In a previous blog post I showed how the Amazon is drying due to changes in weather caused by land use change. Intense, large scale deforestation made space for immense grazing pastures and industrial monocultures like soy. Through a feedback effect, less Amazon forest means less rain, therefore the shrinking of this vast swath of trees in itself becomes a contributor to changing weather patterns. Last September, around Xingu Indigenous Park in Brazil, the biggest indigenous reserve in the world, a record 53,000 forest fires were detected. Dry, hot atmosphere led to even more forest destroyed and threw tons of CO₂ in the atmosphere, contributing, through a feedback loop, to more global warming.
Here in New York, since my last blog post 10 days ago, we experienced again a few days with 60 F followed by 2 days of blizzard and temperatures in the low 20s. Everybody feels something is not right.
All over the world the effects of a warming world are already felt. Extreme weather events cause shoreline erosion, flooding, infrastructure damage severely disrupting daily activities. Melting mountain glaciers reduce water availability, which means failed crops and food security at risk. Heatwaves cause human deaths even in cities like Paris. Warmer winters enable pests and pathogens to survive and extend their range northward, spreading new diseases to humans, plants and animals. Crops and forests are decimated by fungi or mountain pine beetles. Vector borne diseases spread and new ones appear: the range of ticks carrying Lyme disease expands, the same stands true for mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, Zika or dengue fever.
If some population segments in wealthy industrialized countries are still sheltered from the effects of our warming planet, other groups are already extremely vulnerable to these changes. “Building Climate Change Resilient Communities” class explores what makes these groups vulnerable and looks at mitigation and adaptation options to build community resilience to climate change effects.
In brief, vulnerability of a group or people is determined by three main factors:
1 – the extent to which they are affected by climatic events (sensitivity)
2 – exposure to hazards
3 – the ability to avoid or adjust to potential hazards, the capacity to anticipate risk, to respond to climatic events, to recover and change (adaptive capacity)
We now live in a world where mitigation and adaptation became necessary. Village Earth’s class Building Climate Change Resilient Communities explores some of the options:
Mitigation: fuel efficient vehicles, solar and wind power, efficient lighting solutionms, improved land management and cultivation techniques, composting, wastewater treatment
Adaptation: smart agriculture, crop relocation, building seawalls and storm surge barriers, water reuse (rain harvesting and ocean water desalinization)