What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?
The outreach program for the Humboldt Bay Sea Level Rise Regional Planning Feasibility Study managed to reach over 1,600 people with our project description and contact information. The public surveys garnered 418 complete online responses and 159 complete mail-in responses. This was the greatest turn out for public engagement with the Planning and Building Department in Humboldt in recent memory, which is especially impressive considering the rural nature of the county. A further 86 professionals completed the Coastal Professionals survey. Information from the surveys and our 17 key stakeholder interviews were recently highlighted in a panel discussion on regional sea level rise collaboration at the 2021 Humboldt Bay Symposium.
Key findings included:
- The general public needs to get on the same page as professionals
- Less than 50% of the general public surveyed believe that Humboldt Bay is already being impacted by sea level rise
- Conversely, 71% of professionals believe the Bay is being impacted
- Overall, the public does want regional collaboration
- 67% of general public surveyed believe the County should be a primary, or among the key agencies responsible for providing guidance on sea level rise.
- Combined total of 68% of general public thought regional collaboration was important (28.25%) or very important (39.86%).
- Coastal Professionals also want regional collaboration
- 95% of professionals surveyed agree success of sea level rise projects in the future requires coordination.
- 92% oppose no funding to sea level rise planning.
- 87% oppose having no regional coordination.
- 80% prioritize creation of a regional SLR adaptation plan.
- Our stakeholder interviews cited lack of coordinated effort as a major barrier to addressing sea level rise (permitting constraints and lack of funding were mentioned as well)
- We need to increase/diversify our advertising effort for public engagement
- 23% of people who participated in the general public survey reported they had never attended a sea level rise workshop or event because they had never heard of one
- People also cited work conflicts, lack of transportation, lack of internet, inability to physically attend, and lack of advance notice as major barriers to attendance
Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?
The ability to work on a regional study has really opened my eyes to the amount of grassroots efforts going on to address sea level rise in Humboldt County. I have also been able to expand my professional network through out California. My role interviewing key stakeholders for Humboldt County brought me face to face with influential members of state and federal regulatory authorities. This has really broadened the scope of my future career opportunities and on a personal level, it has given me a vast amount of confidence. At times, I feel burned out working on climate change issues. However after reading some of the positive comments left in the general public survey, such as the one I featured above, I feel more energized than ever to continue working on these important projects.
Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?
I have struggled with imposter syndrome for most of my adult life. This study has really revealed to me how much I am truly capable of. Although it was quite difficult to get the project started at first, it was well worth it and the findings from this study has already proven to be invaluable. Along the same lines, I had not truly realized before how far reaching the implications of this project could be. While working on the study, French researchers from Sea’ties Ocean Climate Platform reached out to my supervisor asking to include our study in their “solutions map”. I have lived on and off in Humboldt County roughly ten years of my life and often think of it as such a small place. To be included in an international effort means this study has already had a major impact beyond the affect it has had in our little community. It just does to show that no place or person is too small to make a great difference.