From Iowa to the Dominican Republic, people around the world suffer from flooding and extreme weather. If we don’t prepare for them, these volatile events will hurt our local economies, agriculture, wildlife and the livelihoods of our communities.
We can learn from other communities around the world how to build resilience to severe storms and flooding that also occur here in Iowa. I am a sociologist and Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor Emerita at Iowa State University, specializing in rural agricultural communities and economies. My experiences have taken me to Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, where I researched climate resilience in twenty local communities across five countries. One of the big lessons from this project is that communities around the world experience unique vulnerabilities and impacts to extreme weather events.
We spent time in La Descubierta, a small town in the Dominican Republic that is reminiscent of many Iowan towns. Located near Lake Enriquillo, the town’s residents are affected by flooding from rising water levels and more frequent hurricanes, as well as a longer dry season. These events threaten the mainly agricultural, livestock-based livelihoods of the community. La Descubierta’s specific local conditions and unique economic, environmental and social factors mean that it is vulnerable to flooding in a particular way. Because of this, it was crucial for residents to form a local response.
The formation of Adaptation Coalitions, which are alliances between community and outside groups, allowed La Descubierta and the other communities we studied to mobilize local and external resources and bring people together in order to build resilience against flooding. Success of these Adaptation Coalitions show that action at the local level is effective and addresses the unique challenges faced by our communities.
What’s happening in Iowa is eerily similar to the situation in La Descubierta. The increasingly frequent and devastating flooding events we’ve seen have destroyed our farms and towns. The economic impacts of these events are enormous, as members of our own communities can attest. We urgently need to implement flood and storm-resistant infrastructure to protect our communities and economies, because extreme weather will continue to worsen. From Iowa to the Dominican Republic, people around the world suffer from flooding and extreme weather. If we don’t prepare for them, these volatile events will hurt our local economies, agriculture, wildlife and the livelihoods of our communities.