Category Archives: Causality

InTeGrate: Teaching about Risk and Resilience

An innovative and important workshop – InTeGrate: Teaching about Risk and Resilience – started on Wednesday 14 May 2014, with some sixty higher education teachers,educators and researchers from around the country in attendance. The workshop ends today, Friday 16 May 2014, in Boca Raton Florida.

At 7:30 A.M. the morning before the workshop opening plenary the skies looked menacing with storm clouds, and promising as well.
At 7:30 A.M. the morning before the workshop opening plenary the skies looked menacing with storm clouds, and promising as well.

The workshop and the InTeGrate project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are brainchildren of Dr. Cathryn (‘Cathy’) Manduca, Ph. D. Director of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.

The Marleen and Harold Forkas Alumni Center was the venue for the InTeGrate workshop 14-16 May 2014

This particular workshop, one of several organized by InTeGrate/SERC, is a collaborative effort of several institutions that are engaged in important research and other activities  related to the central topic of Risk and Resilience. Reflecting such multi-institutional support workshop conveners include the following wonderful, deducated and hard working, individuals: Leonard (‘Len’) Berryof the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES), David Blockstein, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), Cathy Manduca, SERC, Carleton College, Mantha Mehallis, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and John Taberof IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology). Mary-Beth Hartman of CES/FAU and Monica Bruckner of SERC/Carleton College coordinated  the myriad details of hosting and convening  this event.

The program got off to a good start with a reception and dinner on Wednesday 14 May 2014, at the FAU Alumni  Center, followed by the keynote address by Dr. Leonard Berry. Ph.D., Director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Florida Atlantic University and a Panel Discussion moderated by David Blockstein of NCSE with the following panelists Ricardo A. Alvarez,former Deputy Director, International Hurricane Center, Research Affiliate at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Tatjana Hocke-Mirzashvili, James Madison University, and Mark Benthien, Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), University of Southern California.

The panelists were tasked with commenting of Dr. Berry’s Keynote Address, highlighting key concepts and questions to set a foundation for discussions during the following day and a half of workshop plenary sessions and breakout group meetings.

Referring to Len Berry’s keynote Ricardo Alvarez made the following remarks:

“Len has made something that is rather difficult to do appear rather simple and easy by taking what is the complex and wide ranging topic of risk and resilience and in just a few minutes, dissect it into its key concepts and components, to present us rather effectively  with a summary that is relevant and easy to understand. Most of us have difficulty in clearly articulating just one aspect of this topic, while others have written lengthy papers and even books attempting to do the same thing.”

“For me one of the ‘take-home messages’ is that teaching is about transferring actionable knowledge to relevant sectors including, not only scientists and other professionals, but also policy-makers and the general public. Teaching is about progressing from science to application, from research to the implementation of solutions. teaching about risk and resilience is about preparedness in anticipation of expected impacts to our vulnerable communities. We all, as teachers, educators, need to be interpreters of science bringing knowledge to people, to all of us, about places we all understand. Not about global climate change, global warming or global sea level rise, but about how any of these processes may impact our own community, the places where we live and work.”

“Len has highlighted several key principles and concepts for us, including: (a) Risk and vulnerability are shared conditions, so it makes sense for residents of one community to work together toward managing their risk and achieving resiliency; (b) Relative to this a very good local example of collaboration, and working together, is the Four County Climate Change Compact formed by Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties that is a model for the entire nation; (c) Addressing risk and resilience requires an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach, and also a new paradigm for planning, one that is not based on the past but on what the future may bring by way of potential impacts; (d) In some cases we may view resilience almost as a ‘code word’ to be able to discuss ‘politically controversial’ issues, such as sea level rise and climate change, in some sectors or venues. Here Len addresses an ‘ugly truth’ of the climate change, sea level rise, global warming discourse, where ideology or political orientation trump the dialogue and the right of self-expression; (e) Len poses a challenging question: “Does resilience need to increase as risk increases?”; and (f) Perhaps of greater relevancy for purposes of this workshop are Len’s comments about the two cases that will be used to set a foundation for discussion and dialogue during the workshop, which make me think of the effectiveness of a ‘learn-by-doing’ approach where the events described by the case are the ‘doing’ part, something that has been done, that has taken place already, while what we can borrow, copy because it is good, avoid, or adapt from the case, constitutes the ‘learning’. In this sense this is about using real-life practical examples rather than theory. to learn more, to educate ourselves, about risk and resilience, the main topic of this workshop. Thank you Len for inspiring us as we look forward to a productive workshop. Thank you”

Cathy Manduca, SERC and InTeGrate project Director welcomes participants during the opening plenary session
Cathy Manduca, SERC and InTeGrate project Director welcomes participants during the opening plenary session

During the Opening Plenary Session on Thursday 15, May 2014, two case studies were introduced to workshop participants. One was an earthquake scenario presented by Mark Benthien of USC and Keith Porter of SPA Risk LLC. The second case study was a sea level rise scenario presented jointly by Nancy Gassman of Broward County Public Works Division, and Ricardo A. Alvarez of CES/FAU. Dr. Gassman presented (Gassman Teaching Risk and Resilience FAU 05152014) the events described in the case related to flooding, coastal erosion, water-management, seasonal extreme high tides, and the indirect impact of Hurricane Sandy, and the exacerbating aspects of sea level rise in the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ricardo presented (Using Case Studies as Teaching Tools ) on the benefits of using case studies as tools in teaching about risk and resilience, and also identified several specific teaching opportunities offered by the  ‘sea  level rise scenario’ case presented at the workshop.

InTeGrate workshop participants attend the opening plenary session
InTeGrate workshop participants attend the opening plenary session

Discussions about the Fort Lauderdale Sea-level rise case continued during a breakout session moderated by Eileen Johnson of Bowdoin College, with Nancy Gassman and Ricardo Alvarez as panelists and subject-matter experts, and Julie Lambert of FAU acting as session rapporteur, during which panelists and participants engaged in extensive dialogue and Q&A both about scientific and engineering aspects of the case study, and about issues related to teaching about risk and resilience to undergraduates.

On Thursday the post-lunch plenary session moderated by Alana Edwards of FAU was about 'Examples of Incorporating Risk and Resilience into the Curriculum and Across Disciplines
On Thursday the post-lunch plenary session moderated by Alana Edwards of FAU was about ‘Examples of Incorporating Risk and Resilience into the Curriculum and Across Disciplines

State University System Climate Change Taskforce Workshop

  Last 14-15 November 2011 I had the opportunity of participating in the SUS CLIMATE CHANGE TASK FORCE WORKSHOP, organized and hosted by Florida Atlantic University [FAU], Florida State University [FSU], the University of Florida [UF], and The Florida Climate Institute. The event’s venue was Emerson Alumni Hall at UF in Gainesville.

Speaking as someone who has organized, hosted, participated in and otherwise attended a number of events on the topic of climate change over the past fifteen years I can attest to the fact that at times, for some of us with an interest in this critical field, as we have continued to see many of the same participants and to debate the same issues, and listen to the same topics being presented, it may have appeared repetitive, as it happens when you are preaching to the choir, or as if we were long on questions and short on solutions.

With regard to the above, I am pleased to report that this specific workshop was indeed refreshingly different. Although we took a look at the state of the science and other similarly traditional presentations, there was a much welcome emphasis on solutions, applications and on the business side of climate change. For example we heard from two non-academics, one the former mayor of the City of Gainesville who described for us how this Florida municipality and college town used the Climate Protection Agreement subscribed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 1054 municipalities from all 50 states plus DC and Puerto Rico, as a blue print to promote grants and incentives for business and government to become more energy-efficient and reduce its climate-damaging emissions.

The net result of these initiatives by the City of Gainesville  has been the stimulation of businesses, and the creation of jobs, in sectors related to building insulation, roofing systems, more efficient heating and air conditioning systems, manufacturing and installation of solar energy systems and the installation of a 100 MW plant to generate electricity from biomass to replace previously purchased electrical power generated by fossil fuel plants. While generating all of these economic activity, that has benefited so many, the city has reduced its carbon footprint, it has become much more energy efficient, and it is on target to have achieved a 7% reduction in total emissions below the 1990 levels by the end of 2012. This is an excellent case-study of a community that will achieve the targets set by the controversial Kyoto Protocol, while also stimulating its economy and generating jobs, contrary to the dire predictions of nay-sayers and those who deny global climate change on the basis of ideology rather than facts.

Another speaker, this one from the private business sector, who addressed solutions and results rather than uncertainties and doomsday predictions, was the Director of Environmental Services Strategic Planning for Florida Power and Light. This speaker discussed major industry policies and program to address climate change, and in the process described specific programs by this giant utility company to increase the installed capacity for generating solar and wind energy, programs to increased zero-emission nuclear power generation, the hardening of existing infrastructure and of new buildings through programs of design criteria and retrofitting to incorporate adaptation to climate change impacts.

Several other speakers and panelists continued to provide examples of actual solutions and success stories, painting a picture of a paradigm shift in the climate change arena. It is clear numerous communities, pushed by both public and private sector programs, have moved from dwelling on the uncertainties of research and the need for more research to identifying and implementing actual solutions. Rather than waiting for the federal government to act of for directives from other sources, these communities have taken a proactive approach to contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation, while also showing this can be accomplished collaterally with beneficial economic results.

For a summary report of the full workshop please use the following link: SUMMARY REPORT

I had the privilege of presenting a poster [Presentation1 ] regarding what I see as a critical knowledge gap in  the criteria used for designing and building structures and houses in the coastal regions, which are vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surge that will become increasingly more damaging as these hazards are exacerbated by sea level rise driven by global warming. Following is a link to the abstract of my poster presentation [Poster Abstract] which was titled Storm Surge and Climate Change: The Forgotten Factor.