The National Adaptation Forum ended Thursday afternoon on much the same theme it had started with- equity, environmental justice, inclusion and the general message that you shouldn't make promises you can’t keep and you must always focus on ongoing engagement because that’s what relationship building is all about. The specifics of the type of generator or how many trees you plant are secondary to the importance of building trust in the communities with which you are working.
The Forum's theme of inclusion and patience continued on Friday at the Environmental Business Council of New England's discussion of Microgrids, with presenters noting that we need leaders at all levels to make microgrids- a crucial element of local resiliency and GHG reduction efforts- a reality. "It's hard, it takes a long time, you need leadership," was the way one speaker bluntly put it. Because they offer a completely different way for people to provide and purchase power, microgrids are running into many of the same legal and business model problems that plague other existing technologies. And as with adaption at any level, bringing everyone into the conversation to discussion challenges and opportunities is crucial to adaptive success.
From a local political perspective, the message of inclusion, both in its importance and its difficulty, is important to bring to every adaptation discussion. Even a City as small as Cambridge has communities that are far outside the decision making process and Cambridge itself has limited power to create adaptive change with important public utilities and at the state and federal levels. Yet these changes need to happen, at the local street corner and at the corner of 16th and K streets in Washington, DC. With time and options literally running out, it is up to politicians and other thought leaders to work harder than ever to make sure everyone feels that their voices are welcome in these adaptation discussions.