There is growing awareness that climate change has the potential to deepen inequalities, especially regarding the threat of riverine flooding. For example, the United States published its Fifth National Climate Assessment in 2023 and for the first time dedicated an entire chapter to Social Systems and Justice (Marino et al. 2023). But just as importantly, how we decide to respond to climate change also runs the risk of having disproportionate and differentiated impacts (Petersen & Ducros 2022). We must ask ourselves: Resilience and adaptation for whom?
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Abandoned homes with boarded up windows. Mold growing up the walls of houses flooded under five feet of water. The charred remnants of entire neighborhoods turned to ash. Fields of white cotton turned brown, the soil below choked with drought. In his new book, The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration, Jake Bittle paints a startling picture of the havoc climate change is wreaking upon various regions of our country. But more stark than the images of the landscapes destroyed are the stories of the humans who call these places home.
This year the heat of the desert grew, and the absence of water only became more stark against that rapidly rising contrast. Tucson, my home, set a new record of 11 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 111 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of July, 2023. In other areas of the state where I travel, such as the community of Ajo, we have experienced even hotter temperatures with multiple days’ highs hitting 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the saguaro/Ha:sañ, forever existing in this place, began to curl in on themselves in a concave dehydrated bow. In Southern Arizona, where we write of the dry river beds and the wall corralling (some in, some out), it might appear paradoxical to highlight water—this small but ultimate presence—as the center of things.
The early morning sun shone off the water. I parked at the “Flooding Ahead” sign and walked past deep gouges in the ground. The teeth marks of a bulldozer’s blade were still visible where it had dug in to strengthen the walls of an earthen berm along the edge of what was once a ditch and is now simply a slough meandering along a larger expanse of lake…
I slide my kayak into the tranquil waters of the Chesapeake Bay as the first glow of sunrise is appearing behind me in the eastern sky. The bay is quiet today, waters smooth as glass as only happens a few times during the summer. There are many mornings when the winds and the tidal currents conspire to make it impossible for a small craft like a kayak…
Every summer in my childhood my parents took me and my sister to beaches in Maine, mountain lakes in our home state of New Hampshire, and our uncle’s pool in Massachusetts just over the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border. Once the last towel was unloaded from the car, we’d rip off the clothing covering our bathing suits and race to water as if it was simply a mirage, wavering and threatening to disappear.
We seek to tell a story that demonstrates how combining a common goal with compromise and deliberate action leads to creative solutions and meaningful progress. Our professional backgrounds and experiences are diverse—our group includes a professional land manager, a clean water policy attorney, a conservation agronomist, and a municipal watershed manager. Through each of our personal stories, we will share examples of action-oriented strategies for improving the quality of Iowa’s land and water.
Using GIS mapping, I can identify at-risk communities most impacted by water-related natural disasters in the Houston Metropolitan Area (HMA), which is highly susceptible to hurricanes, tropical storms, and excessive flooding. Geospatial analysis reveals that at-risk communities are not randomly distributed throughout the HMA; populations like women and children are at higher risk of disproportionate outcomes during flooding events.