In 1998 in the UK, ruralnet|online was founded to use the Internet as a medium for providing information and support to rural towns. Now, 10 years later, its founders embarked on a new co-design project to make use of Web 2.0 technologies.

The purpose of ruralnet has evolved and its new site is called the Community Carbon Network. Its function is very similar to that of Presilience, but it’s based on a thriving organization of individuals and local communities, where Presilience is currently based on one person’s curiosity and intention to help. From CCN:

Here you will discover other like-minded people taking action to tackle climate change. The network consists of other communities who want to learn more about how to develop and maintain their projects – and share what they know and have learnt in the process.

The network will pull together relevant information from across the worldwide web and deliver it to communities in a way that is timely and easy to access.

Importantly, the network consists of REAL people who want to collaborate with other REAL people; the best information and advice comes from those who have ‘been there and done that’.

Firehose blastingFor the past year I’ve been following news feeds from over a dozen of the most informative, science-based blogs on global warming and climate change (pick your favorite term). I’ve had Google News Alerts set for climate change, climate adaptation, flood and drought. I’ve bookmarked hundreds of sites, documents and articles and posted 126 articles under the Climate Frog blog title.

I believe in science and in the findings that serious scientists contribute to our knowledge about the environment. I believe them when they warn us about the future impacts of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.

This past year brought us Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. It brought us the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, validating the work of 2400 science experts and signed off by 193 governments. We had the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali. We saw extraordinary and record breaking flooding in England, the American Midwest, China, Bangladesh, China and Africa. We saw devastating droughts across Australia, China (again), South America and both the Southeastern and Southwestern U.S.

Scientists reported on the faster than expected shrinking of the Arctic Ice Cap and melting of major glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic.

Within that one year of observation I witnessed the foreshortening of the forecasts for climate change and its impacts. Where scientists thought in 2007 that we might have 3 or 4 decades to get things right, they are now thinking in terms of 2 or 3 decades. There’s no guarantee that the threatening conditions won’t continue to accelerate in an unfortunate direction.

So it became clear to me, sometime last fall, that we’d better get moving on the preparation front. My sense of urgency is only heightened by the fact that our federal government is intentionally dragging its feet in acknowledging that there’s a threat worth doing something about. It’s spurred by the fact that even the majority of us who believe that we should be turning greener are not really committing to changing our lifestyles and habits. It’s whipped into a frency by the fact that the U.S., China and India are planning to build about 850 new coal-fired carbon-spewing power plants.

All of that slow response, regressive action and poor preparation at the national and grassroots levels makes it crucial that we begin some organized and concerted effort right now to identify local risks and ready our local communities to deal with them. And getting ready means learning how to work together to mitigate both our long- and short-range risks.

Firehose

cliffbilbao.jpgResilience is the capacity to adapt. We humans, who mostly live in communities facing the prospect of new climates and the impacts that come with them, are entering unexplored territory. We don’t know when our local climate will change, or when we’ll even know that it has. We may find ourselves dealing with strange new weather every season, and adjusting to it will be our ongoing task.

In any case, we know that those new climate impacts will be specific to our localities, and that each community will need to search for solutions to living with them. We don’t know how much help our local government will be able to provide.

It’s likely that climate adaptation will be a bottom-up movement – designed, led and maintained by grassroots groups. To the extent that those groups can get a head start on the challenges of new climates, they will be stronger for dealing with crisis conditions.

Presilience is a learn-by-example site, that will highlight the best examples we can find of groups working on the local level to make a difference. Today, those groups are working on projects like greenhouse gas mitigation and conservation. Someday, today’s best practices and qualities will be adopted to confront the future challenges of new climates.

If you’re part of such a change-making group, or if you know of one, let me know. We need to learn and share good examples to make us all smarter. We need to understand what relationship qualities make such groups run smoothly? And if they don’t run smoothly, how do they tolerate disagreement and still move on to make differences?