New Paper Outlines Frontline Community Groups’ Recommendations for Extreme Weather Resilience and Recovery

Published Jun 26, 2023

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A group of leaders from frontline community organizations who attended the Fifth National Adaptation Forum last fall have released a paper with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) outlining science- and evidence-based recommendations on how policymakers and adaptation practitioners can help frontline communities become more resilient to climate change and recover from climate-driven extreme weather events.

The recommendations came out of the panel discussion “Creating Broader Understanding of Challenges and Opportunities for Increasing Adaptation in Climate-Impacted Communities: A Conversation with Local Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Impacts,” hosted by UCS staff, along with the following community leaders:

  • Lanor Curole, tribal administrator of United Houma Nation, in Houma, La.;
  • Hilton Kelley, founder and director of Community In-Power and Development Association Inc., in Port Arthur, Texas;
  • Eva Olivas, executive director of Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, in Phoenix, Ariz.;
  • Tania Rosario Méndez, executive director of Taller Salud, in Loíza, Puerto Rico; and
  • Rev. Leo Woodberry, executive director of New Alpha Community Development Corporation, in Florence, S.C.

The group described the difficulty of obtaining funds to make their communities more resilient, noting that many of the places frontline communities call home—to which their people were relegated during settler colonization, beginning the 1600s, or more recently due to racial segregation—are mosquito-ridden, flood-prone and were considered uninhabitable.

The group also discussed the need for adaptation practitioners to work with communities to ensure projects focus on local priorities and consider cultural and historical values.

The same advice applies to state and federal emergency response agencies that assist in the cleanup and rebuilding of communities after natural disasters have struck. The leaders shared examples of officials failing to ask communities what they needed in the immediate aftermath of extreme weather events, undervaluing the damages that communities sustained, and neglecting to consult with community leaders about whether certain properties were worth saving.

The paper also describes projects the communities have launched to make themselves more resilient to climate change, such as a nursery to cultivate trees to plant along riverbanks to enhance flood protection and a solar-powered system to capture and filter water during power outages. The community-led initiatives are ones that adaptation practitioners and policymakers should support and consider replicating elsewhere.

To read the paper, “Building Community Resilience: Lessons from Frontline Leaders,” that details the communities’ experiences and the full list of recommendations, click here.