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October 29, 2016

Resilience in Baltimore: A Bottom-Up Example of People Taking Charge

By Burl Hall

This article is part of a series regarding what communities are doing to strengthen their local community and its families. This particular article speaks to what is happening in Maryland, including the Baltimore and Prince Georges area. The point is, what's happening in the reader's neighborhood? Dare you research what's around you?


In my research of what is happening in our communities regarding resilience from the insanity of today's corporate and government behaviors, I came across this Maryland Community Pilot study. This study is listed as being written this year, 2016. This makes the research fresh.

To give credence to this movement, consider some of the investigators for the study. People like:

* Karen Akerlof, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University

* Fredrika Moser, Maryland Sea Grant

* Kristin Baja, Office of Sustainability

I could continue on and on. My point is, the people involved are professionals and not whacked out "greenies".

There are four Maryland neighborhoods involved in the study. Some of the neighborhood climate risks entail:

Flooding and sewage overflows from storm water run-off, urban heat island effects, pollen allergens, increased air pollution, storms, riverine flooding (in Westport).

The vulnerabilities include:

Low socioeconomic populations, racial disparities, vacant housing, poor health and air quality (Baltimore), industrial facilities (Westport)

The site further states that

Communities are beginning to plan efforts to consider adaptation strategies to build their resilience (NRC, 2010), yet many lack the political capital or access to information and resources that would allow them to prepare for chronic flooding, catastrophic storm events, and losses of economically important natural resources.

Frequently, it is underserved and underrepresented communities that lack these resources and are most vulnerable to the effects of changing environmental conditions (Douglas et al., 2011; Melillo, Richmond, & Yohe,2014). Storm events are particularly devastating to socially vulnerable communities, even when controlling for infrastructure characteristics (Highfield, Peacock, & Zandt, 2014).

Meeting the needs of high-risk/low-resource communities is one of the most critical challenges in achieving resilience nationally (NRC, 2010), but little tailored information exists to guide program development specifically for these contexts (NOAA, 2015).

Moreover, our understanding of the conditions under which audiences are most likely to engage in successful decision-making to reduce vulnerabilities is still evolving (Webler, Tuler, Dow, Whitehead, & Kettle, 2014).

"Build resistance to what?" you may ask. Personally I use the term resilience. It's more positive. Resilience as I define it is the adoption of behaviors and programs that lead to a supportive and clean environment, healthy families and a vibrant you.

And who is going to lead that health movement? You, the reader, are.

The study represents a partnership with many individuals and organizations--including the City of Baltimore's Office of Sustainability and Prince George's County Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative-- to increase discussion in predominantly African American neighborhoods in two areas of the state that are at high risk from climate-related environmental changes and have historically been underserved. The study was conducted as a door-to-door survey in spring 2016 in four neighborhoods of the state-- three in Baltimore and one in Prince George's County.

Findings of the study include:

Baltimore and Prince George's community residents point to climate change risks. They are more likely to report experiencing health and environmental harms than Marylanders as a whole.

The four Baltimore and Prince George's County communities have the same levels of risk perception for climate change--and related effects such as sea level rise, extreme heat, storms, and flooding--as do the residents of the rest of the state.

The majority of survey respondents in the Baltimore (57%) and Prince George's County (61%) neighborhoods identify climate change as likely to cause significant harm in the next several years.

The Baltimore and Prince George's County neighborhood residents are more likely than Marylanders generally to say they have experienced water damage caused by heavy rains or flooding (38% Baltimore vs. 15% state) and sewage overflows after rains or storms (22% Baltimore/19% Glassmanor-Oxon Hill vs. 6% state). They are also more likely to say they have experienced health harms from storms and flooding than the state at large.

Glassmanor-Oxon Hill respondents are more likely to say that pollen has harmed their health than those in the Baltimore neighborhoods and Maryland as a whole.

Chronic medical conditions are more pervasive in the three neighborhoods of Baltimore than they are in the state, particularly for asthma (23% vs. 12%).

Residents report lower levels of social capital--resources and communication--to address problems. They want information on energy and climate, and governments to take action, including creation of local "resilience hubs."

Both the Baltimore and Prince George's County neighborhoods rank their communities as lower in social capital than residents statewide in terms of their ability to obtain resources and communicate internally.

Approximately two-thirds of the Baltimore (65%) and Glassmanor-Oxon Hill (67%) neighborhoods say they support local and state governments taking action to protect their communities from the effects of climate change.

Almost two-thirds of Baltimore respondents (65%) say that they would be somewhat or extremely likely to use a community building that provides shelter, food, water, and other resources during emergency events. The same percentage in Glassmanor-Oxon Hill (65%) say that they would be somewhat or extremely likely to use a centrally located services hub in their community.

Baltimore and Prince George's County neighborhood residents are more likely to ask for information on six energy and climate protection topics than people in the state as a whole. Almost a third of our survey's respondents requested energy bill assistance (31%).

Having been raised in Maryland, on the outskirts of Baltimore, I wondered as I researched this, why are Baltimore and Prince George's County neighborhoods more likely to ask for information? Prince Georges is more of a Washington suburb. While there is a lot of money there, there is also a lot of poverty. Baltimore, meanwhile, has a lot of poverty. Furthermore, when I lived there, the city was over 50% black, most of who were living in poverty.

The recommendations of the Resilience Study include:

  • Some highly salient community issues, like trash, tie directly to climate preparedness efforts; others may relate more peripherally. Solutions should thus address not only some of the most critical problems, but simultaneous interests in building resilience to climate impacts and general community development. For example, trash clogs storm drain systems, resulting in flooding during heavy precipitation events, but it also affects community pride and has health implications.
  • Communication can be used to bolster social resilience for the purposes of building trust and collective action. As such, it should be a program target.
  • The neighborhoods described here--especially Baltimore--are already suffering disproportionately from environmental and health risks, and recognize these risks at the same rates as other Marylanders. Additional risk information may be counter-productive.
  • Either fatalistic or more disengaged coping styles for stress should not be viewed as synonymous with non-recognition of risk.
  • Residents of all four neighborhoods called for more community centers as one of the most important issues. Projects like the resiliency hub pilot in Baltimore and social services hub in Glassmanor-Oxon Hill meet that call, and could potentially bolster both the physical resources and social fabric of the neighborhoods.
  • The four neighborhoods are not ambivalent about the role of climate change in their communities, nor the role of government in tackling the problem--they are concerned and supportive of action. This message should be conveyed to their elected representatives.

My question is, how long do we continue discussing politics while all this is happening. Are we just "bowing to The Man" be he in the form of a woman or man who has his or her sight on more and more profits and political power? Is Hillary going to make a difference? Is Trump?

My answer is "No, they are not the answer because they are bought and sold by the "Big Monies" i.e., the top 1 -5%.

When do we kindle the well being of people? Does the reader feel empowered in the current structure? Can you see the benefits of movements like this in empowering you and your loved ones?

What's in your neck of the woods? Can you begin a movement? Research it!!!

I hope these articles are of help and an empowerment to you, the reader. You are what matters! If change is going to happen, it's going to be via people like you and me. Not the government, not the church, not a savior coming out of the sky. The savior revealed is you and I. We are the ones who are responsible. Wisdom is within us, not the man or woman debating on the television.

Consider researching your area while looking at what is happening throughout the United States. Below is a link taking you to Baltimore.

(Article changed on October 29, 2016 at 09:04)

(Article changed on October 29, 2016 at 09:04)

Submitters Bio:
Burl Hall is a retired counselor who is living in a Senior Citizen Housing apartment. Burl has one book to his credit, titled "Sophia's Web: A Passionate Call to Heal our Wounded Nature." For more information, search the book on Amazon.

Burl's philosophy entails the idea that "everything effects and causes everything thing else." His spirituality of Sophia i.e., Wisdom is universal as well as within each of us. He also sees the idea of Chaos as not being "all over the place" but as infinite relationships.

The question I present in my articles speak not so much towards the politicians, but how WE the people can empower ourselves within a planet that is healthy, wealthy and wise.