This is one of seven presentations given by local experts on what the expected impacts of climate change will be for our local communities. Others presentations include climate impacts on weather, wildfire, agriculture, emergency preparedness, air quality, and utilities. You can find all of the presentations on our website here.
On June 9-13, 2021, the Pierce County Rural Climate Dialogue brought together 15 rural residents selected to represent a diverse cross-section of the county for a five-day deliberative event. Participants were tasked with creating a shared, community-based response to climate change and extreme weather events in response to their charge:
“How might our community,
in the face of extreme weather and climate change,
secure a healthy, resilient, and economically vibrant future?“
Five -days of jury-like deliberation led to the development of a Community Action Plan, with recommendations ranging from agriculture: “Provide more information sessions to community members on restorative growth practices”; to communication networks: “expand cellular coverage in areas with dead zones to improve rapid response to wildfires, thus limiting the amount of acreage burned”; to renewable energy: “plan for affordable solar installation, potentially even mandated for large-medium corporations.”
Participants were anonymously selected from a pool of nearly 200 applicants to reflect the demographic makeup of rural Pierce County in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, education, political affiliation, and region. The jurists heard expert testimony from specialists regarding climate impacts on local weather, public health, agriculture, emergency management, wildfire threats, and utilities. The Center for New Democratic Processes facilitated a discussion amongst the jurists and the participants developed recommendations for actions under each topic that could be taken to address these impacts.
“Working on the Rural Climate Dialogue the past five days, I learned that the community members involved had lots of different opinions and viewpoints,” said one jurist. “But, one thing we could agree on is that there is a problem and something needs to change.”
A post event survey taken of the jurists highlighted that 100% of the participants were “somewhat or very concerned” about the potential risks or impacts of climate change and extreme weather on public health and disaster and emergency preparedness in Pierce County. All 15 jurists also felt it was “somewhat or very important” that individual residents take actions to address the impacts of climate change, while 93% felt it was “somewhat or very important” that local governments and agencies take actions to address the impacts of climate change.
“It was amazing that such a diverse group of individuals could come together and discuss the topic of Climate Change quite peaceably. We were able to dispassionately discuss the facts and reach a consensus on action items that are important to the continued health and safety of Pierce County residents,” reflected another participant.
The Pierce County Rural Climate Dialogue was funded by a grant from the Puyallup Watershed Initiative’s Agriculture and Forestry Communities of Interest. Pierce Conservation District’s Climate Resiliency Program brought forward the proposal to inform both the direction and focus of the program and to inform their 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan. With the full report and action plan complete, a steering committee of project partners, along with a handful of jurists who expressed a desire to stay involved, will determine how Pierce Conservation District will invest a $30,000 grant to begin implementation of the plan.
Additional steps being taken to put the plan into action are to embed it in the Puyallup River Watershed Council’s Ecosystem Recovery Plan, which helps direct federal National Estuary Program dollars to local ecosystem recovery efforts. Outreach to local elected officials to raise awareness on the recommendations will be done as well. The Pierce Conservation District will also be presenting the plan to their Board of Supervisors and integrating certain aspects into their 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan to embed this work into their programming.
However, the action plan is not the only significant outcome of this event. The process itself was a successful model of engagement that project partners want to facilitate more of. In an ever more polarized society, this event brought people from all different viewpoints together to engage in what has been a controversial topic for decades and find agreement on a path forward. Partners envision a series of Climate Dialogue events in the future to continue this community engagement as a benefit in and of itself.
As one participant put it as the event came to a close, “this has restored my faith in democracy.”
The full report of these recommendations and deliberative process can be found here: https://piercecd.org/621/Community-Action-Plan.
*Jurists were granted anonymity to allow them to engage fully without outside interference and express their true feelings and opinions. However, in our post event survey jurists were asked if they would be willing to answer questions from the press and many expressed a willingness to do so and we can provide contact info upon request.