Adapting to Climate Change in rural Scotland – learning from the USA

Graham Marchbank follows up on his blog from March with more detail on Climate Conversations as a tool for building resilience to the effects of climate change in rural Scotland.

flooding road closed

I blogged in March about Climate Conversations and their potential to inform place-making  using the Place Standard Tool.  They could also help build an evidence-base for development plans and if the community right to plan goes live; local place plans.

Adaptation Scotland already provides climate change tools and resources for communities.  For planning, is there more to a conversation than at first apparent?  And what can we learn from elsewhere?  Something’s brewing, bringing children and young people, communities, climate change and planning together.  And not just in urban areas.

To find out, I went along to a Rural Climate Dialogues (RCD) presentation by Kyle Bozentko from the Jefferson Center St Paul, Minnesota at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation hosted by ClimateXChange on 2 May.  He illustrated how a citizens jury approach to RCDs can be applied.

Morris Area, Itasca and Winona County are rural communities bearing the brunt of vastly increased flooding.  Morris is typified by extensive agriculture whereas Itasca has a focus on timber and forest tourism.  Winona lies on the Mississippi and experiences floodplain risks.  Ironically, given local efforts to mitigate climate change, fracking and related mining is active just over the border in Wisconsin.

RCDs therefore had different inputs and outputs reflecting place.

The dialogues were also trialled in schools to great effect. School student presentations later on in the jury process helped communities get to grips with adaptation on a wide range of energy and climate actions, upscaled states of readiness and converted some climate change sceptics into the bargain!

Here in Scotland, as the Places, People and Planning reforms unfold, the role of people and in particular children in planning is gathering pace.  Jenny Wood has blogged for RTPI Scotland on opportunities for making children’s rights a reality in the Scottish planning system, ideas that she has built on in a post for Heriot Watt University.

At a practical level, Bridging Gaps is a project led by PAS at Galashiels Academy where the Place Standard has been tested.  So there’s a good parallel with experience in Minnesota where school students’ input has been so influential.

A  component of the Minnesota jury process was participation by trusted neutral professionals.  These ranged from TV weather forecasters, insurers, academics, fish and wildlife experts to sustainability or city officials.  Strikingly, counties in the metropolitan areas of Minnesota enjoy a 73% staff complement of one or more planners.  This drops to just 29% in rural counties.  Like I blogged in March, it is land use planning, alongside agriculture, forestry and perhaps transportation that are key to transformational adaptation globally.

A citizens jury can take up to three days – a similar commitment to and investment in say, a charrette.  In Minnesota they were funded by the McKnight Foundation.  In my last blog, I suggested that a climate conversation might be a tight squeeze in a single evening devoted to place-making or community participation in LDP preparation.  So clearly time constraints need to be accommodated.

Citizens in all three Minnesota counties are now reducing energy consumption and travel.  Morris has looked at crop diversification.  Itasca has looked at improving green infrastructure and better stewardship of the natural environment.  Winona is focussing on strengthened land use policies limiting floodplain development.  They are looking at wetland creation and floodplain connectivity.  All the actions are in the final reports.

As Kyle explained, there’s a place for everyone in bringing legitimacy to collaboration through climate dialogues: from the individual, to schools, the community, academics, the private sector, county, region or state and its agencies.  It helps better targets resources.

Here, Scotland’s draft Energy Strategy will also require strong land use and building standards components to make it work.

As we inch forward, I could not help reflecting that the Minnesota experience is equally relevant in Scotland. For a rural Scotland example see

A climate conversation can be shown to work: towards better land use planning and behaviour change.

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