Americans keep moving to where the water isn’t

Read the full story from Vox.

According to an analysis published earlier this month by the Economic Innovation Group, 10 of the 15 counties last year were in the water-strained Southwest. Since 2012, an additional 2.8 million people have moved to counties that spent the majority of the past decade under “severe” to “exceptional” drought conditions.

Haskell Indian Nations University receives $20 million National Science Foundation research award for Indigenous science hub project

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland today announced that Haskell Indian Nations University, a Bureau of Indian Education-operated Tribal University in Lawrence, Kansas, is the recipient of a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation for an Indigenous science hub project. Funded under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the award is for five years and is the largest research award ever granted by the NSF to a Tribal college or university.

The project will create The Large Scale CoPe: Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub, a space for the convergence of disciplines and epistemologies where Indigenous knowledge-holders from diverse coastal regions will work with university-trained social, ecosystem and physical Earth system scientists and students on transformative research to address coastal hazards in the contexts of their communities.

“The Rising Voices, Changing Coasts hub to be located at Haskell Indian Nations University is a tremendous step forward in supporting Tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate,” said Assistant Secretary Newland. “This is an exciting and much-needed opportunity for scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers to collaborate on how Indigenous people in coastal areas can build resiliency to the dynamic forces resulting from climate change.”

The Rising Voices, Changing Coasts hub’s goals are to improve modeling and prediction of coastal processes to support decision-making by Indigenous communities, develop a framework for cross-cultural collaboration that can be adopted in the future, train the next generation of Indigenous researchers, and increase the infrastructure at Haskell needed to support future large research projects.

The hub will focus on place-based research in four regions: Alaska (Arctic), Louisiana (Gulf of Mexico), Hawai‘i (Pacific Islands), and Puerto Rico (Caribbean Islands). It will combine Indigenous knowledge, modeling capabilities, archeological records, geographic information system techniques, socio-economic analysis and hazards research. Together, these data, transdisciplinary analysis and convergent findings will enhance fundamental understanding of the interconnected physical, cultural, social and economic processes that result in coastal hazards and climate resilience opportunities, and increase the accuracy, relevance and usability of model predictions on multi-decadal timescales.

The Haskell Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit serving the university, secured the project’s funding. “This award is wonderful and critically important today,” said Haskell Foundation Director Aaron Hove. “It cements Haskell’s leadership role in Indigenous Climate Change research and demonstrates what a small institution can accomplish when it builds relationships with internationally known research institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Scripps Research Institute and large research universities.”

“This research hub is a significant part of the growing recognition that traditional ecological knowledges and Indigenous knowledges should be a part of the science that is being done today regarding global climate change,” noted Dr. Daniel R. Wildcat, Haskell faculty member and the hub’s lead investigator. “It is a game changer for Indigenous peoples. We have been advocating for years that we need a seat at the table in scientific discussions regarding climate. I think the funding for this hub allows Indigenous knowledge holders to build their own table and invite leading academic trained scientists to take a seat.”

In addition to Haskell Indian Nations University, as the lead institution, partners in the hub are: NCAR and its Rising Voices Center for Indigenous and Earth Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group, and community partners in the four targeted regions.

‘Moth highways’ could help resist climate change impact

Read the full story from the University of Reading.

Real data gathered by volunteers was combined with new computer models for the first time to reveal which UK moth species are struggling to expand into new regions and the landscape barriers restricting their movement. Farmland and suburban moths were found to be struggling most, with hills or regions with variable temperatures acting as barriers. This has implications for British wildlife being forced to move to adapt to climate change, and habitat restoration in challenging areas could help wildlife movement.

Foresters hope ‘assisted migration’ will preserve landscapes as the climate changes

Read the full story from NPR.

Foresters have experiments underway around the country in “assisted migration.” This term actually covers a pretty wide gamut of activity, from, in this case, moving a genotype within a tree’s existing range to introducing an animal somewhere its species has never lived before.

Climate change ripple effects include migration, gentrification and more, new report suggests

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

Climate change’s direct and indirect effects are resulting in large population shifts across the country, and communities must plan for the related impacts, according to a new report.

“The Next American Migration” proposes a framework for categorizing communities as vulnerable, recipient, or destination cities to better assess risk, revisit growth projections, and support affected residents. The National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions and environmental services firm Buy-In Community Planning released the report Thursday.

“A significant loss or influx of residents can affect local, state, and federal resource allocations, private sector investments and decisions, housing availability, and even cultural and social dynamics,” the report states. “Cities that take action to improve local resilience, protect affordable housing, decarbonize their economies and keep at-risk residents out of harm’s way will be in a better position regardless of their net population loss or gain.”

How ‘managed retreat’ from climate change could revitalize rural America: Revisiting the Homestead Act

Small inland towns can offer a haven for people escaping coastal climate change. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

by Hillary A. Brown, City College of New York and Daniel R. Brooks, University of Toronto

Southern Italy’s rural Calabria region announced an innovative project in 2021 to breathe new life into its small towns. It plans to offer young professionals thousands of dollars if they move in and commit to launch a business, preferably a business the community needs.

Northwest Arkansas has a similar program to draw new residents to rural towns like Springdale by offering US$10,000 and a mountain bike. Lincoln, Kansas, is offering free land to remote workers who are willing to relocate and build a home there.

These efforts take advantage of the growing work-from-home culture to try to revitalize rural communities that are in decline.

They may also hold a key to coping with anticipated domestic climate migration as storms and wildfires exacerbated by climate change make parts of the country unlivable.

As professors and authors focused on sustainability, we see ways in which projects like these might help solve both the challenge of rural population loss and the likely acceleration of migration from climate-insecure cities. While this proposal may not be viable for every community, we believe it would benefit many towns seeking to reverse population loss and rejuvenate their economies.

Opportunities in climate migration

Global climate change presents an immediate problem. Millions of people worldwide will be at risk from sea level rise over the next two generations, while others will be driven away from regions of prolonged heat, drought and the threat of wildfires.

With people likely to move from at-risk places into nearby cities, those cities will likely see their public services stressed, their housing prices rise and their labor markets tighten, potentially displacing lower-income residents.

This presents an opportunity for some rural areas to encourage new residents to move in. [View a map showing where the population rose and fell from 2000-2020]

From 1953 to 2003, the U.S. rural population declined from 36% of the population to 21%. By 2050, fewer than 13% of Americans are likely to live in rural areas based on current trends. The decline of small farms and rural manufacturing has reduced employment opportunities for educated youth, driving many to leave. Four-fifths of rural counties have fewer businesses today than in 2008.

In some areas this trend has become a downward spiral. Population and business losses reduce tax bases, impoverishing public services, making communities less attractive for new residents and leaving fewer opportunities for local kids who want to stay. This pattern can contribute to feelings of insecurity, political polarization and a decline of trust in democratic institutions across rural America.

Given the right support, community leaders may be able to reenergize their towns by encouraging people displaced by climate disasters to move in.

A new homesteading movement

“Managed retreat” is a proactive concept – it involves rebuilding in safer locations before disasters hit. That includes reinventing, reconfiguring and reconstructing housing and commerce. It could also mean creating networks of reinvigorated small towns, particularly those not far from the amenities and services of a sizable city.

Successful recovery and reinvention start with a community-supported plan for the future, including opportunities for in-town housing space, commercial opportunities and upgraded public services.

One way to encourage interest from investors and future residents is to focus on climate-friendly infrastructure powered by renewable energy. Areas rich in wind, sunlight and forests can update their zoning rules to encourage renewable energy investment, along with nonindustrialized food production, such as organic farms.

Developing high-tech greenhouses, such as those populating farmlands across Europe, for example, could support new jobs and provide fresh produce. The coal country town of Morehead, Kentucky, for instance, is supporting a hydroponic greenhouse that’s now producing nearly 3 million pounds of beefsteak tomatoes a year.

A young man runs past a county courthouse.
The ability to work from home has made small towns an option for more young people. Patrick Fraser via Getty Images

To support revitalization and smooth the transition for new residents, we suggest that the federal government could finance a sequel to America’s 1862 Homesteading Act, which encouraged people to settle and develop the American West.

This strategy would require new funding or shifting funds from agencies – such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Development Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development – toward improving public services and incentivizing commerce and industry, along with housing grants.

Federal efforts to expand rural broadband access can lift another barrier to bringing in young workers excited about working from home, as well as entrepreneurs with the expertise necessary to make these projects and other new businesses succeed in sustainable ways.

If government assistance programs support the aspirations of rural towns’ grassroots leadership, these efforts could come to be viewed with trust rather than suspicion.

This is a way for communities that have lost their tax base to recruit new tax-paying citizens. There can be downsides – change can be difficult for some communities, the investment can cause concern and it might not work as quickly or effectively as the community hopes. For rural towns close to cities, there can also be concerns about gentrification if remote workers drive up housing prices. But there are many communities, particularly across the rural South and Midwest, that could benefit from the influx of new residents and skills while the people relocating can find safer new homes.

Meanwhile, local incentive programs for relocation expanded dramatically during the pandemic. Small American cities are offering financial incentives to young people with particular expertise and families to relocate. Some of these include relocation expenses, housing subsidies and reduction of student loan burdens.

No single rural center can provide all the benefits of larger urban centers, but networks of revitalized towns could start to compensate.

Preparing now

Climate change poses unprecedented challenges for U.S. population mobility. At the same time, America needs to renew and transform declining rural regions.

Waiting until disaster strikes becomes expensive and chaotic. Revitalizing rural communities now could alleviate migration pressures and help restore the cooperative and supportive ways of rural life. It can be a win-win proposal.

Hillary A. Brown, Professor of Architecture and Director of the Urban Sustainability Program, City College of New York and Daniel R. Brooks, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How marsh grass protects shorelines

Read the full story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Marsh plants can play a major role in mitigating coastal damage as sea levels rise and storm surges increase. A new study provides greater detail about how these protective benefits work under real-world conditions shaped by waves and currents.

‘They just forgot about us’: A US motel of climate refugees with nowhere to go – photo essay

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Nearly a year ago, a fire upended their lives. Now the Oregon residents find themselves stuck in limbo.

People keep moving to the worst places for climate risk

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Lots of people are flocking to Arizona, Florida, and Texas—but no one is moving to Duluth, Minnesota.

Can new technology incentivize farmers to capture carbon in their soil?

Read the full post at State of the Planet.

Farmers have, for years, known about their theoretical ability to offset carbon emissions by managing their land in a way that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil — a set of practices sometimes referred to as regenerative agriculture. But measuring the carbon drawdown within the soil as a result of such practices has proven difficult and nuanced over time, and farmers have generally eschewed these practices, which require more labor than conventional agriculture.

But thanks to a wave of new technological developments, there is hope that the incentive structure might change for farmers, who collectively can make a significant dent in reducing carbon emissions. By some estimates, if the 1.2 billion acres of American agricultural land (more than half of the U.S. land base) transitioned towards regenerative farming practices, it could sequester up to 20 percent of the carbon required to reach the Biden administration’s goal of fully offsetting America’s carbon emissions by 2050.