Kristen Goodrich, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Caring for the People who Care for the Coast.
Both coastal adaptation professionals and their stakeholders are increasingly asked to deal with uncertainty, surprise and difficult transformative change as they face growing threats from climate change, including sea-level rise and extreme events. They also face a growing psychological crisis. The list of traumatizing disasters grows longer every year: Katrina, Irene, Sandy, Matthew, Maria, Harvey, Florence, Dorian and so on. And even in the absence of a traumatic natural disaster, “just” the inexorable change can result in fear, anxiety, outrage and grief among other responses when facing these growing realities.
As coastal professionals seeking to support our communities in preparing for and dealing with the impacts and necessary adaptations, we ourselves face two profound challenges: (1) coping with what we know (i.e., what science tells us is coming over the short- and long-term and the intimate knowledge of what this means for our communities); and (2) coping with stresses associated with working with the communities most vulnerable to this change.
The Adaptive Mind project was launched in 2017 to help coastal professionals build their psychosocial coping capacities and skills in dealing with this dual challenge. Our paper presents empirical results from a survey of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Sea Grant Extension, Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the American Society of Adaptation Professionals on their perceptions of these realities, experiences in their work including burnout, and their needs to cope more effectively with the range of psychosocial challenges associated with the demands of their work at this time. Results to-date characterize the challenge and call for in-depth trainings, peer support and institutional shifts in organizational culture to better support the very individuals whose job it is to support all that is involved in protecting our coasts and communities.