Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

 

Goal One: Greaux nature-based solutions for community resilience.


Introduction

Communities within Region Seven will continually and increasingly deal with more flooding and extreme weather events (See the Introduction). As these communities develop laws, plans, policies, and projects that will aim to increase resilience, it is vital that any efforts incorporate the consideration of nature-based solutions. These efforts should also be supported and informed by extensive community engagement and outreach processes. Each individual community within Region Seven is unique, and any actions that address flooding must be driven and informed by residents. This is particularly important in overburdened and underresourced underrepresented communities, where one flood could be the difference between renting, or owning, a home and experiencing houselessness. Further still, these efforts can also have the added benefit of offering access to higher-paying jobs and improved quality of life in the communities where they are implemented, all while reducing flood risk.See footnote 1 

The aim of this goal is to outline the steps that regional and local policymakers may take to ensure that community voices and input are centered in the development of any plan or project that works toward building comprehensive community resilience. In addition to emphasizing community outreach, these objectives also highlight the importance that green, nature-based projects and programs have in creating lasting community resilience. While the five objectives outlined below offer ways in which policymakers can take community engagement and nature-based solutions into account, they are not meant to be exhaustive, nor does this analysis contain all of the considerations and challenges that may arise during the development and implementation of related strategies. 

A community can become more resilient by building new and adapting existing infrastructure like roads, as well as stormwater and wastewater systems, to withstand climate impacts, and by prioritizing investments in projects that help to reduce flooding impacts. Many of these infrastructure updates will similarly involve nature-based solutions and projects, which will be discussed in the following part (See Goal Two) of the Regional Vision. This goal emphasizes the importance of creating more resilient laws, plans, policies, and projects with significant input from communities and an emphasis on prioritizing nature-based projects. 


Background: The Importance of Community-Driven, Nature-Based Resilience

Local laws, policies, plans, and projects that build community resilience should center residents’ voices and input, especially in overburdened and underresourced communities. This is vital to facilitating resilience and ensuring that these efforts capture and respond to the needs specific to each community. Studies have shown that communities that have meaningful engagement with their residents throughout the development of a plan or project are better able to address long-term challenges, such as those posed by climate change.See footnote 2  In the case of flooding impacts and disaster resilience, when community outreach is effective, it can lead to several beneficial outcomes. For more information on the benefits of community outreach and engagement and best practices on how to ensure that community voices are heard and honored, see Objective 5.1. In short, community engagement on resilience-based topics provides opportunities to grow resilience, and also address and improve other existing socioeconomic challenges facing people.

In addition to engaging with residents, green, nature-based solutions are vital aspects of building resilience at different scales. Nature-based solutions are actions that incorporate sustainable, environmental systems, and/or processes into the built environment to improve a community’s adaptive capacity by mitigating flood risk, reducing temperatures, improving air quality, and more.See footnote 3  Nature-based solutions can include projects like restoring and protecting wetlands, installing greenways and blueways, and planting trees. These types of projects also have social (e.g., cooler temperatures, more passive recreational opportunities), environmental (e.g., improved water and air quality, healthier wildlife habitats), and economic (e.g., increased property value, stable or growing tax base) co-benefits. Many of these co-benefits will be discussed in subsequent objectives that detail specific nature-based solutions that parishes and municipalities can consider. 

There is no “one size fits all” nature-based solution for any area that will completely eliminate the risks of hazards like flooding and sea-level rise.See footnote 4  “Choosing a solution depends on a number of factors, including the level of natural hazard risk reduction, land use planning, economics and more.”See footnote 5  As a result, it is vital to engage with communities early and often throughout the development of a related legal, planning, policy, and/or project initiative, to better learn the unique characteristics that affect a community’s vulnerabilities. 

The parts that follow introduce the five objectives that were identified as priorities through the process to develop the Regional Vision. Again, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every action a jurisdiction could implement to “greaux” or grow nature-based community resilience. Moreover, these objectives are only intended to serve as a starting point for many but likely not all parishes, municipalities, and communities in Region Seven and Louisiana that are already taking resilience actions with an emphasis on community engagement. As such, policymakers may consider and see all or parts of their community in one, all, or some of the objectives. The objectives are also informed by informational interviews, case studies, and other resources to suggest how policymakers may evaluate and use them in practice. 

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