Climate resilience: A report from WMEAC

climate resilienceClimate resilience, as defined by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), is “the ability of a community to simultaneously balance ecological, economic, and social systems to maintain or increase quality of life in an uncertain, dynamic climate future.”

WMEAC conducted research and interviews throughout 2013. On December 3, 2013, it presented the Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report to the Grand Rapids City Commission.

Mayor George Heartwell, who sits on President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, lauded WMEAC’s efforts. “[The report] is an exceptional piece of work. […] [It] is on the leading edge nationwide when it comes to the scope and nature of this report,” Heartwell said.

Climate resilience explained

Proponents of climate resilience (also called “climate resiliency”) seek to mitigate climate change or adapt to its effects. For example, rather than try to “save the planet,” a climate-resilient city might increase its urban tree canopy. Doing so captures more carbon dioxide locally and helps to manage stormwater runoff. In addition, a denser urban tree canopy provides shade to residences and businesses, reducing cooling costs in the summer.

Climate resilience efforts are not motivated solely by a concern for the environment. Economic considerations are involved, too. For example, lower water levels in the Great Lakes affect the amount of cargo that shippers can transport.

Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report

The Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report is a great primer on topics that concern municipalities and their residents. The text presents information about flooding, urban agriculture, wetlands, stormwater management, transportation, and the urban tree canopy. Below are several excerpts from the report.

On the meaning of climate resilience:
“Climate resiliency represents a new paradigm for local sustainability. […] [It] recognizes the existence of opportunities on which to capitalize in a dynamic climate future.” (p. 4)

On the role that insurers play in climate resilience:
“Insurance companies, and reinsurance companies in particular, are taking action on climate change. They are working it into their business models, quantitatively programming it into their rates, and advocating for climate action…” (p. 34)

On the right balance of tree species in a city:
“No single species should make up more than 10% of a city’s tree population.” (p. 67)

On local food security:
“…our reliance on highly interconnected worldwide food systems may be vulnerable to shortages and disruptions originating hundreds or thousands of miles away.” (p. 80)

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Effects of climate change on the Lake Michigan-Huron system are discussed
in the Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report.


WMEAC and RedLine

When Nicholas Occhipinti, WMEAC’s policy director, approached me about editing the report, I immediately thought that it would be a great RedLine project. The fact that WMEAC is based in Grand Rapids made the professional opportunity that much better.

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Click image to download.

We love working with socially responsible organizations. From influencing policy to coordinating volunteer efforts in the community, WMEAC is a “doing” organization. Every nonprofit should be as dedicated.

It’s gratifying to see that WMEAC doesn’t just talk a good game. It acts. The organization brought together volunteers during the 2013 flood in Grand Rapids to help fill sandbags. A past project involved assisting with the creation of a “green roof” for the beloved Marie Catrib’s restaurant. WMEAC acts in the present but thinks about the future.

Visit WMEAC’s website or download the Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report.

A final word

This report is one of the first reports (if not the first) to address climate resilience from the perspective of a midsize American city. Use the buttons below to share this post. Your community may just benefit.

The Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report. West Michigan Environmental Action Council, 2013.
“WMEAC Presents Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report Findings.” The Rapidian. December 3, 2013.

climate resilience

Matthew Kushinka is the founder and principal of RedLine Language Services LLC. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the company helps commercial clients create, revise, and translate their written content. Send your questions or comments to or connect with Matthew on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.