“He Wa‘a He Moku; He Moku He Wa‘a”
(“A canoe is an island. An island is a canoe.”)
In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation announced they were would be investing millions of dollars in helping to create 100 Resilient Cities. After reviewing over 1,000 applications from throughout the world, they announced their final group of cities in 2016.
They define resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience. Shocks are typically considered single event disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, and floods. Stresses are factors that pressure a city on a daily or reoccurring basis, such as chronic food and water shortages, an overtaxed transportation system, endemic violence or high unemployment. City resilience is about making a city better, in both good times and bad, for the benefit of all its citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable.”
Out of 100 cities, nearly a quarter were in the U.S. and four were in California. Among the American cities, there were 20 “shocks or stresses” listed that directly related to the fact our planet is heating up due to our continued reliance on fossil fuels for our energy and transportation needs. In other words, every single American city listed climate-related shocks and stresses that they believed would challenge them in the coming years and decades.
Nearly 90 percent listed rainfall flooding. Nearly 60 percent listed extreme heat. Nearly half specifically mentioned Climate Change. Sea level rise and coastal erosion was listed by all coastal cities while severe storms found its way onto one-third of the cities’ lists of shocks and stresses.
Other concerns included drought, water insecurity, coastal/tidal flooding, fire, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones, storm surges, tornadoes, blizzards, environmental degradation, disease outbreak, extreme cold, energy insecurity, invasive species, loss of biodiversity and food insecurity. Each and every one of these are connected to the climate crisis.
Each city was tasked with developing a Resilience Strategy. Honolulu, for example, published their O’ahu Resilience Strategy in January of 2019 after 18 months of intense involvement among grassroots residents and community leaders from the for-profit, nonprofit and governmental sectors. “The Resilience Office visited all 33 neighborhood boards on O’ahu, engaged with 219 organizations, and received direct survey input from more than 2,300 individuals representing a range of Honolulu’s geographical, ethnic, gender, and age diversity.”
During one six-month period, “the Resilience Office averaged more than one public outreach meeting per day. These grassroots perspectives and concerns on resilience directly led to the selection of four key areas that ultimately form the basis of the Resilience Strategy.”
Of these four “pillars,” all are directly or indirectly related to the climate crisis. The first pillar is titled, Remaining Rooted: Ensuring an Affordable Future for Our Island. The high cost of fighting against the catastrophic consequences of the collapse of our biosphere means less money to address the economic challenges these island communities face.
The second pillar is Bouncing Forward: Fostering Resilience in the Face of Natural Disasters. The climate crisis is having a direct impact on the Hawaiian Islands. The document states, “The threats from hurricanes, flooding and extreme weather are on the rise. The City will work with individuals, neighborhoods, and institutions to be prepared to absorb these blows and rebound in ways that put our entire community on stronger footing for each successive event.”
The third pillar is Climate Security: Tackling Climate Change by Reducing Emissions and Adapting to Impacts. They state, “The climate crisis is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, and as an island society we are facing the impacts first. The city must transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy, as rapidly as possible and begin changing policies and our infrastructure to protect lives and property that are increasingly in harm’s way.”
Finally, the fourth pillar, is Community Cohesion: Leveraging the Strength and Leadership of Local Communities. Effectively fighting the climate crisis depends on a healthy, cohesive community, while the ravages of un-checked climate change will undoubtedly severely strain the ability of communities to effectively meet the challenges they are already facing.
The “captain of the ship” is the Chief Resilience Officer and Executive Director for the City and County of Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. His name is Joshua Stanbro and you can listen to my interview with Josh on Wake-Up Call on KKRN at 88.5 FM on Tuesday, August 6 at 4 PM, PDT. If you miss the interview, you can find the program in the archives at kkrn.org.
Josh has north state ties. He grew up in Round Mountain, California, attended Montgomery Creek Elementary School and lost his home in the Fountain Fire in 1992. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College before he earned a law degree from Berkeley Law. He served as Environment and Sustainability Program Director for the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) from 2009-2017, where he led the Hawai‘i Fresh Water Initiative and the Hawai?i Environmental Funders Group. Previous to HCF, Josh headed The Trust for Public Land’s Hawai?i Office, where he worked with local communities to permanently protect over 25,000 acres and dedicate over $200 million in land conservation funds.
In the Executive Summary of the Resilience Strategy, it is written “A thousand years ago, voyaging canoes arrived on our Island and fostered a culture where no person or group should gain too much at the expense of our ‘aina or people. Since then, each wave of immigrants has brought their own cultural gifts to add. On a small island our shared value of community – where each individual gives a little so that the group ultimately benefits together – has always defined who we are. This core value provides a strong foundation for the O’ahu to survive, adapt, and thrive in a challenging future – but only if we empower our values with action.”
Redding is a long way from Hawaii, the most isolated human population on Earth, but we share a common climate and we all live on “island Earth,” the only home any of us will ever know. And their values of “aloha,” a society that promotes inclusion, equity, respect for differences and responsible stewardship can be ours as well.
Honolulu and other cities across the planet are taking the climate crisis seriously. They are not afraid to admit it is real and will devastate the planet if we fail to act in time. Why not Redding?
According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, only 49% of Americans are concerned that the climate crisis could harm them personally. In Redding and Shasta County, I suspect there is even less awareness of the shocks in store for us all. However, on the island of O’ahu 78% of residents believe that climate change is going to impact them personally.
Why are Hawaiians more aware of the climate crisis than we are? Is it just because they live on islands, and see their rain forests drying out and burning, witness increased hurricane activity, experience “rain bombs,” that can drop 50 inches of rain in 24 hours, receive heavy rainfall following prolonged drought, find the oceans getting warmer, the coral bleaching, sea life dying, beaches eroding and high tide flooding? Is that why?
But don’t we have enough evidence to also act? The climate crisis presents every region of the planet with a unique set of challenges. Here in Northern California, we are facing the prospect of ever increasing and more extreme heat events, deepening droughts, water scarcity, floods and more frequent and more intense wildfires. Don’t we also need a Resilience Strategy?
The O’ahu Resilience Strategy list 4 pillars, 12 goals, and 44 specific actions they are committed to enacting in their determination to become more resilient. For example, the Honolulu City Council have established clear goals and commitments: 100 percent renewable City fleet by 2035; 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045; and carbon neutrality by 2045. Why can’t Redding do something similar to this?
The City of Honolulu is mid-way through the process of developing a detailed Climate Action Plan (CAP) that will provide a comprehensive roadmap to achieve these aggressive renewable energy, decarbonized transportation, and carbon neutrality goals. Why can’t Redding develop its own Climate Action Plan?
If the Earth is to have a human future, it is critical that we effectively establish a worldwide carbon-free economy and what’s exciting is that it appears that Honolulu is providing a model for the rest of the world to learn from in how to lay the groundwork for a fossil-fuel free future. Will cities like Redding follow the lead of Honolulu and other resilient cities across the planet? The answer to that question is up to all of us. Sitting this one out is not an option. We are all responsible for this crisis and we are all going to suffer its wrath. Why not come together in our own shared community to make a difference before it is too late?