Letter: Adapting While Mitigating
To the Editor:
Regarding your July 8 article “Adjusting to Climate Change,” there has been controversy about whether to pursue mitigation or adaptation, with people not wanting to talk about adaptation because they understandably don’t want it to dilute efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We absolutely need to mitigate our greenhouse gases. Yet now, even as we mitigate, we need to adapt to changes that are already occurring. Adaptation and mitigation don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It is our challenge to come up with projects that do both. Planting trees to provide shade and cooling also takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Increasing the distribution of renewable-energy projects decreases our carbon dioxide emissions while making us more energy resilient during severe storms. Weatherizing our homes means we use less energy to heat them and they are cooler in the summer.
Wise advice I learned about adaptation came from Elizabeth Sawin, a systems thinker and co-founder of Climate Interactive. The lessons she learned from Tropical Storm Irene suggest that we invest in: 1) connections among neighbors, 2) vibrant, small, locally owned businesses (that’s where we got our water or charged our cell phones), 3) vibrant local charities (like the Haven, which became the food distribution center, and COVER) and 4) conservation of existing ecosystems and restoration.
Rutland was hit hard by Irene and water flow increased 20 times in a little over a day. You would expect the next town downstream to be hit even harder, yet the water rose much more gradually and safely, with less force. Why? The town had conserved a large wetland upstream and the water spread out, dissipated the energy and saved millions of dollars in damage.
Close to 40 Vermont towns have taken steps to add to the protection of their river corridors and floodplains.
We have opportunities like never before to step forward and help — in our own lives by lowering our emissions, and by becoming part of a civic movement. The next session of a five-part program is about mitigation. For more information, visit http://climateinteractive.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/moving-into-action-with-climate-change/#more-5774.
Project Manager, Adaptation Actions Initiative