Lily McVetty ’21 Expands Vision for Climate Change Adaptation
At the end of her final year, she decided to delve deeper into these areas and started a year-long honor project focused on climate change and community adaptation, using her hometown as a case study.
Prepare for change
Many communities that dot the coast of Maine, including Rockland, are drafting plans to prepare for the effects of climate change – focusing on resilience and infrastructure adaptation, as well as public health, emergency management and energy. They are taking these steps as the state embarks on its own ambitious long-term agenda on climate change.
As he familiarized himself with these local and state initiatives, McVetty noticed that many reports seemed to tackle vague language about “fairness” and “equality” after the fact.
“Many reports treat fairness and equality like a checkbox,” she said, adding that she wasn’t too surprised by this. “As a Chinese-American and specialist in environmental studies, I have noticed and experienced how exclusive certain spaces related to the environment can be.”
His Distinction Project is an effort to solve this problem, a blueprint of sorts for Rockland and the surrounding towns to take a more conscientious, community-based approach to climate change adaptation. His opening question in his thesis is, “How can Rockland collaborate with the neighboring communities of West Penobscot Bay? to help prepare its people and maritime industries for the effects of climate change as equitably as possible? “
“Adaptation plans,” she adds, “can fail if their authors, including those who are passionate and well-meaning, design planning practices that do not accurately reflect the needs and schedules of members of the organization. low-wealth, vulnerable and marginalized community.
One group that may be disenfranchised by climate change includes those who have traditionally fished for a living or otherwise made a living from the sea. In her dissertation, McVetty designed a compilation of community suggestions for equitable adaptation . One recommendation emphasizes the importance of “upgrading” people, stories and marine fisheries.
The motives for upgrading, she explained, are to honor rural workers, including fishermen and lobsters. “City-centered views are used to perceiving rural populations and industries inferior to those in large citiesShe says, and may diminish or exclude their views.
She points to a recent protest by the fishing community against a proposed offshore wind project for the Gulf of Maine. “I think it’s great that they are organizing themselves around this desire not to rush the process,” she said. “They recognize the need for renewable resources, but believe it’s about doing it the right way – that we need to know what the technical, social and environmental impacts will be, and that these should be driven by knowledge. local fishermen. ”
McVetty’s research, as she noticed early in her research process, coincides with other organizations starting to address climate change and gender issues. She found a recent report by the Mitchell Center for Sustainable Solutions at the University of Maine, Orono, to provide a particularly useful framework for its own work. Report assesses potential equity outcomes Maine’s Official Climate Action Plan.
“This project has been a wonderful opportunity not only to learn more about the community I come from, but also to co-evolve with things that are happening in the world,” said McVetty.
Her advisor, senior lecturer in environmental studies and program manager Eileen Johnson, said she believed McVetty could be one of the first to apply the Mitchell Center’s equity framework to adaptation planning and development. climate change mitigation. “And it’s really exciting,” she added.
McVetty uses her findings to formulate a series of recommendations, many of which were written after interviewing city dwellers and reading publications from several organizations and businesses in the middle zone. These include the Island Institute, which supports coastal and island communities in Maine; The Coastal Maine Fishermen’s Association, which seeks to protect Maine’s coastal culture, working waterfronts, community infrastructure and environmental resources; The Herring Gut Learning Center, a marine science and aquaculture training center; The Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership, which offers educational programs for young people; and the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, a non-profit organization serving fishermen.
One of its most urgent recommendations is that cities strengthen their social infrastructure as well as their physical infrastructure. While coastal towns should focus on fortifying things like roads and buildings to cope with rising seas and more severe storms, McVetty also said she continues to hear from members of the the community talk about the need to strengthen the social fabric of their city.
This concern is supported by academics – cited by McVetty in his thesis – who argue that the communities best prepared to cope with climate-related shocks, uncertainty and change are those where median employment and income of people. households are relatively large, residents well educated, and various support systems such as churches and civic organizations.
McVetty argues that, to strengthen social infrastructure, coastal communities could do well to expand payback loans for seafarers and small businesses, invest more in educational opportunities, and collaborate with neighboring towns to co- hire a regional grant writer and coordinator who can help secure funding for climate adaptation and community building projects.
After working for several months on her Rockland-based research, McVetty said she knew with more certainty that, whatever profession she ended up in, she wanted to work with a small community.
“I like working with communities in a way that is involved and where I know I can make an impact,” she said. “Having the opportunity to work with people in a meaningful way is really important to me, and this project has helped me realize that.”
*The Distinction Project at Bowdoin offers seniors the opportunity to engage in an original scholarship under the supervision of a faculty member in their major, and culminates in a written thesis or artistic production. It is often a process of a year or more, with older people continuing to work until the end of the spring semester.