1 Jul 15

When in Rome...


Dear Mavens,

I have a unique climate challenge. I run a small city state that has taken steps to limit its own greenhouse gas emissions, and this week I’m taking our mitigation messaging international. As I’m sure you’re aware, though, mitigation alone is not enough to protect us from the negative effects of climate change, and I'm a little lost as to what I can do at home to prepare and protect our humble hamlet. Obviously I'm worried about basic infrastructure but I've also got some priceless art and religious artifacts that will require special attention in any adaptation plan I devise.

On a related matter, I’m getting some grief from people saying I shouldn’t be venturing into the political realm, that “religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.” Is concern about climate change, and its effects on the poor and the environment, now a purely political issue?

Any advice will be much appreciated.

Your humble hand of god,


Dear Frank,

We are so honored to hear from you, and we will do our best to come up with something useful for you.

Let’s start with the philosophical questions. The Mavens firmly believe that doing something about climate change is not solely the purview of the political realm. Rather its is part of all realms, and as such responses should be based on each of our moral, ethical, philosophical and knowledge-based fabric. Personally, we applaud you for raising this issue to the level of a core moral concern for society, and for highlighting the social justice element. Way way, more power to you and keep speaking truth to power, however ironic that may seem in your case.

On the nitty gritty of how to make your hometown (or home city-state) more resilient, you’re off to a good start by identifying some of the assets about which you’re concerned: infrastructure, artwork, and religious artifacts. From other statements you’ve made we can guess that you’d like whatever solutions you come up with to include values such as justice for the poor, caring for creation, the sacredness of life, etc.

The next question: what climate change threats or effects matter for the assets and values you care about? Potential threats for your area include more Tiber River floods like those in 2012 and 2014, but also decreased flow overall, potentially leading to problems with water availability. Your already hot summers will get hotter, which could of course increase the demand for water by farmers, municipalities, and power plants (because energy demand will go up as people pump up their air conditioners). Given the religious nature of your city-state, it may be that there will be increased demand for holy water as a strategy to reduce vulnerability to climate change. Any issues with power supply could be trouble for artwork and artifacts that need a climate-controlled environment. Fortunately your predecessor installed heaps of solar panels, so your vulnerability to climate-related power supply issues is fairly low.

What you can do:
Art work: Get if off the floor! Sometimes we forget to hang artwork up on walls or stands. Check out the great innovation in this area by Julius II in the Sistine Chapel--great use of ceilings!

Artifacts: Again, anything you can do to keep them out of harm’s way either on pedestals or in protective cases is a good idea.

Infrastructure: Clearly you’ve got some old infrastructure. Any time you do restoration work or make upgrades, make sure that each time you undertake such an effort you are considering how climate change (heat, flood, drought, you know the stuff that plagues are made of) might undermine their efficacy and work to make them less vulnerable. Its a great opportunity for some thinking outside the box!

Gardens: Since more than half of your city-state is made up of gardens and parks, you might think about what plants and landscaping will do well in a hotter world where water is more scarce. To address your concern for the poor, you could use parts of the gardens as demonstration areas highlighting how to grow climate-appropriate food in small areas. This way you could highlight the increased food insecurity of the poor in light of climate change, as well as approaches to solving the problem!

Wishing you all the best,
The Mavens

P.S. The Mavens want to let you know that we are huge fans. Can’t wait for the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76BtP1GInlc

P.P.S. The Mavens were recently made aware of some new research relevant to all those working in the area of climate change: “In the modern era of digital media, it is hard to deny that cats have clawed their way into the zeitgeist of the Internet...This study found that cat-related content is a popular form of online media with the potential to improve users’ moods... or to delay more important tasks.” So if you can avoid delaying more important tasks (like stopping climate change) then cat video may be part of a balanced media diet to keep your mood up and your hopes high. So go ahead, indulge: http://cakex.org/community/advice/puppies-kittens-and-paris-what-makes-us-happy

Recommended Citation

Adaptation Mavens. (2015, July). When In Rome. [Web column]. Retrieved from CAKE (http://cakex.org/community/advice/when-rome).