Climate Resilience, biodiversity, and the built environment

Greg Gerritt Biodiversity, Climate Resilience, and the built environment
We are looking at a rainwater pond in Providence’s North Burial Ground, It drains a few roads a little grassland. The pond goes up and down very regularly with the rain and sun. Filling with 2 inches of rain, drying out in 3 weeks of no rain. Most drainage systems are designed to infiltrate water, but for some reason, this pond does not drain in the deeper parts though the soil around the edge is very well drained.

Biodiversity is one of the key indicators of community resilience. Urban, rural, it does not matter, when biodiversity is high, the people are happier, healthier, and better fed. Under conditions of climate change this is even more important, because in Rhode Island biodiversity is associated with forests, trees, and clean water, all things that are critical for keeping our cool.

In discussing the built environment, such as stormwater runoff systems, it seems we have an opportunity to use our reconfiguration of the built environment to create habitat with some of the water. This strategy will not necessarily be useful in every place, and when pondering the vulnerable biota in Rhode Island, there are many pitfalls that could dramatically reduce the effectiveness of a particular effort. But it is clear from the videos behind me that there is the possibility of doing it in a way that creates sustaining populations. And amphibians, resilient as they are, are bellwethers of pollution, drought, flood, and many of the other ills of civilizations in climate upheaval.

In about 3 weeks I am convening some of the experts in RI and New England to discuss using stormwater to create amphibian habitat. My goal is for us to think about what guidelines there should be for such efforts, how we might design filtration systems and ponds so that the water is clean enough and the pond goes dry at about the right rate to both nurture amphibians and discourage predators and then ponder places where such ponds might do some good.

It is no longer good enough to slow down the damage, ecosystems are already in free fall around the world. Our job as people working for the health of the planet, is to work on the restoration of the ecosystems, biodiversity and climate. What I offer for amphibians and stormwater can apply to almost all aspects of the built environment. Could your walls hold bat houses or trellis for growing vines, Could your roof produce energy and hold flowers for bees? Can we have solar roads? Can every building have a garden, compost bin, rainwater reuse systems, and produce more energy than it uses to keep people comfortable?

One last thought on ecology. You can not have more forever on a finite planet. It is only if we use less and share more that our communities and ecosystems will work, and these guys can keep eating.