People Don't Need to 'Believe' in Climate Change to Act On It, Study Suggests
By Kristen Pope
Skiing and glacier-viewing are two of the most popular tourist draws in Washington state's North Cascades communities of Glacier and Concrete, but residents worry that uncertain snowfall and receding glaciers may put their tourism-based livelihoods in jeopardy.
To encourage tourism, these Washington communities on the slopes of Mount Baker are adapting to climate change by holding new festivals and events and expanding existing festivals, such as Cascade Days and the North Cascades Vintage Fly-In.
However, according to a recent study by Columbia University anthropologist and professor Ben Orlove and colleagues, local residents don't necessarily view these adaptations through a climate change prism. Rather, they view them from a community frame. From that perspective, residents of those communities focus on how they can adapt and promote the area's economic vitality, for example, rather than focusing on adaptation to climate change specifically.
One take-home message from their research: Understanding which frames local residents use can help engage communities and empower them to adapt to a changing world.
In addition to studying communities in the North Cascades, Orlove and colleagues studied communities in the Italian Alps and Peruvian Andes to see how people are adapting to, and talking about, climate change. Each of the communities they studied is located along streams or rivers that come directly from glaciers, so local residents could be affected by the speed of melt and resulting flow and also by related natural hazards. Each location also relies on industries, such as agriculture and tourism, dependent on local resources.
The locations selected for study represent different continents and both developing and developed countries. The communities are considered to be at the forefront of adaptation because glacier retreat is directly observable and closely linked to climate change.
The researchers wanted to learn whether residents discussed climate change adaptation through a climate change frame or a community frame. They conducted one-on-one interviews with local residents, hosted focus group discussions, and analyzed community meeting minutes. Using qualitative and quantitative analyses, they analyzed how people talked about local issues. They watched for keywords like "adaptation" and "resilience," which would signify a climate change-related frame, and terms like "heritage," "neighbor," and other similar language that would represent a community frame.
Finding a Framework
Orlove and his colleagues discovered that their study subjects use both climate change and community frames to describe the impacts of climate change, though they use the community frame more frequently.
"We find that the community frame is the dominant one in all three cases," the authors wrote in their paper. "In all three communities, people perceive climate change impacts, along with socioeconomic impacts, and they act on these impacts, but they do not link the two with predictions based on the climate change frame," they said.
The researchers found that the Washington residents don't typically discuss the scientific processes of climate change, but they see adaptation, such as expanding festivals, "through a community frame, as ways to support livelihoods, maintain awareness of the past, retain young people, and draw out-migrants back."
In the Italian Alps, residents face an impact of climate change when the local hydropower plant produces less electricity because of fluctuating flows in the glacier-fed river, or when the plant is forced to shut down periodically because of climate change-related debris flows from the glacier. With declining natural snowfall, local ski resorts are having to make more snow and using a lot of electricity to do so, further taxing already limited power sources. In response to this increasing demand for electricity, the community added biomass generation as a source of electricity. However, according to the Orlove study, residents tend to view these changes from a community frame, speaking to the economic rather than environmental benefits of the biomass plant and speaking proudly about the local electricity cooperative's history.
The Peruvian village of Copa depends on the Rio Allancay to provide water for irrigation and daily use. A receding glacier, increasing temperatures, and less reliable rainfall are leading to water supply problems, and residents are making changes like piping water and lining earthen canals to retain more water. They mainly discuss these changes from a community frame or perspective.
While the researchers found all of the studied communities making adaptations to climate change, they wouldn't necessarily describe them as such. Instead, they "articulated them through the community frame rather than the climate change frame," according to the study.
People were also more likely to mention climate change when they were talking to a researcher. "One of our most striking findings is that though people in all three settings mentioned climate change some, they mention it more often when the researcher is present," Orlove said. However, when a researcher wasn't present, they often talked about other things instead.
Acting On, Without ‘Believing In,’ Climate Change
Some think people must "believe" in climate change in order to care about the issue, but this study suggests that people can work toward climate adaptations without necessarily "believing in" climate change or seeing the issue through a climate change frame.
"Many people think that belief in climate change is a necessary precursor to action on climate change, that only by understanding the enormous scale of climate change will people develop the sense of urgency to craft solutions quickly and the commitment to carry them through," Orlove said.
But he and his colleagues found the community frame can also be a way to encourage people who "don't believe in climate change" to work toward solutions. Orlove found people were inspired to participate in projects to help the community adapt to climate change when they believed these projects would help strengthen their community and advance it.
He also notes the language used in messaging is crucial, and he believes people may feel more connected to the concept of resilience rather than adaptation. "Resilience speaks more directly to the deeply-felt wish that communities will continue to thrive and flourish," Orlove said. Being aware of language and messaging and what local communities want and need is crucial to successful climate communication.
‘What Does It Matter to Them?’
Carla Roncoli, senior research scientist at Emory University, is among many communications experts emphasizing the importance of learning more about how people perceive climate change in different locations. "You have to understand what are people concerned about," Roncoli said. "What does it matter to them? What are the values that [inform] their actions and their decisions?"
Roncoli points to the example of African farmers she's worked with. While rain is important to them, they often view it differently than western scientists might. While scientists might be most interested in the quantity of rainfall, the farmers are often more interested in the process, according to Roncoli. "They look at when it rains, how long it rains for, whether it's during the day or the night," Roncoli said. "Those are the kinds of parameters they're interested in, not so much the sheer quantity."
She says these factors are important because they help the farmers determine which crops to plant and how to vary depending on whether they're expecting three months of rain or five.
"Many people around the world have their strongest social ties to the neighbors and relatives with whom they live," Orlove said. "They look to these communities for support, they look to these communities for solutions." That point underscores the value, the researchers say, of taking the needed time to work at the community level and learn how people frame climate change conversations.
Orlove points out that while governmental solutions and intergovernmental cooperation are necessary, so too are community contributions.
"If climate change is a global issue, adaptation is often a local response," Orlove said. "So for the people themselves the community is where they look first for solutions, and this study shows the enormous potential within communities."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Katie Howell
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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