The Resilience Corps NC program recently launched its latest cohort of service members who will work in communities to deliver climate change, community resilience, capacity building, and environmental education services to host sites across the state. In order to make this the most successful year yet, CTNC has added and promoted staff, and welcomed 17 service members including four who have returned for their second year of service.
Here’s where our 2022-23 Corps members are serving:
Balsam Mountain Trust Emily Taylor
Cape Fear River Watch Kristen Rhodes
El Futuro Maiya Garrett-Peters
Eno River Association Audrey Vaughn
Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Elizabeth Warfield
Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust Hope Corbin
Keeping Charlotte Beautiful Lance Nathaniel
Keeping Durham Beautiful Eleanor Dilworth
Meals on Wheels Durham Lula Zeray
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust Madison Woodard Bryce Tholen
North Carolina Zoo Grace Sigmon Mawadda Al-Masri Sabrinah Hartsell
Piedmont Triad Regional Council Haley Bock
The Regional Stormwater Partnership of the Carolinas Kelly Hendrix (Norris)
Triangle J Council of Governments Taylor Weddington
Read about more of our staffing and member updates below!
Please join us in extending congratulations to Michaella Kosia, who was recently promoted to AmeriCorps Program Director. Michaella will lead the Resilience Corps NC program by supporting host site supervisors and their members coordinating trainings, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability. Michaella brings to this role a unique public health background where she worked to address health disparities amongst marginalized communities. Our partners and members are excited to work with Michaella in this new leadership role. Get to know Michaella and her passion for community-focused service work.
As part of our commitment to working alongside community partners to achieve resilience, CTNC and the Environmental Defense Fund will sponsor three additional members to work with community leaders with the Town of Princeville, the Lumbee Indian Tribal Council in Lumberton, and The Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland. These members will be focused on increasing community capacity, supporting local food systems through community gardening, and engaging in community outreach through a lens of climate change and land stewardship. Learn more about our Resilience Corps NC program.
Resilience Corps NC is still recruiting for the 2022-23 cohort!
The crew’s first stop was Heritage Park, 428 Mutual Boulevard in Princeville. This park, along the river, is an important piece of Princeville’s resilient future. By claiming it for public use, it offers much-needed overflow for river flooding and runoff. It will also be the future site of a permanent Farmer’s Market and an accessible walking trail. The crew’s efforts this summer have complemented the current use of the park while supporting future goals slated by Town leadership and community members.
At Heritage Park, the youth installed exercise stations, pollinator gardens, benches and trash receptacles, and walking paths, and also re-mulched the playground. They also installed trail signs that will serve as educational tools for parkgoers about the importance of pollinator plants, wildlife habitat, and stormwater management.
At Heritage Trail and the Elementary School, the youth completed maintenance of conservation projects installed in 2021 through similar partnerships. They mulched the newly established Heritage Trail, cleaned up debris, and removed weeds from the rain gardens designed and installed by NC State and M&M Landscaping.
Thank you to the young adults from Tarboro High School who worked with community leaders for six weeks to complete this project. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Nick DiColandrea isn’t new to CTNC. For six years, he served as the Resilience Corps NC Program Director. In 2022, he returned to a new role – Climate Strategies Officer, a position that still involves him with AmeriCorps. He works to connect AmeriCorps service opportunities to communities in need of expanded climate mitigation and recovery capacities.
This work builds on his extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, holding positions across multiple organizations dedicated to community capacity building, youth leadership, mentoring, and community service. His free time activities focused on service also follow this theme: Board Treasurer of the Museum of Life in Science in Durham, the school PTA as VP of Fundraising & Volunteer Chair, and as Board Treasurer of his neighborhood’s HOA.
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? I probably realized we were living in a climate-change-affected world a few years ago when we stopped getting annual snow storms of any significance in North Carolina. Having grown up here since the late 1990s, I distinctly remember colder and wetter winters, and even during my time in college. However, over the last 10 years, I can trace the lack of an actual winter now, and how it has happened more times in the lives of my children than my entire life in the state.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? When the state was hit by multiple hurricanes over 2016 and 2017, I got to see firsthand, and still do to this day, the impacts these more frequent hurricanes are causing people down east. Working with other disaster relief partners, I have heard stories about how even years later people are living in homes not yet fully restored and families permanently displaced outside of our state. These devastating disasters will occur more frequently and are going to result in a state we may seldom recognize in the decades to come.
What does climate resilience mean to you? Climate resilience is helping communities be able to bounce back stronger after the climate crisis hits their homes. It means assisting standing communities’ economies back up, working with families suffering from the loss of their community, or developing plans or actions that will lead to quicker recovery through mitigation. It essentially means being there for people in their communities who will suffer from climate change.
What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action? That no matter how small your action is, it will make a difference. We do not affect meaningful changes with just big ticket items on climate action, but that light you turn off, that conversation with your best friend or that walk to take to the store instead of the drive, all add up in profound ways to address climate change.
What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient? Be a part of the conversations around resilience in your community. Find where your mission niche is and see how it connects to environmental and community resilience, and then dig in and get to work. Mitigating and surviving the climate crisis is not going to be solved alone by environmental organizations, and it is going to take everyone in the community being a part of this work in the years ahead.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going? Lots of coffee and lots of positive thinking. I take more mental health breaks now, sitting for quick meditation moments, and stopping more to unplug from the work and just enjoy being.
WIN: The legislature passed a budget with the Governor’s signature that made significant increases to our state’s conservation trust funds. As a result, annual recurring funding of $48.4 million to the state’s conservation trust funds will increase resources for CTNC and other organizations to continue their work.
Specifically, the budget increases recurring funding for the North Carolina Land and Water Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to $24.2 million each. A major win for protecting our parks, air and water.
The budget also continues to invest in climate resilience for communities across the state by maintaining hundreds of millions of dollars in funding previously allocated to build out a statewide flood resilience plan and begin community-driven natural infrastructure projects.
WORK TO BE DONE: Despite last-minute heroics by our legislative champions and you, our conservation advocates, House Bill 367 – Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act did not advance this session. While extremely disappointing, it is important to remember that bills as complex as the heirs’ property bill are rarely passed in a single legislative session. We will continue to work with other members of the NC Heirs Property Coalition to educate lawmakers of the importance of passing reforms that protect family-owned land throughout North Carolina. Thanks to everyone who helped in ways big and small. It was truly a team effort.
Our state leaders heard your voice and support. Thank you for moving our state forward to enable people to build resilient communities. We look forward to continuing to advocate for strong conservation policies on behalf of our community partners and advocates like you.
Michaella Kosia, AmeriCorps Program Director, comes to CTNC from an unexpected field: public health. She graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in Public Health and her background comes from other areas of public health, such as addressing health disparities amongst marginalized communities in community health.
She’s bringing her unique perspective to CTNC by supporting our Resilience Corps NC host sites and members during their service term by coordinating training, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability.
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? I probably first realized the real and present impacts of climate change back in the early 2000s. I remember Al Gore bringing attention to global warming. As a child, I didn’t realize the severity of it until years later, into adulthood. Because I’m a naturally curious person, I decided to begin educating myself on environmental issues such as global warming and the effects of climate change. Once I stepped into this area of awareness, I started to notice the changes in weather patterns. Now, it has been over 20 years since I was exposed to the topic and it has unfortunately worsened over time. I wish our country would have taken it more seriously earlier by being more proactive.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? With North Carolina being a coastal state, hurricane season in NC has become more active and it’s occurring earlier. Water levels are rising with more flooding on the coast, summers are extremely hot, and I even read that sharks are migrating closer to our shores due to the waters getting warmer.
What does climate resilience mean to you? To me, resilience can be seeded through education on climate change, spreading awareness through that knowledge, supporting organizations who are focused on making a change and voting for elected officials who explicitly support addressing the climate crisis.
What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action? It takes all of us! Although our individual efforts are necessary, we can truly move mountains as a collective.
What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient?
Make sure to include marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. I’ve observed that marginalized populations such as Black, Indigenous People of Color, immigrants, and those with special needs/disabilities tend to be left out of the conversation when they are experiencing higher/damaging levels of climate change. This can be done by having educational material in other languages, partnering with other organizations within said communities, making the educational material accessible (braille for those visually impaired, audible for those hard of hearing) etc.
Implement more options for staff in these organizations to work from home. Working from home would save on gasoline and greenhouse gas emissions.
Implement more educational programs about climate change in our schools. Like Whitney Houston said, “..the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. We always want to leave the world better than we found it and this can be done through the next generations.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?
I do my best to prioritize my mental health whenever I feel overwhelmed. Walking our local trails, practicing mindfulness, eating well, and being intentional about spending time with friends and family.
In North Carolina, an estimated $1.86 billion of land privately owned in North Carolina is held as heirs’ property. Heirs’ property occurs when land is passed down through generations and owned by many descendants with an undivided interest in the land.
Currently, in our state, anyone who inherits or purchases even a small interest of heirs’ property can potentially force other owners to sell against their will, often for well below fair market value. Owners of family-owned properties are vulnerable to involuntary land loss resulting from forced partition action proceedings.
Right now, a uniform bill is being adopted by state legislators across the Eastern United States. Enacting the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in North Carolina will address how current state laws leave landowners of heirs’ property vulnerable to involuntary land loss and provide a path to prevent future loss.
The North Carolina General Assembly is considering adoption of the bill in an effort to safeguard families from forced sales and provide them with greater access to building generational wealth through land equity.
The UPHPA will:
give families a solid chance at keeping the land in the family when one or more owners wants to divide or sell the land through a partition action.
allow more time for families to make thoughtful decisions about how to sell their land. All members would get the first right of refusal – the contractual right to enter into a business transaction with a person or company before anyone else can.
create protections for the family to gain fair market value for their land.
reduce the burden of county clerks by providing a standardized procedure to follow when a heirs’ property is up for sale.
Brandon A. Robinson, CTNC Board President, is an estate planning and corporate law attorney practicing in North Carolina. Below, he shares how the Uniform Act and other resources will provide support to families seeking to stop forced sales that result in land loss.
Heirs’ property is a problem that derives largely from either inadequate or nonexistent legally binding documents that clearly state ownership and heirs’ rights. Heirs’ property is created when land is inherited without a clear title or documented legal ownership. While heirs’ property can impact any family when a landowner dies without a will or trust, this problem disproportionately impacts Black and rural families who have historically lacked either the access to high-quality legal services, or a willingness to avail themselves of such services.
Under North Carolina law, just one concurrent owner can initiate a partition proceeding, which usually results in either the physical partition, or the forced sale, of the land, depending on what the Clerk of Superior Court finds to be the most equitable solution. For example, if you are a developer, you can entice just one family heir to sell his/her stake to you and force a sale of the entire property. This happened to a family of color in Raleigh. The family had ownership of a plot of land that was rural Wake County when purchased in the 1940s. Over the years, the property had been rezoned and became more valuable as the capital city sprawled. Unfortunately, the family fell prey to a land developer who bought one heir’s interest for nominal consideration and forced a sale through a partition proceeding. The developer gained title to its initial fractional share for well below fair market value, yet reaped a windfall when the other heirs could not buy out the developer in order to keep their family land; the result was that the developer gained full control of family legacy property that could then be sold or developed for value many times greater than what the developer paid.
If the Uniform Act were to be adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly, the developer would have been preempted in favor of providing family heirs a first right of refusal, and even if a sale did eventually occur through the partition process the family would have a better chance to realize fair market value for the property, based on enforcement tools at the Clerk of Superior Court’s discretion. This would allow all families to have access to clear rules and protections of their land. This offers a way to empower marginalized people who do not have the same access to power and resources to stop a forced sale.
Adopting a Uniform Act Will Give NC Families the Best Path Toward Resolution
Alton Perry, CTNC Board Member, is a Forest Management-Land Retention Consultant with the Roanoke Electric Cooperative. He works with landowners to sustainably manage their property through agriculture, forestry, and revenue generation. Below, he shares how the Uniform Act can be a tool to protect families from forced sales that result in land loss.
The UPHPA intent is to ensure due and equitable process of heirs’ property disputes. Many organizations, attorneys, and community-based organizations offer legal assistance to heirs’ property owners. North Carolina legislators and clerks of court, aided by the process created by the Uniform Act, could offer solutions to families and reduce land lost to forced sales, by referring heirs’ property owners to these resources, therefore reducing the number of cases that would result in a forced partition action.
Heirs’ Property Rights is a problem that cuts across rural and urban divides. All families with multigenerational roots could wrestle with these problems. This legislation brings basic fairness, protection of ownership, and a clear and streamlined process for land ownership and land transfers to our state. This helps all people – white owners, marginalized urban populations, and descendants of enslaved people in the South. This will benefit all of North Carolina.
Ways to get involved.
CTNC views the adoption of the Uniform Act as an integral part of our mission to build resilient and just communities through conservation solutions. Without a clear path to prove or resolve ownership of land, NC families lose the ability to leverage their land for conservation and economic value or to access federal relief funds after disasters.
Rusty Painter’s Master of Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University wasn’t the end of his connection to the school and the future of climate protection. He returns each year to present to classes on a variety of topics, from CTNC’s strategic approach to address climate change and more. “I’m motivated by my son and future generations, from whom we are all ‘borrowing’ this planet.”
His background and his master’s degree in forestry are invaluable as Land Protection Director for CTNC. Rusty joined the CTNC family in 2001. He oversees CTNC’s land protection efforts along the Blue Ridge Parkway and our collaborative partnerships with local land trusts. Recent successes include the preservation of the Florence Boyd Home / Asutsi Trailhead Property, and the Cranberry Creek Expansion project, both of which will be transferred to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? The concept of global warming due to the greenhouse effect made sense to me the first time I heard about it, but I guess I really grasped the severity of the problem when Al Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth came out. What a shame that our political, social and economic systems continued to drive us down this path. Think how much progress could have been made over the last 30 years had we committed to solving the problem back then.
What does climate resilience mean to you? Adaptation using a combination of evolution and technology – applying our experience, and projections based on sound science to adapt to our changing climate. We must realize that adaptation isn’t the only path forward. Humans must commit themselves to actions that will minimize the need to adapt, or the extent to which we must adapt.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? One example that I struggle with in my work at CTNC is the expansion of tick habitat. I never used to get ticks while visiting our conservation properties along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but climatic shifts have enabled ticks to colonize areas that were previously too cold, so I’m now getting ticks while out on properties in the mountains. Yuck!
What are actions that organizations in NC can take right now to make our state more resilient? Conserve energy. Simply using less results in immediate reductions of carbon emissions and has the potential to save far more resources (of all kinds) than our slow, incremental conversion to renewable energy sources. I challenge everyone to consider every action they take throughout the day and do it with half of what they currently use. You’ll find it’s not as difficult as you think. That approach can be applied to most organizations, corporations and government agencies as well. Once ingrained in our psyche, daily routines, organizational procedures, and subsequently, our infrastructure, carbon neutrality on a timeline that will make a difference becomes legitimately achievable.
What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action? It’s up to all of us to change our mindset and daily routines, but also to support groups doing good work, and electing leaders committed to making the difficult decisions & changes we must make.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going? I remain optimistic because of the resilience of the human spirit and advancements in technology. Organisms change and adapt…daily, yearly, and over generations. Humans have evolved to the point where we can adapt naturally, like other species, but also use technology to ‘artificially’ adapt. I just hope society is willing to change sooner rather than later, so future generations don’t have to rely on artificial adaptations that will diminish our connection to the natural world.
Mary Alice Holley’s conservation roots run deep. Her dedication to protecting the land on which we live and play is evident to everyone who meets her.
Mary Alice has been with Conservation Trust for North Carolina since 2016 and currently serves as Director of Community Innovation. In her current role, she works with CTNC’s staff, board, and partners to ensure the organization advances its mission to build resilient, just communities for all North Carolinians.
She has built on a long career in nonprofit communications and public relations. She has been at the forefront in helping change the conversation about climate change from oppositional to encouraging a community effort. Prior to joining the organization, she put her B.A. in mass communications and rhetorical writing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to work as she supported conservation organizations throughout the state in building smart communication strategies that better connect supporters to their missions.
During her career, she’s worked on a variety of climate change communications campaigns including the Audubon North Carolina Birds and Climate pilot program and served as the Z. Smith Reynolds Conservation and Climate grant program lead on behalf of North Carolina land trusts. Most recently, she developed a climate communication tool kit in partnership with Land Trust Alliance to provide Southeastern United States land trusts with a guide to engaging their supporters on climate change issues locally and regionally.
When not working to protect the planet, she’s hard at work making her own land more resilient by building rain gardens, pollinator habitats, and a vegetable garden on her 1-acre homestead in Orange County, NC. She also finds time to manage a flock of chickens, 2 dogs, honey bees, and an ever-expanding system of raised garden beds.
She’s incredibly passionate about protecting our state’s communities by managing our water. “For North Carolina – climate change is often thought of as a sea-level rise issue – and I believe this challenge reaches far beyond our coastlines. North Carolina is in the top 10% of states in the United States with land situated along coastlines, rivers, and streams. Our ability to protect our communities and maintain our resilience in the future is wholly reliant on our ability to better manage water quantity and water quality challenges. Water issues will impact every North Carolinian across the state and we have the opportunity to come together as one state to find innovative solutions.”
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? From a young age, I knew changes were occurring with more frequency and severity. I can remember when my hometown was covered in a foot of snow in the middle of spring, or when the Tennessee River was inundated from storms and our community park was underwater for two weeks before the floods receded. These weather events were not at that time normal or expected – but today they are. It took time for me to study environmental issues and to connect these events to global warming and climate change – but once I could identify the root cause of these events, I began to see my role in identifying and implementing solutions. I felt empowered to think about how my actions could either contribute to climate change or contribute to the effort to create a better outcome. Since then, I’ve committed myself to making decisions for myself, my household, my family, and my community that offer solutions to the climate crisis on small and large scales.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? North Carolina has nearly 38,000 miles of river in our state. I have been fortunate enough to paddle many of our rivers and even more of our lakes and marshlands. They’re incredibly beautiful and scenic, but our river systems are also critical to the health of human and natural communities. As climate change brings more frequent and severe storms to our state, these rivers will be our first line of defense to hold water and protect communities from the destruction caused by floods. But that will only happen if we bring together experts, policymakers, and funding resources to evaluate how we can better utilize our rivers as assets to face the climate crisis.
In Princeville, residents and community leaders have been dealing with the threat of floods since its founding. Their position along the Tar River has caused extreme challenges for their residents – but that experience as a town that floods has now positioned them as a leader in the effort to find innovative solutions to live with flooding rivers in the face of climate change. They’re marrying the best of science, technology, and conservation to tackle this challenge head-on and their counterparts in more communities across the state are taking notice. Our climate will continue to change and we will continue to feel those effects, but we can’t let the opportunity pass by to change our habits and policies to better equip ourselves for these future realities.
What actions can organizations in NC take right now to make our state more resilient? A resilient community is one where people are meaningfully engaged and empowered, where leadership is responsive to community needs as defined by its residents, and where its people are able to respond to climate-related disasters by rebuilding or adapting in ways that make them stronger and more prepared for future challenges. What better way for organizations to have an impact than to partner with each other, with funders, elected officials, and local community members with a shared goal to collaborate toward finding and implementing solutions to the climate crisis? We as mission-oriented, community-driven organizations have a responsibility to the people of North Carolina to do whatever we can to increase our resilience because everyone will benefit from this collective effort.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going? I remind myself that every action I take as an individual has an impact on someone else – so why not channel that energy toward being a climate champion and environmental steward? Within my home, my family are all committed to reducing our climate impact by composting our food waste, reducing our energy consumption where possible, growing food for ourselves and our neighbors, and sharing our passion for conservation and environmental stewardship with others. Professionally, I have dedicated my career to supporting initiatives that have a net-positive effect on the climate crisis whether that be educating North Carolinians on the importance of land conservation as a climate solution or helping other organizations communicate about and celebrate their own climate impact successes.
I find energy from modeling my life in ways that can inspire others. If I am able to wake up every day and know I contributed to a national movement to conserve land in ways that absorb more carbon, protect people from the harm of floods, support climate-smart agriculture and farming practices, and increase the number of people who are committed to taking small actions in their everyday lives – I will have been successful. I believe that people’s actions coupled with smart policies will change the course of our climate future.
Do you want Mary Alice to speak at your next event? Contact Mary Alice – email@example.com.
Conservation can provide solutions to many challenges facing our communities. Through innovative conservation strategies, we can build places to hold excess water after storms, protect trees that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and offer places for people to relax for their mental and physical health.
In 2021, North Carolina legislators voted to spend nearly $200 million to support efforts that will allow our state to become more resilient to climate change. We urge our state leaders to repeat this important investment in our state’s natural resources. Only with smart conservation policies will we successfully build resilient communities that are prepared to weather any storm.
CTNC’s Policy Goals include:
Increase public funding for land acquisition, park maintenance, trail construction, and recreation access
Empower communities to invest in flood-resilient strategies
Prevent involuntary land loss caused by forced partition sales of heirs property
Build capacity within communities through AmeriCorps and other service opportunities
These goals will guide our work with policymakers and legislators for the years to come and key outcomes will prepare our state for whatever comes next.
As a member of the Great Trails State Coalition, CTNC will continue to work with members of the General Assembly to bring the economic, health, and environmental benefits of trails to North Carolina communities.
EMPOWERING RESILIENT COMMUNITIES North Carolina communities need greater investments, increased capacity, and a cadre of service-minded people to be successful in implementing the recommendations of Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and Climate Risk and Resilience Plan. CTNC will advocate for the funding and resources that provide every community with the opportunity to benefit from AmeriCorps service that builds capacity and finds innovative conservation solutions to address the issue of climate change. Learn more about Resilience Corps NC.
Land trusts can lead the way in addressing the impacts of climate change and flood risk. Alongside the Land Trust Alliance, CTNC will promote policies and funding that advance natural climate solutions while supporting the protection, restoration and stewardship of open and working lands that increase climate resilience. Read more about Land Trust Alliance’s policy priorities.
PREVENTING INVOLUNTARY LAND LOSS Enacting the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in North Carolina will address how current state laws leave landowners of heirs’ property vulnerable to involuntary land loss. The UPHPA will help families by giving them a solid chance at keeping the land in the family when one or more owners wants to divide or sell the land through a partition action. Currently, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering adoption of the bill that would safeguard families from forced sales through partition action. Read more about the NC Heirs Property Coalition and our effort to adopt the Uniform Act for NC families and landowners.
It All Starts with Collaboration to Seed Better Outcomes CTNC is committed to participating in coalitions to find a better future for our state. Our team is active members of Land for Tomorrow, the Great Trails State Coalition, and the NC Heirs Property Coalition, Conservation Trust for NC. These coalitions advocate for smart conservation policies and adequate funding on behalf of our members, community partners, and collaborative projects.
Join Us As a member of the CTNC community, we hope you will stand with us and advocate for smart conservation policies that allow every North Carolinian to benefit from conservation and get the tools needed to build communities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Since 2017, Conservation Trust for North Carolina Executive Director Chris Canfield has held the helm of the land protection nonprofit organization. He has steered it to face our state’s greatest economic and environmental foe – climate change.
His career path wasn’t always focused on conservation. His logical mind is balanced with a rational heart. After completing a bachelor’s in mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College, he traveled to England to complete a master’s focusing on 20th Century English Literature from the University of Oxford.
His first direct work in mitigating climate change was in his previous role as Vice President for the Mississippi Flyway at the National Audubon Society. He co-led a national coalition supporting climate resilience for the state of Louisiana and also advised on the formulation and rollout of Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report in September 2014.
As the executive director for CTNC, Chris has been asked to sit on numerous climate resilience coalitions and state committees, including the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency’s Steering Committee advising on the creation of a Community Resilience Planning Guide.
Chris is thankful for the foundation laid by the supporters and leaders before him. “I feel fortunate that the conservation work we and all of CTNC’s partners have been doing, long before most of us heard much about climate change, turns out to be an integral part of the needed response. Our preserved natural lands already provide a refuge that wildlife will need and store carbon and hold water in ways crucial for reducing impacts on communities in the future. Of course, we will need to greatly increase the pace of this work now that we understand that linkage to climate change. But we are already pointed in the right direction.”
When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change? Like so many of us with long careers in conservation, I knew climate change was a threat decades ago. But what turned that parts-per-million into people-per-place was my return in 2010 to my childhood home state of Louisiana. There I led Audubon’s response to the BP oil spill disaster. I soon discovered that the place I spent the first ten years of my life was changing dramatically and rapidly. It is no longer theoretical when you see land disappearing at the rate of a football field every hour and see people displaced a hundred miles inland. Returning to North Carolina years later, I felt I had to share the story of what I had seen and learned. I would often hear, “yes, but Louisiana is a very different state.” And in so many ways, I, of course, agreed. But enough was similar to a coastal state in the hurricane zone not to give up on pushing for a massive mobilization in North Carolina to mitigate against and adapt to the changes coming.
What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action? Climate change is not just an issue of science; it is an issue of community. Without strong intentions to change the reality, climate change will further stratify us into communities with more resources and options and those with markedly fewer. So any process for responding to its effects equitably has to bring all community voices to the table.
What does climate resilience mean to you? Climate impacts are asking us to see resilience in environmental terms, but also social and economic ones. If we meet the challenge with that broad view, communities can end up not just able to survive the next hurricane, but actually fairer and more cohesive places for people in their everyday lives.
How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina? It is increasingly well documented that we have more and stronger hurricanes and other storms and increasing droughts in North Carolina as a result of climate change. Those make the headlines. But personally, I see it in the shift in birds in my backyard, the timing of their arrival and nesting and migration. The changes in our gardening season and hardiness zone are likewise very real. I also see it (and feel it) in the increase in pollen, which has a longer and more intense season. And many places in the state I know and love that only thought about flooding in extreme conditions now see standing water and inundations without seeming direct causes – so-called “sunny day flooding.”
What are actions that organizations in NC can take right now to make our state more resilient? The most important thing is acknowledging that this is happening and that we need to respond. I’m happy to see the 2021 legislative session in North Carolina embrace reality and support more than $200 million in planning and implementation of projects to help improve the state’s resilience. Of course, that is only a down payment. Louisiana has already committed to a 50-year, $50 billion plan. Many there acknowledge even that isn’t enough. Studies show that as high as those price tags sound, failing to plan and act now will cost many, many times more in damages later. And I’m convinced that we can also create economic resilience through climate resilience work.
Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going? First, I try to minimize the blame and shame part of climate change work because we all are complicit out of ignorance or denial in getting us here, and second because it is exhausting. I’d rather expend the energy on working together toward solutions that help build that more resilient North Carolina community by community. That is why the work with the people of Princeville is so important to me. Together we are creating a model that we believe many other communities can be inspired by and follow. On a tough day, just thinking about the resilience and hopes of the people of Princeville gets me up and at work again.
Do you want Chris to collaborate with your organization on climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation solutions or speak at your next event? Contact Chris – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.