Written by Connie Yoon
This past fall quarter, key voices from our community came together for a virtual workshop on climate resilience. This workshop was part of the University of California Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation Planning Project—a university-wide initiative to develop a framework for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ)-centered climate resilience planning. It was the second in a two-part virtual workshop series about climate resilience and equity on campus.
Increasing campus resilience, particularly with a DEIJ lens, is crucial for helping prepare for a more sustainable and equitable future for our campus community and the Santa Barbara region as a whole. As necessary as mitigation is, ensuring the livelihood of our community is equally necessary so that we can equip ourselves to deal with very real climate-related hazards. Such hazards include rising sea levels, flooding, precipitation changes, and wildfires, all of which will threaten our infrastructure and ecology—from power structures and sewage systems to transportation and habitat loss. However, the climate crisis does not impact everyone equally—it disproportionately affects marginalized groups, who will feel its ramifications the hardest. This project aims to approach resiliency through justice lenses by working directly with impacted communities to co-design solutions that reduce the impact of climate hazards.
UCSB was built on the lands of the indigineous Chumash Nation. One of the standout voices at the workshop was that of Mia Lopez, the cultural representative and former tribal chair. She is the current Vice Chair of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and works to protect sacred Chumash sites and villages in Santa Barbara. Mia highlighted the fundamental aspect of justice-based resiliency throughout the discussions, along with the importance of incorporating the indigenous knowledge into the process. She helped to reframe the discussion on equity by stressing the importance of beginning with our immediate infrastructure. UCSB needs to involve Native American community voices at an institutional level rather than limiting them to a handful of representatives—their knowledge and experiences stretch far wider than just a few people can share.
“We need to stop thinking of these less visible communities as vulnerable. We are empowered; we are not vulnerable. We are struggling because we want to keep our identity and cultural ways alive, and within this infrastructure, there’s no room for it. But we are in no way vulnerable or weak,” said Mia Lopez.
This core sentiment of necessary representation and collaboration applies to all underserved groups, which is exactly what this project aims to address. Goleta and the Santa Barbara region are home to countless other marginalized communities, both on- and off-campus. BIPOC, low-income groups, differently abled people, the elderly, children, and people without housing are just a few of these communities who have heightened risk and sensitivity to climate change. These communities have less capacity and resources to adapt and recover from climate impacts—but they are the least responsible for causing it in the first place.
Throughout the workshop, there was consistent open dialogue from all attendees, sharing knowledge from different perspectives. Centered around justice and climate resiliency, attendees worked to form a vision and guiding principles for the resilience planning project. They then moved onto discussing tangible action items to move forward with the next set of initiatives. Because everything in our ecology and infrastructure is interrelated, there are countless nuances and factors to take into account—this is why diverse knowledge is pivotal to build an actionable framework. The UCSB planning group will continue to partner with organizations from both on- and off-campus to be successful.
The key to the DEIJ approach is trust and accountability. The framework must first focus on relationships with all people in order to build outwards. Starting with justice in our immediate community will create a powerful ripple effect—from on-campus, to off-campus, to the city and region as a whole, to the state, and beyond. This vision is centered on a newfound reciprocal relationship being built that will ultimately serve us all. By involving and amplifying diverse voices, we expand the scope of resilience to serve everyone and shift away from the structural inequalities that are in place. It starts small but the result will be immeasurable, working together to protect all people and our planet.
If you are interested in participating in this process, please reach out to Jewel Persad, the Sustainability Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. .