Welcome to Virginia Coastal Adaptation

Coastal Virginia needs to adapt to changing conditions in climate and water levels.

In 2013, mayors of coastal Virginia cities met in Williamsburg to plead for state assistance to combat the impacts of change that they are already experiencing and expect to worsen as reported in the VIMS Recurrent Flooding Study.  Hampton Roads is among the most threatened coastal communities in the United States because of the high rate of relative sea-level rise and the significant economic resources at risk.

Fortunately, many of the coastal Virginia municipalities have recognized the risk and are working to adapt. This blog includes information and reflection about coastal adaptation in Virginia and around the world. Looking ahead to the future is critical.

As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Hobbit “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him”.

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Art and Adaptation

I have been fascinated at the nexus of art and environmental science for a long time. I grew up in a family where art was revered, so although my talent and skills never developed, I have always been drawn to visual arts. Years ago, one of my closest colleagues was a middle school art teacher who always claimed that art is the center of the universe. I would counter that everything could be better understood using science. But these viewpoints were not opposing, they were complimentary, and we worked together with students of all ages to raise awareness of the environment through art and science.

So today I came across STEAM. No, not a misspelling of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), but STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).  I love it. I don’t know if they invented it, but you can see more about it at this site operated by a group at the Rhode Island School of Design. This is the kind of innovation we need to drive our adaptation challenges.

Art also has great power to communicate ideas about the changing world.  One project, Honoring the Future ,is working to engage the public in climate awareness and action. Their project hopes to launch “Climate SmARTS” communities.

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James Blalog’s art

Important week in climate change communication

This week had both the premiere of the Showtime’s Years of Dangerous Living and the delivery of the IPCC latest report.

Did you watch Years of Dangerous Living? I am hopefully skeptical about the power of documentaries to move people to action. I don’t have Showtime (or cable TV), but I watched the first episode for free on YouTube. It is well worth the time, even for people who are already aware of climate change impacts. The production values are high and the very personal approach to the stories is quite moving. The celebrities involved in the first episode, Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle and journalist Tom Friedman were very appealing.  I hope the series gets released to Netflix or some other similar service soon after its broadcast so I can see the rest (PBS on demand?)

Ultimately, will we see an increased awareness of climate change or the golden ring of behavior change from this documentary series? I think that every repeated message counts a little, but that actual experiences, rather than virtual ones, are needed for to actually raise awareness or achieve  some behavior change.

The IPCC report has generated quite a few news stories (for example Science Guardian, USA Today). Like the film, the report will enter the public consciousness of some folks and be an important reference point, but I don’t think we will see immediate results of all that hard work. It took civilization a long time to get to this point, let’s hope we can be more agile in looking toward the future.