Preferences and perceptions of green infrastructure: Blueprint Columbus

In 2015, Columbus, Ohio submitted a Wet Weather Management Plan to the Ohio EPA entitled “Blueprint Columbus,” which would eliminate 28 miles of sanitary sewer overflow tunnels in favor of green infrastructure (GI) improvements including rain gardens. The mayor of Columbus has argued Blueprint Columbus would not only bring the city into EPA compliance, but would be cheaper, faster, greener, and more innovative than a plan based on gray infrastructure, and the plan’s website argues it will improve water quality, provide critical habitat, improve property values and stabilize neighborhoods.

Few if any of these goals have been well quantified however, particularly those involving the potential social, psychological and physical benefits of GI. While contact with nature has been shown to reduce stress, and increase activity, pro-social behavior and place attachment, natural areas that are overgrown or aesthetically unpleasing may decrease social interaction, community pride and subjective well-being.

Dr. Jeremy Brooks and I are currently working on, i.e., distributing and analyzing the data from,  the first of three surveys distributed before–during and eventually after the–installation of specific GI projects in Blueprint-targeted areas. The surveys are intended to measure changes in residents’ pro-environmental and pro-social behavior, as well as residents’ preferences and perceptions regarding anticipated and completed GI projects, as well as the quality and quantity of outreach and information provided by the city.

I will be presenting results from this work at the Sustainability and Social Science Research Symposium at the University of Michigan May 17th-19th.

Assessing non-market loss and damage in the context of climate change

This spring a group of twenty-four scientists from Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, United Kingdom, United States, and South Africa (Table 1) came together across disciplines to explore how loss and damage (L&D) is understood and experienced by particular groups of people in various geographic settings.

We conducted a workshop in Perth, Australia, between 18th and 21st of April 2016 to share our particular disciplinary insights and explore how these can inform the development of new methods to approach L&D in the context of climate change. Our work pays particular attention to the types of L&D that cannot be easily assessed or quantified (the non-market and intangible losses and damages, or N-M L&Ds) but are equally if not more important in sustaining people’s lives and livelihoods.

Our preliminary investigation followed a series of motivating questions:
1. What are the domains of L&D under climate change?
2. What is a meaningful baseline for determining loss?
3. What methodologies and approaches exist or need to be amended to best assess harm, in monetary and non-monetary terms?
4. What is the basis for estimating and allocating reparation and compensation?

The attached white paper, together with a series of conference presentations and journal articles outlined on page 31, presents the findings from our workshop and follow-up conversations. Here, we offer an overview of current N-M L&D assessment methods, followed by our own approach to assess N-M L&D.  We propose a new analytical framework based on people’s values and the trade-offs they are willing or forced to make when facing current and potential future losses brought upon by events related to climate change.

1.2 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

  • ƒCreate a better understanding of the types of losses, both economic and non-economic (also referred to as non-market), that people may experience due to climate change;
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  • Understand and make visible what people in specific places value most in their daily lives, what they consider worth preserving, and how these aspects are affected by climate change;
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  • Highlight what people do to prepare for possible losses in order to minimise people’s suffering in case these losses become reality;
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  • Address the urgent need for appropriate methods to assess non-market loss and damage (N-M L&D) in the context of climate change;
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  • Develop an interdisciplinary approach for assessing N-M L&D that is flexible and reflexive to respond to how people’s values and priorities are relational and change over time (in accordance to new understandings of risk, adaptation options, and likely impacts, embedded in a broader context of social and cultural change);
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  • Make new understandings and approaches to N-M L&D available and accessible to different stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, scientists, local communities) via academic and nonacademic outlets (website);
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  • Integrate N-M L&D assessments into decision-making processes for climate change mitigation  and adaptation.

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