What to Expect on This Blog
Looking over a few posts should demonstrate that my writing falls into two broad categories: ruminations on anthropogenic climate change and freshwater (mostly in regard to conservation and economic development issues), as well as adventures that happen upon me as I out in the world gathering material for those ruminations.
I write with a certain point of view, though that perspective has changed even over the life of this blog. What has remained constant is that I humbly contend that our time may be a critical period in history, when events began pivoting in many areas. Some of these are effectively out of our hands — the climate is committed to significant amounts of change at this point regardless of our attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for instance. But some events are within our sphere of influence as citizens of the planet and whatever national context we find ourselves in. I can't say where these changes are taking us, but this site can serve as a small venue for smallish insights. These comments and thoughts will be less of a news updates blog than a series of reflections. Your comments would be appreciated. I'd love to know what you think — please comment and discuss.
My Weird Job
Officially I am a freshwater climate change specialist, with a strong focus on climate adaptation. Climate adaptation is a relatively new field. Although the term dates back to the early 90s or late 80s, the meaning is rather flexible and vague, and I wish we called it something else. "Adaptation" has powerful Darwinian overtones in biology, while adaptation in a climate and conservation context is actually rather Lamarckian.
Climate adaptation is the concept that human and "natural" systems must accept and embrace change as a result of realized and future shifts in climate regime. An obvious if extreme example is the abandonment of Pacific island chains like Tuvalu as a result of sea-level rise. My focus is on freshwater systems worldwide. Because of my graduate training, I tend to think first about conservation issues, but my undergraduate degree was in cultural anthropology, and I must admit to being very moved by seeing human impacts. My work thus explicitly includes economic development and freshwater while falling into three general categories:
- Roving freshwater climate change conservation-development philosopher. This is essentially the strangest aspect of my job and the one I least predicted; I also suspect it will disappear from my work in a few months or a year. Here, I discuss with freshwater-interested colleagues, development agencies, other NGOs, and various countries' government staff about how climate change represents a significant break with the past in terms of both theory and praxis. I've been giving a twelve-slide presentation that typically takes me between one and two hours to get through given the number of questions and the level of interaction it inspires.
- Practical engagement with and support for program staff within Conservation International on freshwater issues. Here, I meet with national and program officer staff to talk about specific projects and to help spread information from one project and nation to other projects and nations. I am called to ask probing and difficult questions in a polite way, and to intellectually pollinate the climate adaptation diaspora of practitioners.
- Outreach on global climate change issues. So far, this work has been expanding rapidly. For instance, I've spoken on six college campuses about climate adaptation work. But other groups apply as well, including other biologists and even (last March) some diplomats and ambassadors. Each of type of audience requires very different kinds of information and perspectives.
Perhaps the best general introduction to my work is a booklet written with a colleague and friend for policymakers and water resource managers describing how freshwater climate change impacts shifts the discussion about freshwater management, conservation of species dependent on freshwater resources, and people, livelihoods, and economic behavior that rely on dependable water (download here; size about 3 mb).
In the past, I've also done some interviews in the role of a biologist. Most of this attention has been about my research on dragonfly migration, but some are also focused on current work. These interviews have included National Geographic (pictured here in progress with Dennis Paulson and Jennifer Ackerman, also in Spain), the Jasper News Boy, the San Antonio Express-News, the Austin-American Statesman, Popular Science (don't know if this ever made it into print or not), and the Playa Lakes Joint Venture; the latter includes both a podcast (below) and a print interview from the following month. (Note that the print interview talks about comparing ecological communities of today to the past and mention 5, 10, or 20 years — I said or meant to say thousands of years.) There's also a recent popular paper that's been published on aquatic insects and climate change in Xerces available online.
Comments? Questions? Complaints?
I’d love to hear from interested readers beyond the context of this blog and site. You can reach me by email.
Although I am an employee of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), this site is not WWF sponsored and the views here do not represent the opinions or policies of WWF.