Boulder, Colorado Case Study: International Day for Disaster Reduction

Boulder, CO - photo by gabrielle mcdonald

Boulder, CO - photo by gabrielle mcdonald

In 1989, the UN General Assembly designated the International Day for Disaster Reduction to promote global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. This includes disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. The International Day for Disaster Reduction is recognized annually on October 13.

While all citizens, corporations and governments are faced with disaster threats all year, this annual event encourages everyone to take part in building more disaster-resilient communities and nations.  It’s a day to celebrate how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reigning in the risks that they face. It’s a great opportunity to learn from communities faced with challenges, share resources and begin developing solutions for long term plans.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Thriving Earth Exchange is an example of work recognized, celebrated and shared via International Day for Disaster Reduction. Thriving Earth Exchange promotes the advancement of community solutions – in all demographics - world-wide. The Exchange is a catalyst to help scientists, community leaders, and sponsors work together to solve local challenges related to natural resources, climate change and natural hazards.

One successful example of the Exchange in action is the Climate Change Action Plan developed in my home state of Colorado. Boulder, CO has taken a whole city approach to climate change and resilience. The city’s Climate Change Action Plan has three goals, all complimentary to one another:

1.      prepare for changes that are already coming;

2.      prevent climate change from getting more severe; and

3.      ensure that all residents, especially those residents with the fewest resources, are protected the negative impacts of climate change.

To be successful, climate adaption, equity, and mitigation must be part of the mission of all city departments – not just the usual suspects like sustainability and environmental affairs. Boulder leaders are implementing a series of workshops that build a shared commitment to climate change preparation and resilience. The interactive workshops bring people from every city department together to interact with scientists and climate professionals. Together they consider the local impacts of climate change, develop a shared understanding of the range and impacts of future changes, and explore how each individual department can prepare for those impacts.  The workshops also promise to develop new collaborative approaches where multiple city departments work together on sector specific issues that they all impact – like climate impacts on forestry.  City leaders also branch out to coordinate with city residents to develop joint approaches with multiple benefits. For example, bringing Health and Human Services and the Parks Departments together to bring people out of their homes and into cooler parks on hot evenings. Not only does this help residents cope with heat in summer months, it also builds social connectedness on those long summer days.

Thriving Earth Exchange staff are a part of the team that worked with Boulder leadership to plan and implement these workshops. The Exchange and the City of Boulder plan to work together to share the workshop model with other communities. Boulder is contributing financially to The Earth Exchange for this initiative, and the Exchange will use that funding to support work with other communities, who have fewer or no financial resources.