Resiliency in the Face of Stronger Storms

By Josephine Chu, Washington, DC

Unlike many environmentalists, I did not grow up appreciating nature or spending a ton of time outside, unless I was going to the beach. I associated the outdoors with mosquitoes, scorching heat in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. I was a nerd who much preferred spending my time reading books in the climate controlled-temperatures of the library.

So where did my passion for “protecting the environment” come from? It stemmed from a realization that the actions we are taking are extremely harmful to the environment, yet we are so dependent on the resources such as clean air and water that nature provides. My first introduction to these problems of environmental pollution came when I took an environmental studies class my senior year of high school. However, it was only when I took an introductory environmental studies class in college and learned the extent to which we had already polluted the earth and the degree to which that affected our livelihoods, that I dove head-first into all things “environmental.”

That was seven years ago now and the extreme weather events of the past few years have only served to remind me of our need to build communities that instead of polluting the earth, restore it and adapt to the growing impacts of climate change.

In particular, as someone who grew up on Long Island and whose parents still live there, the impact of Hurricane Sandy made me think even harder about the implications of climate change and what we can do to make our communities climate-ready. In light of all of this, I see the work that people all around the country and world such as my fellow Solutionaries are doing to build resilient communities even more important and urgent.

I wrote a blog about the need for resiliency in the face of stronger storms, which was just posted on the EPA website and I re-posted below.

We all remember Superstorm Sandy, especially those of us who live along the East Coast. My parents, who reside on Long Island, were very lucky and did not have any major damage to their home. They did, however, have to live without electricity for two weeks.

Seeing the impact on my parents during this time made me realize just how much we depend on electricity to run the daily tasks in our lives. My parents could cook at home on our gas stove, but without a working refrigerator, they couldn’t store perishables. Long lines at the gas stations meant that even the simple task of driving to buy supplies became difficult. Some of my friends didn’t have running water since there was no electricity to operate the water pumps. These stories made me wonder: will we be prepared if another Sandy hits? Are more Sandys in our future?

https://i0.wp.com/blog.epa.gov/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/map.gif

While there is uncertainty about the impact of climate change on the frequency of hurricanes, scientists have evidence documenting how climate change will intensify storms. According to the US Global Change Research Program, it is very likely that increased levels of greenhouse gases have contributed to an increase in sea surface temperatures. The intensity of North Atlantic tropical storm activity for most of the mid- to late 20th century has increased, too (see the orange “Power Dissipation Index” line in the figure above). This trend is associated closely with variations in sea surface temperature (see the dashed purple line). As sea surface temperatures are projected to continue increasing in a warming climate, we can expect that warm waters will fuel more intense storms.

Government agencies, including EPA, are working together to implement the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, with the goal of accounting for the impacts of more intense storms. Cities are also taking action; in June 2013, New York City mayor Bloomberg proposed a $20 billion plan of flood barriers and green infrastructure to build a more resilient city.

Check out EPA’s page on adaptation efforts for more information about how we can work together to build climate-resilient communities. With better adaptation efforts, hopefully, my family and other communities can be better prepared for the next storm.

Josephine Chu currently works with the communications team of the Climate Change Division at EPA and is the co-founder of Zenful Bites, a social enterprise providing food education and eco-catering services in the DC area.

Chu pictureand yes! now, I love spending my time outside and can’t get enough 🙂

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Diversity: why is it important to me?

By: Josephine Chu
Location: Washington, D.C.

This blog post is the first in a series about what diversity means to me.

Back in May, I had the awesome opportunity to participate in the Byron Fellowship. a week-long course in leadership and sustainable community development with a focus on place-based learning. When I initially found out about the fellowship in March, I was finishing my last semester for my MA in Global Environmental Politics at American University and was very excited by the prospect of being able to meet and connect with people from across the country and world working on sustainability issues from a variety of perspectives and fields. I was particularly intrigued by its focus on place-based learning as the DC program is working to create an intergenerational food justice curriculum, of which place-based learning is a key component.  I had heard and read a bit about place-based learning, but was not sure what it looked like in practice so was very curious to participate in a program that explicitly emphasized it. My understanding of place-based learning was learning that emphasized discovering the place and history of a community so that students can have a better understanding of their role in shaping it. One project that the DC program plans to do this summer is an oral history project to interview a host of people who have been deeply involved with growing food in DC to showcase their stories. (For those interested in learning more about about the many community gardens and gardeners in DC, the documentary A Community of Gardeners is a good film to check out.)

Byron workshop Continue reading

Gender Equality and Sustainable Development- what’s the connection?

By: Josephine Chu

A few weekends ago, I attended the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program Fellowship training in Washington, DC.  I was joined by several other youth from across the country who were interested in making the connection between empowering women and sustainable development.  I applied for this fellowship as I have become increasingly interested in learning more about gender issues due to the Gender Economics class at American University that I am taking this semester.  Through this class, I have been learning more about the importance of incorporating gender when developing macroeconomic policies.  Many of our initial readings for the class discussed how much of the work that women do such as cooking, giving birth to and taking care of children, and other household tasks are not accounted for in the formal economy or in the country’s GDP.  Yet, women’s role in the care or reproductive sector, while often unacknowledged in formal economic policies, is crucial to the continued development of a country.  For without women to give birth and take care of children, there would no future generation and no future economy to talk about.

the other Sierra Club fellows and I at the training, jumping up to save the world 😉

Sierra Club fellows Continue reading

Rooting DC!

By: Josephine Chu

For the past 6 years, multiple community organizations, spearheaded by DC Greens, in Washington, DC have worked together to host a day-long gardening forum called Rooting DC to educate residents about urban food production and consumption to cultivate health and protect the environment.  It is a really wonderful resource for all those interested in learning more about gardening, composting, garden design, school gardens, fruit trees, organic pest management, seed saving, cooking with kids, and so on.  This year, the conference organized workshops around five tracks: eat it (cooking and food preservation techniques), teach it (learn ways to share what you know with others), start it (gardening basics), grow it (advanced gardening skills), and the big picture (workshops about how gardening fits into the broader landscape).

In addition to all the workshops, Rooting DC also provides an opportunity for community organizations to table and offer information about the work that they are doing around gardening, food, health, justice, etc.  This year, our project, Cultivating Intergenerational Leaders, had the opportunity to table and provide conference attendees with information about the summer program that we are planning and ways that interested people can become involved.  It was an awesome opportunity to reach out to a ton of people (as more than 800 people registered!) and develop deeper relationships with other organizations with similar missions in the community.  The conference gave me (Josephine) and Jeremiah an opportunity to discuss further with Sasha Bruce Youthwork and Beet Street Gardens what our partnership with the two organizations would look like to organize and run a summer program for youth around food justice issues. Continue reading

DC Summer of Solutions Introduces its New Program!

Greetings friends! This is Josephine and Jeremiah from the DC program, Cultivating Intergenerational Leaders.  We are a new program that is working on creating a program that will engage middle and high school youth, college students, and senior citizens around issues of food justice. Earlier this month, we hosted the January Gathering, where program leaders from other cities such as Arleta, CA, Reno, NV and the state of West Virginia came together to participate in a training to prepare us to organize and host a Summer of Solutions program in our home communities.  This training was held at the Steinbruck Center at the Luther Place Memorial Church, which works to provide youth, students, and adults with the tools to address the root causes of poverty.

Those five days helped to give us the tools that we need to better prepare for our summer programs and to connect with other people who are working on similar projects.  I particularly appreciated the opportunity to provide input on the anti-oppression workshop as well as the information gained from the more technical workshops such as the accounting training. Continue reading