Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Resilience Means Pulling Together

Today I sent the following to planning and sustainability officers at all institutions of the University System of Maryland. 

It has been nearly a year since our Maryland statewide session at Towson University to discuss the (then) newly established Climate Commitment that blended the goals of carbon neutrality with climate resilience.

To-date, six of the thirteen USM institutions that signed the original President’s Climate Commitment nine years ago have expanded their participation in the carbon Commitment program to include the resilience commitment as well.  The resilience piece focuses on “climate adaptation-specific goals, as well as building community capacity to deal with a constantly changing climate and resulting extremes.”  Let me share just two recent examples that affected our institutions.  Remember these? [Web-sourced photos]

The unusually heavy snow and blizzard conditions that shut down campuses in January and the heavy rain that flooded buildings at Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore last month are likely to become more common as time goes on.

We can all learn from each other and help each other be better prepared for the future.  I’d encourage those institutions that haven’t signed-on to participate in the commitment to resilience to consider doing so. 

·         I would ask those that haven’t signed:  If you have reservations about doing so, please drop me a note expressing your concerns and perhaps we can help answer your questions.

·         I would ask those that have signed:  Please e-mail me and let me know what benefits you’ve found from your participation.  What recommendations would you offer to other Maryland institutions in terms of a commitment to resilience.

Obviously, it’s not necessary to participate in an organization to prepare for the inevitable impact of climate-related damage, disruptions to operations, and potential threats to safety and health.  Many of you have (or are creating) effective hazard mitigation plans. 

But, as you know, resilience is more than maintaining continuous operations, safety and emergency response.  It’s an approach to daily planning decisions on campus that keeps one eye on what can be done to limit exposure and protect life and property by building or retrofitting facilities in the most damage-resistant way and in the safest location. 

That said, as I’m sure you’ve discovered with your long-running participation in the carbon commitment, “There is tremendous power of collective action of this kind, and each school that makes a commitment builds positive momentum, having a greater impact than would be possible acting alone. The network is sending strong signals to other sectors of society, from business to government. It is driving technology and service providers to develop new offerings because they can more clearly see the size of the market.” (Quote from Second Nature)  The same benefits can be derived from participation as a Climate Leader. 

Please share your thoughts with me on this subject and I’ll consolidate them for all of you in a way that might help everyone.  Thanks again for your efforts on behalf of your institutions and your willingness to share your best ideas with others.