Turbulent Futures symposium tackles water conservation and climate change

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Session two of the Turbulent Futures symposium was titled “Responses to Climate Change” and featured three speakers who each offered their perspectives on the intersection between water conservation and combating climate change.

Paul Steinberg, professor of political science and environmental policy at Harvey Mudd College, presented his thoughts about institutions and their roles in determining environmental policy. Drawing on years of research in Costa Rica, a country with extensive conservationist institutions, Steinberg argued that environmental change could only occur effectively if social attitudes favored environmentalism. Such change, he added, was most likely in a society where institutions offered methods for the public to exercise pressure on policymakers.

Alex Leumer, a researcher and organizer for the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy, offered her views on natural climate solutions in California. Among these are plans to reclaim natural areas such as wetlands and coastland from development and economic uses and to rehabilitate the environments therein, conserving both water, flora and fauna. Exemplifying this mission is the Cosumnes River Preserve, near Sacramento, which was set up by The Nature Conservancy and six other groups to protect local wildlife.

Owned by these seven groups, the 50,000 acres of land were bought from local farmers and have since been the subject of extensive protection and revitalization efforts. Leumer emphasized that her organization was very involved in advising legislators on policy issues and enjoyed successes such as S.B. 379 or Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-30-15, both of which implemented regulations mandating environmental planning for any development projects in the state.

Heather Dyer, a project manager with the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, outlined her perspectives on species conservation by way of water reallocation and conservation. Focusing on threatened species of fish endemic to the Santa Ana River, Dyer’s work in the San Bernardino and Riverside counties aims to revive and support habitats as well as habitat creation for local species while offering an ecologically friendly, sustainable and economically viable way for local companies to conduct business in designated protected areas. By reviving tributary streams along the Santa Ana River, Dyer and her team hope to extend the distribution of local wildlife species dependent on the river, and reduce the potential of species extinction. The aforementioned cooperation with businesses operating in the area, such as Southern California Edison, is facilitated by subsidies and makes successful water conservation an important goal for all involved.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you to the UCR student organizers for putting on such a wonderful event! Anyone interested in following research in environmental politics and institutions is welcome to learn more at the website of The Social Rules Project.

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