In the world of climate resilience, we measure the bad things that don’t happen, which is not always (or even mostly) an easy feat.
But today I’m happy to share with you an important example of what happens when a community gets it right in their efforts to build climate resilience.
This month we watched a slow-moving tragedy unfold across Texas as a deep freeze covered the state causing malfunctions at power plants right as demand was surging due to the extreme cold.
Most of Texas is one power grid, which they set up intentionally to avoid federal regulations in the 1930s. But El Paso is on a different grid, one that crosses state boundaries and allows them to call on a larger power grid in emergencies like this. Which is exactly what they did with this deep freeze.
I want to share with you one of my favorite things about being the Executive Director of the Geos Institute. It's the day I get to help select the winners of Drinking Water Providers Partnership grants.
In the fall of each year, we work with our partners in the Drinking Water Providers Partnership to issue a call for proposals for projects that restore watersheds that provide drinking water for communities in Oregon and Washington. Applicants are partnerships that include local water utilities, federal agencies, and often, local watershed councils. The projects put forward are required to improve both drinking water sources and native fish habitat.
Applications arrive by early January and then the fun begins! Each of the partner organizations assigns a representative to review and score the applications before meeting to combine scores, discuss the merits of each proposal, and come up with the final list of grant awards. I'm fortunate to represent Geos Institute in this process.
What a difference a day makes. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until I started to breathe again after the November election.
The last four years have been hard – and the pandemic has put an exclamation point on these last 9 months.
We still have a ways to go before we can hug friends and family, dance together, do our grocery shopping without masks, and stop worrying so much about our loved ones who are at high risk. But the light is visible at the end of the tunnel and it is time to prepare for how we emerge from this global challenge.
Here at Geos, we are focused on the incoming administration and how it can create a nationwide system of climate resilience support services. We want every community, no matter its size or wealth, to meet the challenge of the climate crisis – and do it in ways that are ecologically sound and socially equitable.
We’ve been talking with congressional staff, agency representatives, and allied organizations about how to get this done so that action can be taken on a scale that matches the need. The response has been so positive that our excitement just continues to build as we enter the new year!
Supporting community leaders in facing both the causes and impacts of climate change hasn’t been easy during the Trump administration. Funding has been difficult (to say the least) and the pandemic only made it worse.
We are still dealing with that reality, but we are excited by what the future holds for Geos and for the work we do to help local leaders protect their people and the environment in the face of the climate crisis.
Thank you so much for your generous and consistent support of this critically important work. Knowing we have so many individual supporters who believe in our work and are willing to invest in a vibrant climate future has made all the difference as we have weathered the Trump storms.
Coming into the election, my biggest questions were these – would the system of checks and balances our republic is built on hold firm under such intense pressure? Would the will of the people be heard and respected?
In the end, this election showed how the heart of America beats and that we understand the immense challenges before us, including and especially the climate crisis. Citizens voted in record numbers, many enduring long lines in cold weather to cast their votes.
Secretaries of State, poll workers, and ballot counters showed up – regardless of political persuasion – and did their patriotic duty to protect the sanctity of the vote. Despite the disruptions we are experiencing on so many levels, Americans chose hope over fear and love over hate.
After 14 years serving as Chief Scientist and Program Director for our Forest Legacies Initiative, Dominick DellaSala has taken the position of Chief Scientist at Wild Heritage – a program of Earth Island Institute. He will continue many of the forest conservation projects that were launched by the Geos Institute in his new role at Wild Heritage.
Our roots are deep in forest conservation having started originally as Headwaters – a regional organization made up of advocates and grassroots forest protection organizations across the Pacific Northwest. It was in those early years that we engaged in timber sale tracking, policy advocacy, and litigation.
A message from Tonya Graham, Geos Institute Executive Director
Cornel West, author of Race Matters, reminds us to “never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Here at the Geos Institute, we talk often about the larger forces at work in the climate crisis and the need to bank hard toward collaboration, courage, and trust - and away from isolation, fear, and violence - as we face increasing disruptions that harm our communities, economies, and ecosystems.
It can be all too easy in this work to imagine that we are starting from a place where people feel safe and experience climate disruptions from a foundation of trust – that is, it can be easy for those of us who are white.
Many of us working on climate change have drawn comparisons between the global COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis, calling COVID-19 a “dry run” for the climate crisis. If that is the case, and there is good reason to believe it is, this moment is instructive and we must do our part to ensure that it is actually a turning point.