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Resilience and environmental policy experts gather for Tidewater screening in Cambridge

Novartis Panel Discussion
From left to right: Novartis Head of Climate James Goudreau, Tidewater Director/Producer Roger Sorkin, GRI Founding Director Dr. Stephen Flynn, GRI Distinguished Senior Fellow Dr. Atyia Martin, and McCormack Graduate School Dean David Cash.

Resilience, sustainability and environmental policy experts gathered in Cambridge on Monday night for a screening of “Tidewater,” hosted by pharmaceutical company Novartis and The Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future.

Released in May 2017, the film documents the vulnerability of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to sea level rise and land subsidence, and the impacts on military readiness and national security. It explores the importance of a collaborative problem-solving model in order to bolster the area’s coastal and community resilience.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion during which Global Resilience Institute (GRI) Founding Director Dr. Stephen Flynn emphasized the need for multi- and interdisciplinary-research, close coordination with public-sector and private-sector practitioners, and preparing the next generation of leaders with experiential education programs.

“I have yet to find someone who is against resilience, but something is getting in our way,” he noted, naming five barriers to resilience:

  1. There is widespread risk illiteracy and limited understanding of the new dependencies and interdependencies that pervade our increasingly connected lives;
  2. There are inadequate designs for embedding resilience into key systems, networks, and infrastructure;
  3. There are inadequate economic incentives for investing in proven resilience measures;
  4. There are inadequate governance frameworks and policy guidance to foster resilience;
  5. There is a lack of adequate interdisciplinary training and education programs to support the development and implementation of comprehensive capabilities for advancing resilience.

“We are well positioned in Boston to overcome those barriers,” added Flynn, “and share those lessons with the rest of the world – if we work more collaboratively.”

Dr. Flynn was joined on the panel by the film’s director and producer Roger Sorkin, Novartis Head of Climate James Goudreau, UMASS Boston McCormack Graduate School Dean David Cash, and Boston’s Former Chief Resilience Officer, GRI Distinguished Senior Fellow Dr. Atyia Martin.

Dr. Martin stressed the need to branch out from the status quo when thinking of governance, and to embed equity into the conversation. The community and citizens being affected need to be at the table, she urged, and must have some ownership over the types of resources being put into their neighborhoods. Dr. Martin noted, “Public policy alone won’t fix our problems.”

Tidewater from Roger Sorkin on Vimeo.

About the film:

“The Hampton Roads area of Virginia is relatively unknown nationwide, but it is the region whose vulnerability to sea level rise most affects military readiness and our overall national security. With 14 military installations spread across 17 local jurisdictions, it is our highest concentration of military assets in the country, where 1 in 6 residents are associated with our nation’s defense. Their homes, schools, hospitals, and families are increasingly struggling to keep up with the effects of rising waters, and the military and all the surrounding municipalities are working towards solutions in the name of strengthening national security and enhancing economic prosperity.

“Hampton Roads requires $1 billion in urgent infrastructure repairs with 900 miles of its roads and electric grid threatened by permanent flooding. Faced with these unprecedented challenges that can only be tackled by a wide range of stakeholders, from ordinary citizens to the U.S. Navy to local businesses, Tidewater demonstrates that an innovative whole-of-government problem-solving model being attempted by local and military leaders is the only way to ensure the continued strength of our national security, along with the continued prosperity of the region and the nation.

“If Hampton Roads succeeds, it will mean success on several levels. They’ll save their homes, schools, businesses, the bases, and that’s no mean feat. But they’ll also create a powerful template for success, a model other regions can use to prepare for and deal with disaster – and more: a model that can demonstrate how people, businesses and government can pull together to solve any complex problem. The story strikes a positive tone, highlighting the outsized capabilities of Hampton Roads to show the nation and the world how it can be done. Lots of hard choices and sacrifices will have to be made in order for the plan to succeed, but if they get it right, human communities everywhere will have a roadmap.”

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