At the University of Washington’s EarthLab, we envision a world where nature and people thrive. We are part research engine and part community catalyst, working with partners of all kinds to accelerate and focus UW expertise to address environmental challenges. Our goal is to have a positive impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
More and more, people are embracing the fact that a healthy, thriving environment and a healthy, thriving human population are tightly connected. Regardless of how we feel about nature, it is indisputable that nature – and the resources that flow from it – supports economies, cultures and livelihoods across the globe, allowing them to flourish.
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But often, we see these tight connections begin to fray. A changing climate poses numerous threats to people, including elevated risks to human health. A changing ocean threatens our maritime industries and food webs that fuel abundant fisheries.
Too often the voices of those most affected are discounted, leaving critical perspectives off the table. We are continually uncovering new linkages between the environment and our own health and well-being; these must be evaluated and addressed in an equitable and just manner.
EarthLab works with our faculty to build multi-disciplinary and externally facing collaborations. Our objective is to translate the outstanding scholarship happening at UW into useful information for decision-makers from the public, private, NGO and others to apply in their work. Supporting this work provides an opportunity to have an impact on the lives and livelihoods of people at scales local to global. We are launching projects aimed at bringing UW scholarship and expertise to bear in partnership with those who are seeking answers.
The Swinomish Tribe
One EarthLab project focused on the Swinomish Tribe. The Swinomish live along the water and are invested in taking care of the land that supports them. As climate change threatened their way of life, the Swinomish looked to address the worst of the effects. But climate change is an overwhelming topic. Where could they start?
By working with the UW Climate Impacts Group, scientists, tribal leaders and members, natural resource managers, and other partners the Swinomish were able to identify specific risks that threatened their homeland. Then they found effective methods to protect high-impact areas that were at the greatest threat. These were translated into policies and action steps that became the Swinomish Climate Adaptation Action Plan.
The Swinomish are using this information to direct their efforts and engage partners to protect their native land. Specific steps include change building and development codes so that people will be able to stay in their homes and businesses as the climate changes, protecting forests from wildfires in high-risk burn areas, and ensuring that low-lying productive farmland will be left unharmed. These steps ensure a future for the Swinomish, in spite of climate change to come.
Donors Can Help
- The EarthLab Innovation Fund supports the academic, operational and outreach ventures of EarthLab. EarthLab will help develop lasting solutions to our most pressing environmental problems that are scientifically sound, technically feasible and economically viable, while promoting equity and justice.
- Climate change may seem like too big a problem to tackle, communities can identify high-impact areas of mitigation to ensure their future. Donors can help fund research, policy creation, and implementation of climate change action plans. For example, donors can make an impact for climate resilience in the South.
Original contribution by Ben Packard, Executive Director of EarthLab
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