Rising Seas and Temperatures Raises the Need for Streamlining

To streamline something is to design for easy movement; to make more efficient and effective through faster working methods. Even though resilience is sometimes contrasted with efficiency, the pressing issues we face means that the two must go hand in hand in the implementation of the former, was the common denominator between presentations on climate vulnerability and risk assessment by panelists from India, Indonesia, Portugal and New Zealand.

Before facilitating the talks, long-time ICLEI staffer Steve Gawler stressed that adaptation workers everywhere need to be extra careful with the terminology; simply in order to speed up our collective crucial work, we must quickly streamline our definitions of concepts such as ‘Risk’, ‘Vulnerability’, ‘Resilience’, ‘Impact’, ‘Exposure’, ‘Sensitivity’, ‘Hazard’, ‘Adaptive Capacity’, ‘Hotspots’, ‘Coping range’.

Fittingly, Sunandan Tiwari of New Delhi, India (as well as the Deputy Director of the South Asia ICLEI Secretariat) immediately presented his team’s streamlined resilience planning process, set to be rolled-out to approximately 40 Indian cities. THE process is based on an step-by-step approach that can be thought of as an often-iterated loop that is quick to start as well as improve upon. In addition to its many other virtues, friction-generating elements, including, but definitely not limited to, language issues, can thus more easily be done away with.

Elly Tartati Ratni, of the city of Blitar, presented the adaptation work of her relatively small Indonesian city in East Java – work that exemplifies streamlining in practice. And not only did she agree with Gawles’s urge to enact, and educate on, carefully adopted definitions of resilience, sensitivity and adaptation capacity, among others, but she also inspired the audience never to be afraid of using GIS. This holds no matter city size or resources since experience shows that immediate, large benefits always are reaped. Further streamlining GIS products and the city-administrative structures supporting them is therefore hugely important.

Nuno Lopes from of the city of Almada, Portugal, agreed on this as his city has used GIS for mapping coastal hazards, especially with regard to a popular beach. Facing similar challenges of sea level rise and obligatory beachfront retreat, Jinty MacTavish of the New Zealand city of Dunedin agreed, especially since her city’s critical infrastructure already lies just feets above the high-tide mark and inundations already are common. Lopes and MacTavish also agreed upon the need for streamlining financial, judicial and communicative mechanisms for how to effectively evacuate buinesses and the public (including illegal settlers) fron densely settled and economically valuable beachfront land and properties. One step in the right direction could be standardized vertical zoning.

At the end, the one suggestion for streamlining that stuck especially in my mind was MacTavish’s stressing of the need for streamlining our communication of the fact that mitigation is not, and for a long time has not been, the best way of adaptation. If we don’t succeed in clearly stating the difference and making a case for the simultaneous and not always overlapping respective needs, crucial decisions will continue to be put off into the uncertain future.

Tim Isaksson
Student, Lund University

Tim Isaksson