McCormack Speaks

September 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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We Can Improve Coastal Communities as We Protect Them

by Rebecca Herst, Director of the UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, and Paul Kirshen, Professor at the School for the Environment and Academic Director

The best way to protect Boston from rising seas is through “shore-based solutions.” Two of the authors of a recent report explain what that means, and how such solutions can yield benefits for communities

One of the biggest challenges facing Greater Boston is coastal flooding. As weather gets more extreme and sea levels continue to rise, this is a challenge that government and business leaders, researchers, and communities are working together to solve.

Against this challenge, many had placed hope in the idea of a harbor barrier as a silver bullet for protecting neighborhoods. Our organization, the Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston, recently conducted the first feasibility analysis of this concept. We concluded that a harbor barrier would face serious technical challenges and not be worth the massive investment required. Another option is shore-based solutions – which the City is already beginning to implement, and which can include physical measures such as elevated green spaces, raised boardwalks or deployable floodwalls and policy solutions such as changes to zoning. We found that, compared to a harbor-wide barrier, shore-based solutions are vastly more cost-effective, and that they also provide significant “co-benefits” – i.e., positive community outcomes in addition to keeping Boston safe from coastal flooding.

While it was outside the scope of this study to explore the extent of these potential co-benefits, we have been working with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing in East Boston and other partners to explore the potential of shore-based solutions. Through this work and success stories in other cities, we have found that if shore-based solutions are implemented thoughtfully, they can significantly improve quality of life and access to important resources and opportunities. Some of these benefits can include:

  • Protection against rising temperatures. Shore-based solutions provide an opportunity for increased tree cover and green infrastructure in neighborhoods that deal with urban “heat island” impacts likely to intensify over the course of the century.
  • More democratic participation in the development of the future of the city. With a strong public process in place, communities can decide how to protect their neighborhoods and co-create solutions using a wide variety of physical (e.g. parks, protective greenery, floodable basketball courts, etc.) or policy tools.
  • Engagement and targeted investment in local business. These community processes can be opportunities to engage local expertise and business leaders, including helping identify opportunities to target investments in local efforts that, historically, may have lacked access to funding, such as women- and minority-owned businesses.
  • Flexibility, creativity, and innovation in public realm planning – with less risk. Parks and other adaptation features can be built in a modular way that allows for iterative learning and more investment later.
  • Economic development through “climate tourism.” People around the world could look to Boston for our innovative approaches to adaptation through popular harbor tourist spaces.

Creating a resilient city isn’t easy and none of these benefits is a given. In fact, research has shown that, if we are not careful, our attempts to address climate change can even exacerbate social and economic inequities that already exist. For example, green infrastructure investments can accelerate gentrification, making it challenging for the people who advocated for new investments to stay in their neighborhood. As we develop climate change policies we need to have a holistic approach which, in this case, could include preserving and even increasing affordable housing.

We at SSL are particularly interested in how these climate adaptation investments can be leveraged to safeguard the region’s most vulnerable populations. We will be exploring these topics in future research and invite you to subscribe to our email list to learn more. Many questions around financing, governance, and project sequencing remain, but with continued cooperation, we can work together to ensure resilience planning supports communities while protecting them.

***This article originally appeared in an article published on the website of The Barr Foundation here and has been republished on McCormack Speaks with permission.

June 26, 2017
by justinmaher
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Dean Cash Testifies at MA Legislature in Support of Carbon Pricing Policies

By David W. Cash, Dean of the John W. McCormack School of Policy and Global Studies

Dean Cash provides testimony in support of carbon pricing policies at the Massachusetts legislature, June 20, 2017

Dean Cash provides testimony at the MA legislature. Photo: Bill Ravanesi ©2017. 

On June 20, I had the honor to testify before the Massachusetts Legislature Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy in support of policies that would establish carbon pricing.  Establishing a carbon fee will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have many economic benefits — driving innovation, playing to Massachusetts’ strengths in technology development and entrepreneurship, creating economic equity, boosting clean energy economic development and providing the most cost-effective path to reach our mandated emissions targets.

You can listen to my testimony and read the full statement below.


Continue Reading →

February 14, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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Getting to a New Normal: Reflections on Resilience Following Hurricane Matthew

A guest blog by J. Cedric Woods, PhD
Director, Institute for New England Native American Studies, UMass Boston

Aftermath of Hurricane MatthewGrowing up in Robeson County, North Carolina, particularly as a Lumbee Indian, I always knew the Lumber River, our river, was the dominant part of our landscape. It shaped a significant part of our history, serving as a source of food, recreation, and refuge during times of war.

I also knew that as heavily as we relied on it, it had the potential to cause great distress as well. I had seen it flood its banks and some of our roads as a child, and knew that it earned its older name “Drowning Creek.”

However, none of this prepared me for what I experienced in October 2016 with Hurricane Matthew. Continue Reading →

February 14, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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A Cavalcade of Controversies: Trump’s Domestic and Foreign Policy Agendas

Policy roundtableA recent Boston Globe columnist, reporting on President Donald Trump’s first few weeks in the White House, described recent events as “a cavalcade of controversies.” What an astute (and alliterative) observation.

As part of encouraging broader discussions of this new policy landscape, the McCormack Graduate School recently partnered with the College of Liberal Arts at UMass Boston to host two policy roundtables to discuss President Trump’s domestic and foreign policy agendas.

We invite you to read about our analyses, watch the videos, and engage in the national chatter by sharing your comments on this blog.

The Trump Administration: Domestic Policy Roundtable

Read the news story

Watch the video

The Trump Administration: Foreign Policy Roundtable

Read the news story

Watch the video

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