Building a Green Texas: Activating a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income and otherwise marginalized communities that typically have the fewest resources to adapt. Furthermore, the very communities that feel the effects of climate change most acutely have been historically underrepresented in the fields of sustainability and green building. The Building a Green Texas (BGT) project helps address these concerns by giving high school students opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to tackle challenges posed by climate change. In the process, students gain valuable green career skills and credentials and become part of a green building school-to-job pipeline that will help contribute to a more diverse workforce. Texas-based nonprofit EcoRise, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute/National Estuarine Reserve System of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management will lead this robust, three-year project beginning in Central Texas in Year 1 and expanding into Houston and Texas Gulf Coast communities in Year 2. Through school-year field experiences and paid summer internships, students in the program will use established scientific evidence, citizen science, and an understanding of location-specific socioeconomic and ecological factors to explore current and future extreme weather phenomena and other environmental hazards facing their communities. They will gain real-world learning experiences and career exposure by directly engaging with scientists, civic leaders, green building professionals, and NOAA data and staff. As students help design community-based green building projects, they will consider scientific uncertainty, cultural knowledge, and social equity, in the real-world context of improving community resilience.
Resilience from the Youth Up
As climate impacts ratchet up across the United States, the Great Lakes region tends to fly under the national radar. While the Great Lakes do not experience hurricanes, rising sea levels, or large-scale wildfires, the local climate has become increasingly erratic in recent years. The region, however, is one of the most unprepared in the country to cope with these impacts. A recent Grosvenor report (2014) on climate resilience among 50 global cities ranked Detroit last among 11 U.S. cities for adaptability and only better than three cities for overall resilience, which incorporates both climate vulnerability and adaptability factors. Of U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, Detroit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (80.7%, U.S. Census 2016). Still recovering from bankruptcy, the city also has a 39% poverty rate, which impacts over 56% of children (ibid). These socio-economic factors, coupled with other environmental justice concerns, such as a centrally located incinerator and an asthma rate of 15.5% among adults resulting in over 3,000 hospitalizations annually, make Detroit residents particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. This project will address the urgent need to increase resilience by working with high school students and teachers in Detroit and southeast Michigan to increase their awareness of climate change and develop projects that help their schools and neighborhoods become resilient to increased occurrence and intensity of heat waves, storm events, and flooding. Using NOAA assets, including GLISA localized climate data and Sea Grant outreach and education expertise, high school students and teachers will partner with climate scientists to explore local climate impacts firsthand and to develop resilience strategies and projects that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods and contribute to broader sustainability initiatives. The City of Detroit seeks this involvement as it ramps up a new Office of Sustainability and seeks proposals to develop the city's first Sustainability Framework. The effort is a partnership with EcoWorks, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA), Michigan Sea Grant (MISG), Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), Eastern Michigan University, Civic Research Services, Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In each of the next three years, 200 students from various high schools in the Detroit and Ypsilanti areas will participate in weekly activities related to the grant. The four primary objectives of the program include: 1) Engage students in assessing and quantifying climate vulnerabilities of their schools, neighborhoods, and surrounding community. 2) Using a place-based education (PBE) model, prepare educators to engage students in creating plans and completing projects that increase community resilience. 3) Empower high school students to teach residents about local climate impacts and increase understanding of resilience strategies to mitigate extreme weather events or other environmental hazards. 4) Contribute to the completion and implementation of local sustainability and climate action plans in Southeast Michigan.
CREATE Resilience: Community Resilience through Education, Art, Technology, and Engagement
CREATE Resilience: Community Resilience through Education, Art, Technology and Engagement, is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between youth and community to 1) improve environmental hazards literacy, and 2) increase engagement in resiliency actions by youth and adult residents in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. CREATE Resilience is designed to increase community knowledge about weather and climate science, risks from local hazards, and strategies for hazard mitigation, while co-creating a vision for community resilience. Developed by Nurture Nature Center (NNC) in Easton, PA, the four-year project will work with local, state and federal partners in three hazard-prone communities in the Lehigh Valley (Easton, Bangor and Wilson areas). Hazards, particularly weather-related hazards including flooding, have had major impacts in these communities historically and recently, causing extensive damage to property and disruption to community services. Damaging river flooding along the Delaware River in 2004, 2005 and 2006 highlighted major planning and safety challenges for many municipalities in the area with high flood risk, and a recently updated regional Hazard Mitigation plan highlighted other hazards – as well as the need for public education about hazards and mitigation. CREATE Resilience’s advisory board will work with NNC to bring education and engagement events to teach the science of these hazards, as well the household and community-level strategies and tools available for resilience. Partners include the National Weather Service (NWS) Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center and Mt. Holly, NJ Weather Forecast Office, and Weather Prediction Center, as well as LV Planning Commission, Northampton County Emergency Management Agency, LV Community Foundation, Lafayette College, and FEMA Region 3 Mitigation Division. In years 1 and 2, the project will form CREATE Youth Ambassador teams, in which student interns from area high schools will meet NWS meteorologists, engage in community storytelling events, develop local hazard and resilience tours, and learn from climate and other scientists about hazards and strategies for resilience. Ambassadors will also develop and lead programming for community residents. Simultaneously, residents will participate in active-learning education events, dialogue forums, arts-based activities, technology-based programs using NOAA assets, and hands-on preparedness activities. Each community will build a collective understanding of local hazards and mitigation strategies, and co-create a vision for resilience, represented in traveling visual artist-designed murals in the third year of the project. This education and shared vision will build community support for planning and resilience and help households in making better preparedness decisions. Dissemination through Science on a Sphere® and guidebooks will share the replicable model with other organizations and communities, extending the reach of the project. Close cooperation with NWS offices helps the project meet key goals of NOAA’s Education Strategic Plan, related to safety/preparedness and a science-informed society. Through public events and print materials, the project will showcase and interpret NOAA-related science and data with area residents, while creating collaborative learning opportunities for youth and community to interact with NOAA scientists. CREATE Resilience also engages youth and adults in preparing for hazards, and in multi-generational learning to improve community awareness and involvement in preparedness and mitigation.