Resilience AmeriCorps focuses on vulnerable communities

This summer, the Obama administration launched a new AmeriCorps program that dovetails perfectly with the local resiliency efforts that we’ve highlighted as part of the Close to Home resilient investing strategy.  Resilience AmeriCorps was formed “to assist vulnerable communities that lack the capacity to address climate-resilience planning and implementation.  The AmeriCorps VISTA members will increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas, and help those communities develop plans for becoming more resilient to any number of shocks and stresses, including better preparations for extreme weather events.”  Or, as funding partner The Rockefeller Foundation put it: to “support the development of resilience strategies to help communities better manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.”  Now that’s a punchy definition of resilience!

The focus on vulnerable lower income communities is especially encouraging, since many current grassroots efforts tend to involve generally better-off and already socially-engaged activists.  A White House overview of Resilience AmeriCorps stressed the importance of its social-justice priorities:

…Local resources are often stretched thin, particularly in the low-income communities that need help the most. The third U.S. National Climate Assessment noted that socioeconomic disparities can exacerbate the vulnerability of certain populations, including low-income communities and some communities of color, due in part to limited capacity and resources necessary to prepare and adapt. For example, sea level rise poses the greatest risk to those who live in low-lying neighborhoods on the coast – communities that are often home to vulnerable populations. Rates of asthma – which may be exacerbated by climate change – among African American children are more than double the rates of white children, and Hispanic children are nearly twice as likely as white children to be hospitalized for asthma.  That’s why, last month, the Administration announced Resilience AmeriCorps, a first of its kind effort to support local resilience-building efforts.

In August, the first ten cities in this pilot program were announced. This press release offers a quick overview of the specific projects that will be undertaken in each city; some examples:

Chicago, IL: Chicago’s major resilience challenges include infrastructure failure, flooding, and blizzards. Through Resilience AmeriCorps, the city will develop a resilience plan that expands engagement, resources, and infrastructure to reach the city’s vulnerable populations. The AmeriCorps members’ work will be concentrated in areas of high risk of storm water damage and income inequality.

El Paso, TX: El Paso faces environmental challenges due in large part to flooding from intense storms and extreme high and low temperatures. AmeriCorps VISTA members will work with residents in low-lying, lower-income neighborhoods most prone to flooding. AmeriCorps members will work with community groups, neighborhood organizations, businesses, and residents to train leaders, create emergency response processes and toolkits, and establish information distribution protocols and programs for engaging everyday citizens.

New Orleans, LA: (New Orleans faces) climate change challenges, wetland loss, land subsidence, and inequality.  New Orleans will deploy AmeriCorps VISTA members in neighborhoods with both high environmental risk and high percentages of poverty to execute initiatives and engage the public in the discussions and necessary volunteer efforts in order to achieve maximum impact.

In a related announcement, the DOE’s Minorities in Energy Initiative is currently running a series of monthly webinars that supports its efforts to “collaborate with minority and tribal communities interested in climate change impacts and resilience tools to highlight important region-specific resources for climate preparedness.  We hope to inspire local leaders to lead the charge against climate impacts and to encourage community building around the common goals of resilience, sustainability, and justice.”

We certainly hope that resilient investors will find ways to reach out to Resilience AmeriCorps programs in their areas, and that these important efforts are able to find and shared purpose with existing climate and local-resiliency activist groups such as Transition, Post-Carbon Institute, and Resilience.org.  We’re going to need everyone on board to help keep this boat afloat on the stormy seas of our climate challenges.

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