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New Additions to ‘How We Respond’ Highlight Communities Addressing Climate Change Impacts

St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the communities highlighted in the newest stories from the How We Respond initiative. | Impact Media Lab/AAAS

In St. Louis, Missouri, community members and policymakers are making strides toward the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, moving toward clean energy with initiatives that encourage solar panel installation, promote energy efficiency in large buildings and create jobs in the clean energy sector.

In Washington state, a community is keeping wasted food out of landfills with the help of the youngest residents.

Across the rural Midwest, farmers are revitalizing techniques to address worsening soil erosion – efforts that have reaped benefits ranging from decreased chemical runoff to improved crop yields.

These stories are among the newest additions to How We Respond, a AAAS project that spotlights communities around the country taking innovative, science-based steps to respond to climate change at the local, state and regional levels. Six new stories – focused on issues ranging from strained food ecosystems to deadly heat waves – join the 18 that were published with the launch of How We Respond in 2019.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to climate change, but there are responses that make sense for every community,” said Emily Therese Cloyd, director of the AAAS Center for Public Engagement and lead editor for How We Respond. “These stories demonstrate the ways in which the science community and civic society are working together to find solutions that address the impacts of climate change, increase resilience, and benefit communities. They provide examples that can inspire other communities that are considering their own response options.” 

How We Respond, a project funded entirely by individual donors, builds upon an earlier AAAS effort. The 2014 What We Know initiative collected evidence on human-caused climate change and its impacts, including rising sea levels and more frequent and intense weather events like heat waves and storms. How We Respond also includes up-to-date information about climate science – and shares how communities have incorporated this science as they respond to the impacts being felt in their area.

For instance, in Jackson, Mississippi, where residents have come together in response to extreme heat, local nonprofit 2°C Mississippi is using scientific evidence to help residents connect the soaring temperatures they are witnessing with the larger issue of climate change.

“We all know it gets really hot here, but many people don’t know why,” said Nsombi Lambright, who leads One Voice, an environmental justice group collaborating with 2°C Mississippi. “2°C Mississippi has the science resources to explain to people why these things are happening. That’s very important to our community.”

Other communities are gathering their own data to contribute to the body of scientific research on the effects of climate change. In South Carolina, the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities is working with state and local agencies to train residents to monitor air quality and collect soil samples from around the North Charleston area – important information for communities plagued by high rates of asthma, an ongoing legacy of the placement of industrial activity in communities of color.

The approaches highlighted in the new How We Respond stories – from a seafood supplier in Maine that is diversifying its catch and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from boats and docks to farmers across rural Missouri planting cover crops to improve soil quality – are tailored to the specific impacts seen in their region. Yet common themes of forward-looking collaboration emerge from across the country.

“We are going to win or lose the fight against climate change together,” Ben Conniff, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Luke’s Lobster, the seafood supplier highlighted in the spotlight on Portland, Maine. “There’s no competition in this fight and the more we can share what works, the faster everyone is going to benefit from a reduction in the overall carbon footprint.”

Added Herbert Fraser-Rahim, a co-founder of the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities in South Carolina, “It’s hard work, but it’s worthwhile if you’re able to work with folks in the community and see progress being made.”

“That’s the best, and I wouldn’t substitute it with anything,” said Fraser-Rahim.

Learn more about How We Respond and its six new stories through several virtual events hosted by the AAAS Center for Public Engagement. A Facebook Premiere viewing of a short film on renewable energy efforts in St. Louis will began at 12:50 p.m. EDT and will be followed by a Facebook Live chat on the AAAS Facebook page. On July 29, join AAAS staff and team members who collaborated on the film for a Reddit Ask Me Anything discussion about science storytelling.

Read all of the newly released community spotlights on the How We Respond website:

[Associated image: Impact Media Lab/AAAS]