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LAX and The State of Adaptation

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Marni Koopman

Lax airport signI recently went on a trip with my daughter to Canada. It was a LONG trip because we live on the west coast of the U.S. and traveled all the way to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. We traveled for over 17 hours each way. We highly recommend the Bay of Fundy! But this story isn’t about that….

We had a 3.5 hour layover in LAX between our first and second flights. I planned that we would leisurely stop and eat, get through customs, and easily make it to the next flight. Instead we walked down long empty hallways with no idea about whether we were going the right way, made numerous wrong turns, got sternly reprimanded because we were “supposed to go through the purple door,” and barely made it to our flight, feeling hungry, rushed, and confused. As I was looking for the purple door, I thought “THIS is exactly what its like right now for communities wanting to plan for climate change.”

I knew I had to get to the end, but didn’t know where the end was, who was going to help me get there, or what it really looked like. I didn’t know how many lines we would have to stand in (about 4 different long lines, including one for a shuttle to another terminal and another for a broken escalator!), or what each next step was. There was construction going on in numerous areas, adding to the confusion.

This is EXACTLY what the adaptation field looks like right now – there are new tools, portals, and groups every day, but finding them and understanding how they fit together is a challenge. Communities often put significant resources into certain steps, just to find out they weren’t really needed. Most communities still don’t even know what it is they don’t know about climate change adaptation, so they don’t know what to ask for.

What would have helped me get through the airport maze? Perhaps following someone else who knew the way. But each individual has a unique path in the airport, just as each community has a unique set of needs and goals from adaptation. What I really needed was a guide. Someone who knew the landscape, could tell me what all the options are, inform me of new information, and trouble shoot for me when I encountered unexpected glitches (e.g. your flight leaves in 30 minutes on the other side of the airport but your kid just told you she might throw up – what do you do?).

Climate change is huge, it affects every decision that community leaders make, and it is filled with unknowns. What communities really need right now is a guide that will take you by the hand, keep you moving in the right direction, and sometimes give you an extra push when you need one.

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