Mitigation and Adaptation: Human Stories of Hope | Explorers In The Field

by birtanpublished on June 29, 2020


climate change is a human story the

causes of climate change are man-made

and the solutions must be man-made

in order to reduce climate change in

order to adapt to these changes and to

mitigate our impact on the planet we

have to start with human stories I love

listening to people's stories

I'm Victoria Herrmann I'm a geographer

and a National Geographic Explorer when

people read stories about climate change

it's often in far-off places like the

Arctic or small islands but climate

change affects everyone by the end of

this century at least 420 town cities

and villages across the United States

will be partially underwater no matter

how much we reduce our greenhouse gases

today but there's never a narrative that

should be hopeless there is hope in

every climate change story it's just

about finding the right solutions over

the course of 2016 and 2017 I traveled

across the United States and US

territories and conducted over 350

interviews with local leaders from the

Chesapeake Bay to American Samoa from

Alabama to Alaska

at first I thought the biggest

challenges were going to be the loss of

property the loss of houses of critical

infrastructure but what people really

wanted to talk to me about was losing

histories the traditions that they can

pass down to the next generation I think

of myself as first a listener and then a

connector most days for me are coming to

places like here we are on the eastern

shore of the Chesapeake Bay

geographically Warren a place called

Poverty Point but the great organization

we're working with has renamed it

Patriot Point to reflect the work

they're doing with vets this is an

incredible property where vets come to

hunt to fish to seek the healing that

they need these are the coats that we

give out to wounded service members when

they come in the owners a patriot point

didn't realize that climate change would

impact them so quickly and so intensely

I want to understand their history their

landscape and their climate change

challenges so when you see shoreline

erosion is it usually with a big storm

that's coming in or is it just a king

when we think of sea level rise and

extreme storms we first go to our

shorelines to the Jersey Shore with

hurricane sandy or to Louisiana with

Hurricane Katrina but climate change

impacts all bodies of water whether

they're Bay's they can see sea level

rise or rivers they can see flooding

into the planes around them

the Chesapeake Bay is one of the fastest

changing ecosystems in the United States

who related to climate change at Patriot

Point I walked along the eroding edges

to see how the land has changed over the

past year decade maybe 50 years we're

looking for trees falling over for tides

rising above the marshland to understand

the rate of erosion and how much sea

levels are rising


to get a different perspective on that

we jumped onto a boat and saw it from

the water side so we can see how those

waves are cutting under the land and

seeing how that is making this whole

property more vulnerable to sea-level

rise now that was the title pond right

there oh I'll build that and we're

losing a little bit there all local

people are valuable experts here lately

we've had the 65 70 mile an hour

northwest winds northeast winds and

there's nothing here to stop it

the best knowledge that we get from any

place is the people who are living there

24/7 the people who are living through

those changes when you got to almost two

and a half miles of waterfront it's hard

especially when that waterfront is

changing constantly


I take everything that I've listened to

and analyze it

think about what potential solutions

what other expertise we can bring in to

make that place safe climate change

adaptations along shorelines often take

two different forms greener solutions

which use nature to make our landscapes

more resilient creating salt resistant

marshes creating areas that can flood

and bounce back or more gray solutions

using concrete to build up a seawall

patriot point can benefit from both of

these if you've grown up working and

living on the water not being able to

live on the Chesapeake Bay

fundamentally changes who you are and

that's what people are afraid of people

are afraid of losing their identity I

love this area

born and raised here and like I say this

is what I truly love how can you leave

this place that's it

each of us has expertise that we need to

share so we can make better solutions we

have skills based volunteers working all

across the country whether it's

rebuilding a seawall in Alaska helping

to move a building in Louisiana we are

helping preserve local histories in the

face of sea-level rise

the more people we have working on a

climate change solution but better it

will be my grandparents were Holocaust

survivors they were survivors of

Auschwitz concentration camp and they

came to this country with nothing but

themselves and the memories of those who

were lost and built an incredible life

and gave back to their community if they

could find hope and Brazilians in that

story there's no reason why I can't

share that same hope and Brazilians and

climate change stories today


the future can be hopeful if you can

work together and you can identify what

every person can contribute to a climate

change solution


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