. The session offered insight into how “art in its varied forms can be used to educate and train, promote a sense of community, celebrate and support individuals, promote ideas and initiatives, and can play a pivotal role in supporting social change.” Among the projects shared were a youth arts program run by the Crocker Art Museum where participants explored climate change through a series of projects this summer, and a collaborative art project that pairs scientists with artists to create work that communicates scientific ideas through works of art.

Forest and Flood Management as an Adaptation Strategy: Lessons from Local Officials

This panel featured examples of post-fire recovery from Flagstaff and the Front Range of Colorado. In their presentations, officials from El Paso County, CO and Coconino County, AZ talked about their efforts to protect local watersheds following wildfires. Their stories offered examples of “how some communities are developing strategies to address forest and flood management within climate change adaptation strategies.” Check out their presentations for more on how these communities are working at the intersection of FAC and climate adaptation:

Schultz Flood Mitigation Project, Coconino County, Arizona

Wildfire and Flash Flood Recovery, El Paso County, Colorado

The FAC “umbrella” allows us to explore many facets of community resilience. As FAC practitioners, we know we need to look beyond the “fire world” for partners. As members of the FAC Network have demonstrated, engaging community action at all levels is critical to creating a more resilient future. Check into climate change issues in your community, and you may find additional partners to help further your FAC efforts.

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