Cornelia Flora

Climate change affects all of us, from Iowa to the Dominican Republic. Without climate-friendly action at all levels, flooding and volatile weather changes will hurt our local vegetation, agriculture, wildlife and the livelihoods of our communities.

Climate change affects all of us, and we can learn from other communities around the world how to build resilience right 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 change resilience in twenty local communities across five countries. One of the big lessons from this project is that there is a wide variety of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, which are often unique to each community.

 

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 effects are caused by changes in the water cycle due to climate change, and they 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 climate change 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 climate change. Success of these Adaptation Coalitions show that action at the local level is effective and addresses the unique climate-change related 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. Unfortunately, many of the things that can make a difference against climate change are stymied by what is going on at the state and federal level, particularly regarding deregulation and lack of enforcement of the rules and regulation that are in place. The federal government needs to step up and prioritize climate change. Additionally, it’s more important than ever to address climate change on a local scale as well, especially since our own community members are familiar with the ways we’re vulnerable to its effects. As an example, my family and I are actively involved with our local Climate Action Team to work on lowering greenhouse gases and enhancing the environment at the county and city level.


Climate change affects all of us, from Iowa to the Dominican Republic. Without climate-friendly action at all levels, flooding and volatile weather changes will hurt our local vegetation, agriculture, wildlife and the livelihoods of our communities.

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