The High Skills of Adaptation Professionals - A Conversation with Beth Gibbons of ASAP
So you want to be an Adaptation professional?
This week, Peter Ravella and Tyler Buckingham talk about what it means to be an adaptation professional with Beth Gibbons, the Executive Director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals. ASAP began in 2011 with the vision of building a home for people working on climate change adaptation where they could connect with each other, share information, and build on successes while moving away from approaches that aren't working. ASAP was formed as a professional society that could help bridge the geographic and sectoral gaps that naturally develop in any field-and especially in the diverse, dynamic, and emerging field of climate adaptation. Very cool discussion, wide ranging and interesting to the end.
Speakers: Tyler Buckingham, Beth Gibbons, Peter Ravella
Peter Ravella 00:00
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the American shoreline podcast. This is Peter Ravella. co host of the show.
Tyler Buckingham 00:06
And this is Tyler Buckingham, the other co host,
Peter Ravella 00:09
Tyler, we talk a lot about climate change and cover it as well on coastal news today. And, you know, we're going to talk today about that issue, but more than the science behind it or the event of it, we are going to talk about what to do about it and with it. And I'm really looking forward to this show that we're going to have today with the executive director of the American Society of adaptation professionals. Beth Gibbons,
Tyler Buckingham 00:36
I am really looking forward to this conversation. This is a conversation about community, I think, yeah. And a community as a community of coastal professionals, all of us on the American shoreline Podcast Network, our listeners around the world. In fact, we are a part of a community of professionals that I think are adaptation professionals. So this were should be or should be should or maybe we should consider ourselves that yes. This is really a show to get to learn about this community organization that exists and has existed for some time. Beth has it up and we're gonna learn all about it. But before we get into it, let's have a quick word from our sponsors.
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Peter Ravella 02:06
Well, we are so pleased to have joining us today on the American shoreline podcast. Beth Gibbons and let me tell you a little bit about Beth. She is the executive director of the American Society of adaptation professionals, an organization founded in 2011. And Beth has been the executive director of that organization for about four years. It's an organization dedicated I'm going to try to summarize, we're going to ask her but I think the phrase that jumped out on their webpage was that the organization is devoted to accelerating the evolution of adaptation professionals. I think that's an interesting mission among other goals of the organization. Beth is a real pro. She was the director of the University of Michigan climate center before joining the American Society of adaptation professionals. And she managed Noah's Great Lakes regional integrated sciences and Assessment Center. I'm a big fan of Noah's and very glad to hear it comes from that background. But we came across Beth Tyler when we were posting article on coastal news today entitled water could make the Great Lakes a climate refuge are we prepared an article that ran in a magazine called bridge Michigan in February on February 16. So we tracked down Beth, and I'm really looking forward to talking to her today.
Tyler Buckingham 03:31
Yeah, well, let's start Beth. with you. Let's learn a little bit about Beth Gibbons, where Let's learn about your background. Tell us your story. How did you become the executive director of the American Society of adaptation professionals.
Beth Gibbons 03:46
Hello, thank you so much for bringing me on the show. I'm really excited to get to talk with you guys. I've enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about the community that you know you are supporting. Over the last last couple of weeks since you reached out to me, I've been able to look back at some of the former podcasts and you really have had something of an all star lineup, I think coming in and talking about climate change. So I'm excited to build on those conversations. And it makes sense because for me in my role at at Aesop, all of my work is made possible really by building on the community of people who are making climate adaptation and resilience work possible. And my background is in community development and urban planning. And I've been working on community development, sustainable development for the better part of two decades, and over the last decade, really focused on domestic climate change adaptation in the United States. And I think you alluded to this really effectively that the way that ASAP approaches climate change adaptation and very much the way I approach climate change adaptation is about a community conversation. You know, often Climate change is framed as being an environmental issue. And there's certainly a strong environmental component to the work that we do. But a lot of our work is really about how do we as people, as a community, as states, countries, and even a world interact with one another and interact with the resources that we have. And, and that kind of story of how do we as a community come together to support one another? How do we then look at the natural resources around us as part of that support system has been something that's been in my family history since I was very young growing up in a small rural town, but a town that is dominated by a major tourism industry of baseball because I come from Cooperstown, New York, America's most perfect village and the home of baseball. And yet really high slide that in there, in case you didn't know, everyone knows is the home of baseball, but it's also America's most perfect village. You know that my life has really kind of revolved around how do we build a community that has really strong fabric and interacts with this natural resources and also takes advantage of the kinds of other systems that may be around you know, Cooperstown, of course, having this baseball and tourism history, but anyplace else that I've gone, I try to find the way that we weave the resources that exist into resilience and well being for the people that are there and the environment around us.
Tyler Buckingham 06:28
I would love to just take a moment here to learn a little bit more about your early years and in Cooperstown and I've never been to Cooperstown Peter, I've never I've never been to the Hall of Fame. I've it's on my bucket list. You know, I believe me. It's on my bucket list. I would love to go What I didn't know and what I am doing a little research about you Beth was that Cooperstown is a waterfront is a coastal I guess you know as a shoreline. Oh,
Beth Gibbons 07:03
don't don't hurt yourself. Let me help you please do. Cooperstown, New York sits at the headwaters of the sesco Hannah River, which is one of our greatest tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. And at seagull lake itself is a really unique ecosystem. It is a lake which is nine miles long and a mile and a half wide and 163 feet deep. So it's a really profound like even though it's very small, so you can put that in comparison to say, Lake Erie, which at its deepest point is 200 feet deep. And so you have the small profound Lake, which has really, you know, delicate ecosystem and of course there kind of sits as Sentinel to the health of the testicle, Hannah, which we you know, think about all the time as we think about the stories that people are experiencing, whether that be flooding, recreation, fishing, and of course, on the Chesapeake, which is probably our most successful story of watershed management and restoration and protection, at least on the east coast. And I would think I would, you know, argue in the whole us. So yeah, Cooperstown is very much. It's a, you know, it is a waterfront town. And I, even as growing up there, I spent my summers waiting tables at Sam Smith's boatyard. And so have had this kind of through line in my life of really thinking about the relationship that we have with water and the relationship that we have as businesses and caretakers, but people who are able to be in a place because of like, because of the water and, and for me. I didn't mean I you know, I didn't mean to cut you off, because I just I actually loved telling the Cooperstown story.
Tyler Buckingham 08:45
I don't know. I'm glad you did. I'm really glad you did. Because you did a much better job than I could. But I would like to know just you know, tell me about growing up there or you know, how living in that community it's it's an it's a community that's environmentally connected to that lake to that walk to that to that headwaters? Was that part of the community growing up? I mean, was that something that everyone kind of knew and maybe was proud of?
Beth Gibbons 09:20
Yeah, it really was. And the community has a really strong connection to the lake. And from my, from my time growing up, not to over indulge and getting to tell personal stories. But you know, we owned initially, when I was young, my parents owned a restaurant that was on the lake. And so we actually, before I was born in the 70s, fishermen would bring up lake trout. And that was something that they used to put on the menu. So we had this like really intimate relationship between our business and the lake. My Godfather, who lived next door, he was an old farmer, and he actually was somebody who used to go out and had ice on the lake and he would deliver ice. You know, he was a farmer in the summer and an ice men in the winter. And so my relationship with the lake and that waterfront was really strong from really early on. That evolved in time my mom went on, she became the director of a nonprofit called at sego 2000, the Lakers segoe, which is the indigenous word for reflecting glass or Glimmerglass. And she became the director of the nonprofit otsego 2000, which was of course thinking forward to the preservation of this lake. And those conversations that she would bring home would be about, how are we thinking about runoff? How are we thinking at that point? The lake did not yet have zebra mussels. So how are we thinking about and contending with zebra mussels as they spread throughout the eastern seaboard. And then freshwater ways we talked about phosphorus we talked about erosion from from boats and from wakes and really balancing How do people recreate on this lake? And how do you also protect the lake? How do you develop around the lake in a way that supports the local economy? And how do you ensure that there's a lake here that people will come to and flock to and love. And my mom went from being in the chamber went from being in that nonprofit to being the director of the Chamber of Commerce. And so in my life, there was really never a question about whether or not environmentalism and business should be something that go hand in hand because I could see the values of my family being upheld across both of those endeavors that she was leading. And so for me on also, you know, my my family owned a restaurant. My father was a teacher, we were part of this nonprofit community, I had really in this incredibly supportive place that I came from. And that was something that I recognized when I was in high school. And even though I didn't have a language for it, at that point, it was something that really drove me in my career direction. So I came out of high school with this feeling that I could do anything, I could go anywhere, I could do anything, I could try anything, because for me failure was a return to Cooperstown. And that was, so it was so supportive. And I had the sense that even if I were to lose my family, I could always go home. And I would always have a community that had this fabric knitted together that was like a trampoline for me that I wouldn't be able to fall farther than Cooper stone. And, and it was with that idea that I went into college and began on a pathway of an of studying international development. So my first career path is actually in international development and working in Sub Saharan Africa. It worked for a brief time and clinical site development for HIV AIDS, and also was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. And all of that was kind of driven by this idea that if, if I as an individual could feel this sense of obligation and opportunity to go as far as I could, as hard as I could to do as much good. And if that was derived from having come from a place with really high community security, what could I do to help replicate that in other places? So my work and my motivation for all of my career from you know, very, you know, the very early career days, which are like internships and, and the like, was driven by that sense of a sense of obligation and an opportunity to try to recreate the sense of community security today in in climate change, adaptation work. We the term of art for this that gets used as social cohesion. How do we create social cohesion? How do we map social cohesion and we see social cohesion as a really critical driver and what leads to resilience. So the well being of a community, AF before, during and after disaster, people knowing each other's neighbors feeling secure with one another feeling like they can turn to one another for support and for mutual aid, is one of the most important factors and how a community will come through a disaster when they arrive. Man.
Peter Ravella 14:49
You know, I really appreciate you going into that detail of your personal history and perspective coming out of Cooper's town because what comes across there is This sense of stability and security in your, in your early years and the importance of the fabric of the community as being a foundation of your confidence and your career choices and your perspective as a professional. And it does seem to fit very nicely into the career you are in now at at working with adaptation professionals and adjusting to something which is the one of the most unpredictable and unstable conversations if we can put it that way people are having around the world, which is this massive issue of climate change. So I really appreciate it because it helps us understand your motivation and your perspective. You said that, that what you really are working to try to do is develop this community conversation around climate adaptation and resiliency. That really rang a bell with me when you talked about the community conversation, because Tyler and I talk about this quite frequently that climate change is a people problem. It is a science issue, but fundamentally, in terms of how we are going to respond to what we are going to do together is a people problem. Can you talk about the centrality of community thinking and the human response? In your work? And in climate adaptation? how central is that? And why is that the center if it is the center?
Beth Gibbons 16:33
Yeah, I'm more I'm happy to talk about that. So one of the things that attracted me to ASAP when the opportunity came to, to leave the University of Michigan and the NOAA program that I really loved directing and are loved managing and look forward to talking more about and, and some other portion here, but was that ASAP was articulating itself as the people people. And it was not an entity that was trying to stand up better science or actually trying to be about the about the best practices. And all those are part of what we do here. But at its inception, ASAP was founded because there were people who were starting to work on climate change adaptation, who were ecologists and who were state policymakers and who were climate scientists. And they were from time to time kind of running into each other and finding that they had this shared oneness shared knowledge about where we were in our climate journey, which is to say, climate change is not something that is coming, but it is something that is with us. And they also had a shared goal of doing something about it, like a drive to pragmatism. And they didn't have a community though, where they could be housed under they each were in their own kind of sectors and spaces. And so the the reason for ASAP was initially to give those folks a place to meet and a place to share their work and to share ideas. And I would say that ASAP over the last 10 years while it has grown in both what it is doing, what is attempting to do and the number of people participating in that the added score ASAP remains a place that is about people coming together to share their experiences, to share what's working and to find community with one another. And, and we actualize this out ASAP by articulating ourselves not as a professional society. Even though we put it in our name, we actually function as a social impact network. And that means that when you come into Aesop, we expect you to be aware of an open to these core principles that you will engage in reciprocity, which is that you give you get in everyone gains, that you will participate in transparency. And so ASAP members create amazing resources, but we don't hide them and put them behind paywalls. We don't see our job here as being transactional. Our job here is accelerating this work. So ASAP members convene, share ideas, create resources, and then those are available for all. We expect people to come here with a mentality of something for everyone, not everything for everyone. And so you may need to do some legwork at ASAP, you may need to come into the network and find the people in the conversations that are meaningful to you. Because there are a lot of nodes that are happening because we are a network of many people from many diverse backgrounds. And then we have trust in the Principle of trust is that you will come in here, you will take your time, you will listen, you will expect to be heard. But you will also be invited to step back when that's necessary so that the network can really grow and thrive.
Tyler Buckingham 20:15
Wow, that that's an incredible breakdown of what the American Society of adaptation professionals is, I think, Peter, this this community of folks, I love that term. Social Impact network. That's a very interesting relationship. And I just I love it because of the nature of adaptation itself. And the fact that it is such that it is such a social issue. How do you? Let's start specifically, like say someone comes joins ASAP? And they are a, I don't know, they're a city manager. And they're dealing with a coastal city. Hell, it's the American shoreline Podcast Network.
Beth Gibbons 21:03
Tyler Buckingham 21:04
Why not? How are they going to connect with people from other sectors? And can you articulate maybe a, an anecdote of of how this works? Like what this actually looks like?
Beth Gibbons 21:17
Yeah, of course. So those were the principles that underlie the way that we operate as a network, which really very often comes down to the way that we who work here as staff are making sure that our systems and our mechanisms are looking and feeling so that is the you know, almost that's like the air duct system in the building. It's not actually what anybody who is participating is really asked to be, they are meant to know it, but they are not supposed to be like, Oh, I love your fax system, I'm going to stay right. They're probably happy there's heat, but that's not what kind of drew them in. So from a from a programmatic perspective, ASAP offers, offers programs in four ways. We talked about having an ASAP connects program, a careers program, a voices program, and a serves program. And the connects program is kind of the flagship of ASAP. And so this is, we say, this is the heart of the ASAP network. And the way that it operates is that on an annual basis, members engage in an open democratic process by which they recommend member led interest groups that will be administered and supported over the coming year. And those groups are formed on a range of topics. So for 2021, our member group topics are climate migration and managed retreat, network of networks. So people who are operating networks at a sub national level to meet and exchange best practices policy and practice group, which is focusing on the federal level to inform policy and practice and bring in speakers who can both receive information and inform members about what's taking place policy wise. adaptation designs, so this is a group that's talking really like nuts and bolts about what is it to design adaptation strategies, and the professional job seekers group. So this is a group for young professionals who are seeking new opportunities. And then we have a sixth group, which is actually called our good grief network. And the good grief network is a network which is convened by members to help those who are really struggling with the heaviness of this work to come together and to share and to be able to reflect and hopefully find really strong supportive community. And so your question is, if you have a new if you're somebody who's, let's, let's say they're in Toledo, Ohio, for for my Great Lakes centric ness, and they're saying, you know, I've got 1000 things to do, why would I also add a sap to the list, the thing that I would think they would come here for is they might be interested in one of these member led interest groups. So you're in the Great Lakes region, you've been hearing a bunch of this buzz that is going on about migration, so maybe you want to drop into that group. And so on a monthly basis, you'd come together and you would be hearing from experts have an opportunity to put together and maybe some thought pieces about what is migration meaning from your perspective, you'd have a chance to share the way that this kind of issue is being integrated into your decision making with people who are both like you, so perhaps other city decision makers, but maybe also somebody who's working in the private sector who's trying to create a product for you to think about updating your infrastructure, and maybe a researcher who's pulling in the best and the brightest and new demographic information. And one of the I'd say one of the things that makes a sap especially attractive to a certain type of person It is really diverse. So our membership is 25% public sector, from the local to the federal level 25%, academia, 25%, private sector and 25% nonprofit. So you get a really authentic cut across of who's working on this field from really different angles. Interesting.
Peter Ravella 25:21
Sounds like a really holistic organization. And if you the question I have is whether people who work as you said, it's a very broad spectrum of members from across various sectors do people and this is I'm not quite sure this is precise enough question. But do people see themselves as adaptation professionals? Is that a? Is that a frame of reference that you are helping to promote an identity? Yeah, do people understand that they're adaptation professionals? Or they suddenly look up and go, gee, all these years I've been doing, effectively adaptation work, but I didn't know that's what was right.
Beth Gibbons 26:03
A little bit of both.
Tyler Buckingham 26:05
I thought I was
Beth Gibbons 26:08
like, on the website, we do have a section that is am I an adaptation professional? So you can help answer that question for yourself. We broadly define adaptation professional as somebody who considers future someone who considers future climate conditions in their day to day work. And and there is a divide, I would say, by age, about whether or not you think you are a climate adaptation professional, you want to be an adaptation professional, or you are just finding out that you've been one for a while. And there are a lot more students, there are a lot more early career professionals who are seeking to be climate adaptation and resilience professionals. There are many, many people who are engineers, lawyers, watershed managers over the age of 4550, who probably have been being adaptation professionals for quite well, I should say. There's many who have been being adaptation professionals. There's many more who are becoming adaptation professionals really rapid kind
Peter Ravella 27:20
of discovering that. And let me ask you this, you said it, you defined it. And I think in a way that I understood people who are taking future climate conditions into account in their professional work. What is it I would say to anybody who's on the, on the coast of America, if you're a city council member, county commissioner, a stakeholder a property owner, a developer, if you're a commercial fisherman, you would be a client, taxation professional, because you've got to be thinking about this issue on the American shoreline.
Tyler Buckingham 27:55
If you're really honest about it, I think that that's true.
Beth Gibbons 27:58
And if you're really honest about it, but that's also so let me say something that we do expect. So there's a broad definition. But ASAP is a network of people who choose to be here. And part of that is an expectation that you are not just by mistake, doing adaptation, but you're, you know, so ASAP is open for everyone. But you're gonna find that the, the people who are most satisfied with the community that exists here are those who want to be intentional. And that is changing really fast. It's changing really fast. But there's a big difference between people who are subjected to climate change, and who are living in the changing reality and people who are asking those pragmatic and intentional questions about how do we do this differently. And
Peter Ravella 29:00
you mentioned that there is a drive to pragmatism, I liked that phrase when you drive pragmatism and, and when we're on the, on the coast, and in many of the stories we carry on coastal news today, or in the podcast in this subject area. We're talking a lot about future development and what's appropriate or inappropriate and how to respond to rising sea levels, which is a obviously a derivative of climate change, an impact of climate change. One of the key issues that we like to explore and we do this with Rob young at the Center for develop shorelines at Western Carolina University, one of my favorite, provocative thinkers on the American coastal development process and how to respond. But he's he's an advocate of managed retreat, and you mentioned it and I would just like Could you speak to that issue? It's an incredibly complicated issue, but what have you what is a is AP done with that topic, how has that been developed or explored or explained in your work as a society?
Beth Gibbons 30:08
Yeah, it is a really very, very complex topic. ASAP has been convening a number led interest group now going into its third year on climate migration and managed retreat, which hosts a variety of conversations on the topic, primarily domestic or North American, but also reaching into the international context. And in there, we expect and see the members and those who are part of that community, really pushing to ensure that managed retreat conversations are starting from the community up, and that managed retreat and climate migration, from an ASAP perspective, are an adaptation strategy, these, this idea of managed retreat or climate migration, very much like the rest of adaptation does not need to be treated as an emergency or a radical idea. But it's something that should be on the table as you go through a really thorough community engagement process here where people are, what do they need? What is possible here? Who is owning decisions? So we we provide a living guide on the principles of adaptation. And it It begins with the recognition that many adaptation professionals have a lot of power, and they are in a decision making position. And one of their top responsibilities is to disseminate that power, and to ensure that their decision is always with and never for, in managed retreat, I'd say, you know, it's really it's a hot topic. And our members are, are looking at it, they're learning about it. They are preparing in this next year to create some policy recommendations on this topic specifically. But all of it really comes from a PSA from a place of saying this is an adaptation strategy. And it needs to be treated and explored with the same kind of community respect that we expect all adaptation strategies to be considered unexplored with.
Peter Ravella 32:31
You want it to be part of the conversation. And I do think that's absolutely appropriate when examining alternatives to climate change and sea level rise on the coast, can we really, truly take a serious look at managed retreat as an option, as opposed to a throwaway alternative? You know, in the analysis? Number five, yeah, we'll write it down. And we're going to move past it. I think seriousness of that is what it sounds like what you're calling for?
Beth Gibbons 33:00
Well, it's both it's the serious pneus of it, but also that right now, you know, and I will admit that sometimes my perspective is really skewed, because I think about climate change adaptation all day, every day, and not everyone does. But, um, you know, I'm actually saying that, we have to remember that there's a lot of options for these coastal communities, and retreat, managed retreat is one of them, but the book has to stay open to what meets the community's needs. Right. Um, and, and, and then I also want to say, I think it's important for us to say that because managed retreat is, is being treated as a very new idea. But the United States has a history of forced migration. It has a history of using environmental forces to make people move. And that history is not one that we want to feel like we are repeating and upholding because it's it's rooted often in racism, and classism. And so we have to be prepared to recognize that conversations about environmental migration, now held my managed retreat are not actually new, that communities have in fact, been moved. There have been communities that have attempted to manage to retreat in a managed way, and then denied resources, and that there's a body of, of actions that we can look at and say, you know, how do we feel about what we've already done? Before we start acting like we're making up something new, that has to be completely invented from not having had any experience with it so
Tyler Buckingham 35:08
far, you know? Well, first of all, I completely I want to just second that. And I remember, I remember when Hurricane Katrina happened, and there were voices to out there saying, you know, no, New Orleans just shouldn't exist. It's a stupid place for a city. And, you know, it just happens to be a black city, and a symbol of African American culture. And those voices that were saying, you know, let's just leave that place. It's too expensive. Why are we spending money, those voices, we're not a part of that community. And that's just, I think, inherently very counterproductive and problematic. What we encounter on the shoreline, and I'm sure you encountered back home in Cooperstown and, and everywhere, is that oftentimes, community members have competing interests. So in a, in a coastal community, you know, private property owners, business owners, people that that exist off of the tourism industry. And are that is their livelihoods, they oftentimes are find themselves at odds with what I would consider other people who are part of the community and want to see development happen in different ways. And and these are the issues of, of the civics of the community that they're trying to adjudicate. And interestingly, I, you know, on on ASPN, we try to group all of these people together on coasts, news today, and ASPN, our theory is like, well, you're all part of this community, even if you have competing interests. And, and one interest, you know, says we got to go this way. And the other No, no, actually, you you are actually in it together, you are actually connected by the geography of this space, and the fact that the land water interface is connected directly to both, say, you know, the fisherman's livelihood and say, the hotel operators livelihood that both are connected in that they need a healthy, sustainable environment for them both to work, but they can oftentimes in the short term be dramatically opposed. And I'm wondering, first of all, this is going to be a two parter are are all of these community members, adaptation professionals, according to your definition, is my first question. And secondly, how do in these connection in your in your connects program? How do people have opposing interests sorted out? I mean, are they able to I mean, do you is conclusion reached? Or is it really not about the ends? Is it really about the the journey that matters? So tell me about that.
Beth Gibbons 38:11
So I, I would say that ASAP is comprised of some parts of the some people who are in those conversations, but not all of them. And this goes back to that willingness to be intentional about taking action. And that means there are a lot of people, not just on the coast, there are a lot of people across the country, who are not willing to admit that we're living in a changing climate condition, and that that is going to require significant change in the way that you behave. In case we didn't know before 2020, that people aren't great at behavior change. We really have had it reinforced for us in the last year, I think, like even Small changes can be really scary for people to undertake. And so I would say that the people who are in ASAP are people who are in those coastal communities, they are in Charleston, they are in Broward County, Florida, they are in Baltimore. And they are coming to ASAP because they actually don't necessarily have a strong community immediately around them. That's why ASAP is a national network. It's a it was born as a virtual network. We didn't become a virtual network in 2020. We've existed that way. And so even though everybody in your story may be impacted by climate change, and they may be thinking about climate change in their day to day work, that doesn't mean they're actually intentionally trying to do something pragmatic and action oriented toward it. Now, what I would say you get in the connects program is that you get a person who like Jennifer Geraldo, who is the chief resilience officer in Broward County, Florida. And she's been working in Broward County to make sure that the developers who want to be building on those coasts, they want to keep developing along the along the edge of the ocean, understand what the planning process is that the county is going through to be setting its climate and its resilience standards. And Jennifer's experience is one that has, you know, she's been at this work for over a decade. And she's been able to develop a trust relationship with the developers to the point where in the last year that the county came back around on its previous design storm standards, and its previous resilience codes, and it said, you know, we are going to have to increase our sea level rise target from 24 inches to 40 inches. And that completely changed their priority planning areas for the county. It also means that there's resilient standards that are now going to be trickling down to the communities within the county. But when the moment came for her to have those new standards passed, she had the support of the whole developer community behind her because they saw that there had been a conversation ongoing, that there was a need to update the standard. And then they also saw a government entity that was actually making a change that would affect everybody keeping the playing field level. And so it was really well received. So you know, Jennifer sits in these connects meetings and tells this story, it's why I can tell that story because she shares it. So well, the last time I heard her tell this story, she was actually in a meeting, she was saying, you know, we found that our storm design, or our storm severity has increased 20%. And there was a group there from Virginia Beach. And they said, you know, we knew what you were doing, we found the same thing. And then somebody from Charleston chimed in and said, we found the same thing. So if if Charleston, Virginia Beach, in Broward County, Florida, are all seeing an increase in their their storms of 20%. Can we now pass up can say if you're a community that's on the eastern seaboard, we're pretty sure this is the design that you should be using. And you don't need to go out and find it out for yourself, because there's these leaders that can show you what they've already done.
Peter Ravella 42:36
I love that example. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. I'm curious, because what what strikes me about that story is sort of the common realization of the changing conditions. And the story from Broward County. What struck me was when you said that, and she had the full support of the developer community, when the county moved forward in adjusting their land use planning and standards, that's an extremely difficult thing to accomplish. And it comes back to this notion that climate change and adaptation is a people issue, you really have to figure out how to help people through this realization of new information and to adjust. What do you think is the secret to that? How do you make it possible for people to encounter change and to persevere in a sense and become effective or pragmatic about it.
Beth Gibbons 43:34
So when I was with Lisa, the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessment Program, which was a joint program between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, and it's one of 11, NOAA research programs around the country, and the research program is dedicated to taking climate information and making it usable and useful to decision makers. And I love the recent program, the way that I love Cooper stone, I'm like a fan girl for the program. And we used a framework there where we talked about what has happened, what will happen and what are the impacts. Because a lot of times you get the impression that climate champions wants to come, you know, parading in telling you what's going to happen in 2015, you're not going to be ready, there'll be so much more rain, the water will be so much higher. What are you going to do about it? And that model of leading with future data really turns people off?
Peter Ravella 44:37
What's so what's wrong with that?
Beth Gibbons 44:39
what's what's wrong with that? It dismisses that individuals have expertise of their own place, people so from for me, coming back to my love of place. I believe that people know their place, and they are experts in their place. So you begin a conversation with what has happened here? How have things changed? Are you able to interact with the winter the way that you used to? Are you able to grow the crops that you are used to? Or are you seeing rain cycles in the same way that that you, you know, believe to be your climate, like climate is part of our cultural experience, and people feel it changing under their feet,
Peter Ravella 45:27
they know they know something about it. And they don't need to look at a study to find they don't want to be told this is what the research shows is that it is more organic understanding of the issue from within. I think
Beth Gibbons 45:40
that's right. And so you help people do you say, Tell me what's changed here, and then you can offer them data? If you live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, rain has increased, precipitation has increased 45%. You bet people know that you bet that they know that they're getting more basement flooding, they're getting more nuisance flooding, they're seeing more backflows from combined sewer systems, people experience that viscerally. And so then you say, Okay, here's the data. And they're like, Oh, yeah, yeah, I know that, like that happened. For sure. You can use a local weather station for that. You don't need a climate model. So then you say, okay, you're talking now. Right? So now you're getting into brass tacks with your with your city engineer, who wants to just put a new pipe in the ground? And you're like, Okay, so how many times a what rainstorm? Are you starting to see flooding at these critical infrastructures? Well, we're starting to see flooding, when you get these storms that are, you know, 1.75 inches. Okay, how often are we going to pass that threshold? How often? Are you already passing that threshold? Now? What's your appetite for risk? Because this is where we see ourselves going. And so the conversation becomes really about? Who are you? What matters to you? What's the threshold that your system can operate under? Maybe your system is a health threshold? When are you seeing more intakes at your hospital from heat related illness? Maybe it's about a school issue? When are you seeing kids not coming in? Because it's ice storms, and they don't want to put their kids outside to wait for a bus? Or you know, so you start talking about what matters here? What matters in this place? And then you bring in so this is where we're heading in the future. And then people say, Oh, geez, I don't want to have more pipes burst. Oh, man, I don't want to have more backflows. I don't, you know, and so then you're talking about solutions to problems that people are the experts of, and that's so important.
Peter Ravella 47:47
I love it. So it makes a lot of sense. Rather than sitting debt, bringing in an atmospheric scientist with a very complicated computer model about parts per million of co2 in the atmosphere and gas trapping and all the technical stuff is your you're trying to draw the truth from the community, it seems rather than an external source of information, is helping people understand that their experience is connected, and that they actually do understand this in a visceral and personal ways so that you're not imposing an understanding what you're trying to do it sounds like is to draw out an understanding of people's real world experiences. Is that close to what the method is here?
Beth Gibbons 48:35
Yeah, yeah, that's exactly right. You really, because climate change isn't going to happen. It's happening. And this is the silver lining of our inaction, is that now we're in it, we're experiencing it. Yeah. It's the floods, it's the fires, it's the heat days, it's the polar vortex. People are experiencing these impacts. And so you just have to unleash them to be experts. And
Peter Ravella 49:03
it takes a lot of trust to do that. I would think,
Beth Gibbons 49:06
well, if not
Peter Ravella 49:10
a willing, a willingness, a willingness to trust that personal perception and personal understanding and to truly listen, as opposed to take a comment period, let him say something and move on. It's really about Oh,
Beth Gibbons 49:22
yeah, it's very inconsistent with our scientific process. It's pretty inconsistent with most of our public engagement concepts. Yeah. And it really is upsetting to to the idea of experts and professionalization. Yeah.
Tyler Buckingham 49:38
Can we can we talk about that because it's good.
Peter Ravella 49:42
You know, we've done a lot of community engagement work on issues of shoreline restoration, and and I think it's something we we learned the hard way, the necessity of what you're describing right there.
Tyler Buckingham 49:55
Well, I'm just you know, so I'm curious. So your target, there's this like, professional Class of approach of the way that you know, you the way that you Yes, the way that you manage the introduction of a change a big, you know, public change. But I'm curious about just kind of the, about leadership and and the identity framing here in the social politics. Because it seems to me that what you're saying, when you go truly grassroots like this, I mean, you're going directly to community members. And you're saying, No, no, no, no, no, you're you're in it, you you know, you know, because you're in it, you are, you are actually you've actually adapted whether you know it or not. And so it's really about a reframing, as we started with the show of this identity of being an add an adaptive, individual and adaptive member of the community. And I'm just wondering how that manifests, because I could see, you know, you said something very interesting that is actually in the scientific community. Controversial you attributed the fires and the, the powerful storms. And the, for example, this polar vortex that we are, Peter and I are living through as we speak. You attributed it as a climate change event. Okay. And I am personally very comfortable with that. But I found on Twitter, that there are some scientists out there who are like, hold your horses there, folks, that we can't attribute this to climate change. This isn't a climate change event. But I but and I realized that that attribution scientific contribution is something a little different than what you're talking about. But the notion of being a part of the climate, that climate change is now happening. And that it is a part it is among us, as we speak, the call is coming from inside the house. It is we are in it. I think that that opens the possibility for political leadership that previously didn't exist. I mean, these meetings were kind of sequestered off in the crucible of, you know, Peter, we used to do these consultancy things where we would provide the barrier between the city council and the the real people in power in the community. It seems like there's an opportunity here for leaders to
Peter Ravella 52:29
I get where you're going, what is the opportunity for the elected leaders to embrace this approach? It does seem to have some advantages.
Beth Gibbons 52:37
Sure. And I guess, to go back to your attribution science question, please do you know a place where we let me say holistically. There's a lot of climate science that is still getting done. That's really critical. Sometimes I can come off as being like, Oh, we don't need the science anymore. We can just do it based on what's happening in front of us. And that's not what I'm saying, either. There's like a critical need for more basic science research. You know, IPCC full steam ahead better models. attribution science needs to continue improving. It's moving rapidly. It's a hard science. It's a complex science. But for those who would say, you know, people ask me all the time, Beth, is this a climate? Is this climate change? And I'm like, you know, is this is the polar vortex climate change the one occurring right now? No, I can't say whether or not it is. But I can tell you that your need to be able to respond to greater variability and the conditions that you're going to be living through is an effect of climate change, we can tell you that the jet stream becoming unstable as an effect of climate change. So the the one off question, and the one off fights that people like to get in, you know, is this climate change today is really not helpful or actually what is needed to be discussed. But the whole system changes that we're operating under, are changing our global system.
Peter Ravella 54:06
There's no question about that. No question. And I wanted to Beth, ask about the work that you're just beginning, as reported. In the paper recently, this week regarding migration or potential migration to the Great Lakes region, it appears that the society and others are beginning to undertake a fairly substantial investigation of the potential migrant migration of people to the Great Lakes region, and whether or not the region is prepared for that kind of change. Can you speak to that issue, why that's important and what you're planning to or hope to learn in the in the investigations that you're undertaking?
Beth Gibbons 54:53
Yeah, I'd be happy to. So I when I was looking at your past podcasts, I felt like you need more podcasts about the great lakes in general. No,
Tyler Buckingham 55:05
we do. I'm not gonna fight that. We love the Great Lakes
Peter Ravella 55:08
Beth Gibbons 55:09
So the Great Lakes have 4500 miles of coastline, there's 30 million people. And the lakes make up 80% of the surface freshwater of the United States and 20% of the surface freshwater of the world. Wow. Yeah. So why are we talking about what's going to happen in the Great Lakes region? The question is like, why is why is not everyone talking about what's going to happen in the Great Lakes region. When you take a perspective of what is already here, in the Great Lakes region, that you have this history of industry, and incredible agricultural base, a people who I think, find in themselves believe in themselves to be the innovators and the among the creators of the country. And then you layer on what's happening in other places, we start thinking about the fact that we have already 800,000 people who live in neighborhoods that are exposed to annual flooding, we have 13 million people who are expected to be pushed out of their homes by 2100, because of their homes will be inundated. They can't live underwater, they won't be able to be there. And then another 40 million people who are dependent on the Colorado watershed, which hasn't recharged power and like need, haven't recharged over 50%. So like, we start looking at what's already here, and then what's happening in, in other parts of our country. And we asked this question of people are going to move Why would they not move to the Great Lakes region? And to be completely honest, and there's no science, there's no demographic science right now, that says people are going to move to the Great Lakes region. There is only science that shows that the states of the Great Lakes region are going to continue losing population. And so we're talking about well, I shouldn't say that about Minnesota actually might be the outlier and that it's growing. But the nine states of the Great Lakes region, which are from Minnesota to New York, you know, they are they're they're they're have net losing, and they're expected to continue doing that. So the reason that ASAP is looking at this is a building on our earlier conversation, there are a lot of conversations underway around managed retreat and where people will be leaving, but there's very few conversations about where people are going to write and and so our initial work on this is to try to bring that conversation forward. And to really think about this as a question of how do we get ahead of a potential shift in both people but also businesses and industry so that we can look at that 80% of the surface freshwater of our country, and know that it will be stewarded in a way that is sustainable and compassionate. Okay, let's also think about the communities around that water. Okay, me.
Peter Ravella 58:36
You know what Tanner, I know who I miss right now in this conversation is Dan Martin is Dan Martin, who's from Chicago who was a podcast host on the American shoreline Podcast Network and did a show called next gen waterfronts. He was just a master and so interested in demographic shifts, a great long term thinker passed away in December, very unexpectedly, and we're very, very sad to lose him as a friend, but also as a colleague and in a professional. But this conversation about potential demographic shifts, it seems to me that what you're suggesting here is as the climate warms, and as northern climates become a little bit more, you know, attractive, and you've got water and you've got certain stability and assets there that there is the potential for people to in migrate into the Great Lakes region, is that sort of what you're thinking could happen as a result of climate change?
Beth Gibbons 59:34
Yes. And yeah, and
Peter Ravella 59:36
you know, the other conversation we've had along this line was with Louisiana Sea Grant, and the adaptation, people down there who are working on the Alday john Charles, and in migration from the Mississippi River Delta. In a very similar question, Where are these people going to land are the communities they're going to move to prepared? It's the same question and I bet you're not wrong here. I It makes sense to me that as time moves on a every interest or maybe a reinvigoration of population growth in the Great Lakes region is not out of the question at all.
Tyler Buckingham 1:00:14
But listen, I'm a I'm 34. And I'm looking at my life ahead of me. And I'm, you know, yeah, I'm drawn to from certain places. And I have to say, Minnesota, the Upper Peninsula, Michigan is a badass state. I didn't realize it. Here's some cool shit on in Michigan. I think we've totally I think we've totally overlooked we've totally overlooked it. And I i've, I'm embarrassed to say that I'm turning my my head back to my, to my old family lands, you know, your
Peter Ravella 1:00:48
family to Iowa, right? I wish
Tyler Buckingham 1:00:50
Chicago you know, but the Midwest we can throw is now would you? I guess it's great.
Peter Ravella 1:00:56
Well, you know, I spent a little time when I was a kid, I lived in gladwyn, Michigan, I really, my father was stationed overseas near Lansing, I believe is how I remember it. But it but this migration issue is is a very interesting topic. And tell us about the investigation you're going to do I understand that you've received funding this is a it sounds like a multi year effort to look at this demographic change and how adaptation to this potential climate migration could occur. Can you tell us about, you know what you're going to be digging into.
Beth Gibbons 1:01:31
So we're starting out at a really basic point, where we first convened an event where we brought climate demand, we brought climate scientists and demographers together to talk about what is the state of integrating demographic and climate models, it's extremely what I would call sticky. It's more this interdisciplinary pursue is less developed than I realized it was before we started engaging in this project. It is very difficult to integrate climate information into set sciences and demography is a science which uses historic models. And so getting a historic model to perform in a way that is looking at a change condition that hasn't happened yet is really difficult to do. We have done a pretty good job on updating models when it comes to some engineering questions. But as we've entered into the demography piece, it's really very much in its nascent phases. So one of the first things we did was we convened a workshop where we heard from people who are working on the integration of climate change and demographic modeling, to understand this kind of the state of the art. For this question, especially in a domestic or North American context, it's even stickier than the international conversation from there, where you step is heading, and is really trying to live into those values that I talked about already about understanding what matters to communities. And so we're first hosting a series of focus groups and community conversations with a variety of different types of stakeholders, ranging from business owners, to municipalities, to tribes, to environmental justice organizations, to community based organizations, watershed groups, environmental managers, saying, What are you thinking about? What are your questions? What are What does climate migration mean to you, and we're preparing gaps and needs and gaps assessment that will become public resource. So we're funded by the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessment Program for this product to create this product. And it's going to be something that'll be available ASAP, doesn't expect to be out doing demographic modeling and research. But we do want to make sure that we're thinking about what to our members we're adaptation professionals need to be thinking about as they begin to bring this conversation into their work. So we're thinking about what is the way that we continue supporting the professional competencies of our members, but there's going to be a lot of questions that need to be answered and investigated by many different people. So we're doing this, of course, a literature review. We're doing focus groups, those focus groups, again, really trying at the bottom at the bottom of this work to make sure that stakeholders across this region know what we're up to and why we're doing it. And then we're also supported by New York State to host a couple of rapid demographic accelerator teams and so they're using some of the existing models and research that is out there to see if they working with some support and from ASAP both some financial support and coordination from ASAP if they could give New York State some sense of what change might look like into the state and also around the state. So New York is a really interesting place. It has a very significant population that has high climate risk where we've already seen activities of migration, buyout, etc. Post Superstorm Sandy, it also has some of what have, you know, been speculated to be the, you know, climate refuge cities of the country up there, and Buffalo and Rochester. And so we're working with New York State to look at what does interstate migration mean, how does this state think about the way people might move within its own borders versus trying to prepare for people coming in and out of a jurisdiction where you might have less control?
Tyler Buckingham 1:05:49
That is very interesting. And
Peter Ravella 1:05:51
we got to join. So that I think
Tyler Buckingham 1:05:53
I think we've got a giant, great
Peter Ravella 1:05:55
sounds really fantastic.
Tyler Buckingham 1:05:56
Truly, I, we're coming up on the end of the show, but I've just got to ask you as, as someone who thinks as you put it, you think about adaptation all the time. One of the things we've been kicking around for the past year on this show, is Peter and I I mean, is what can we can we learn anything from the COVID experience? From from an adaptive activity perspective, I'm curious if you could comment on that.
Beth Gibbons 1:06:28
So for me personally, in my professional life, what I have taken from COVID-19, has been that we need to look at climate change with the same kind of holistic approach that we have looked at responding to COVID-19. And by that, I mean, in climate, we often separate mitigation and adaptation away from one another. But in COVID, you know, we saw, we saw prevention and treatment being deployed, and held up as co equals, we expected that people would be wearing masks while we saw, you know, a rush to get ventilators, we can't hold these sides of action against one another. And I feel an obligation as both an adaptation professional and somebody who is often asked to essentially speak on behalf of the field, that we need to be working on climate solutions holy and thinking about how do we really make that story about climate complete. That's my that's my hope, full story. This story coming out of COVID-19, for me, is extremely discouraging. And even as we're turning the corner into a new administration, and I feel like with the month of February, we've actually been able to finally pin down the page to turn into a new year, I saw a real lack of willingness to be accountable for individual action, we have seen half a million people die from a virus that we can't get some among us to take the most basic action to protect one another from Yeah, and that is really scary. And in order for climate adaptation to go forward, it requires a belief in a public will, that I fear our country is sorely lacking. And I am discouraged by what I've seen in the last year. And I'm re discovering the idea of, of hope, and some sense of normalcy, but the reality of what we experienced in this last year from social injustice, from the failure of our political system to actually create the solutions that we've needed. And the expectation of local municipalities to choose how to behave without guidance from some kind of Central leadership is not it's not a good sign for for where we are heading.
Peter Ravella 1:09:38
Wow. Well, I think the parallel and I think the lessons you're drawing are rational and reasonable. I like to think, on the hopeful side that we rise to the occasion and I think the occasion may be beginning to begin so far, I would agree with you that I've been stunned by our capacity to capacity for denial. That's something as, and these are. The reason why this parallel is interesting to me, we're talking about physical phenomena. Here, we're talking about something that is not a policy, we are talking about a virus, a respiratory airborne virus that acts in a certain way, as does atmospheric science and the conditions on the planet, these are physical things and facing them squarely, and being willing to understand what is happening and then respond is the key. And in both of these situations, there is an ability and a capacity to deny the existence of the facts. I'm hopeful because I sort of live by the proposition that reality is a persistent teacher. And it will continue to hound you until you come to an understanding our failure to grasp and contend with climate change is going to be spoken about by the planet. Because the physical world is going to react to what we're doing. And over time, I think it sinks in at least that's my hope, over time, I think our capacity and our willingness to respond to COVID will improve because although Good grief, Beth, when we've lost 500,000 people almost you think we've had enough reality to know, but you know, I don't know, I really, I just want to say it's been it's, we could talk about this for for hours. And and I would love to continue this conversation, perhaps another time. Because I really want to discuss with you what the financial institutions around the world are doing in response to climate I was very fascinated with Blackstone group's goals and and there's so much there that we're not gonna be able to get to today. But you know, maybe we can continue this Beth in another show. And it's been a pleasure to meet you. And I really, thank you for taking the time to talk to us closing thoughts.
Beth Gibbons 1:12:11
Here, I'll throw one closing thought out there. And it goes back to what I was saying about the process that we get to action by. And I do believe that we can move action forward and the climate story, by taking it out of the data and making it personal to people, having them own it, having them then see opportunities to control their fate, having them see interventions that can be put in place to reduce their flooding to cool their city to lessen their deaths from climate impacts. People will fight for those, they'll fight for them locally, they'll fight for them at the state level, and they'll fight for them at a national level. And it's where climate change adaptation becomes a door to mitigation. It also becomes a door just to demanding more from our public good. And so I see us heading to a place where ASAP has laid this foundation for climate adaptation professionals to bring forward community voices. And now with our growing body of people, we're also able to interact at these other levels and say, at a state level, and at a federal level. Here's 100 stories, here's 1000 stories, here's 10,000 stories of people who want action, who know they want it, it's what they want. This is what it will cost and this is what you need to do to be the leaders that you want to be. And I think that opportunity right now is more ripe than it has ever been for us and is
Peter Ravella 1:13:56
really great. You know, Tyler, I'm looking forward. If we ever get to go back to the social cost forum, could you I don't know.
Beth Gibbons 1:14:03
I've never been
Peter Ravella 1:14:05
like so down the metal
Beth Gibbons 1:14:06
fun campfire that I don't ever make it to. So Susie Moser was one of the founders of a Sam.
Peter Ravella 1:14:12
Yeah, we really enjoyed it. And they're just it's such a great conference and you guys what you're doing and in every way would be a center point of that discussion. I would love to see a
Beth Gibbons 1:14:24
lot of that a lot of social coast folks are are
Peter Ravella 1:14:28
Tyler Buckingham 1:14:29
And I gotta say before we sign off on this show that I you know, this is obviously a national thing. This this implicates all sorts of people from all over the country, but I'm really stoked to have highlighted the Great Lakes region. Yeah. And I'm also really stoked to have learned about Cooperstown. Yeah, yeah. So I have to say I'm looking forward to the post COVID world when we get to like, maybe go to some of these places and and explore them further.
Peter Ravella 1:14:57
Ladies and gentlemen from Ypsilanti. Michigan it is Beth Gibbons, the executive director of the American Society of adaptation professionals. really a pleasure to have you on the American shoreline podcast, Beth. And for those interested in learning more about your organization and how to join it, tell us how they could do that.
Beth Gibbons 1:15:19
They can find us at www.adaptationprofessionals.org and we would love to have you join us.
Peter Ravella 1:15:29
Thank you very much for taking the time to share your insights and professional expertise with us in our audience.
Beth Gibbons 1:15:35
Thank you so much. This has been a pleasure.