Climate Action - A Snapshot of Philly in March 2023
Written by Chair of Urban Design Committee, Sophia Lee
At the latest IPCC Report launch, UN Secretary General António Guterres proclaimed that "our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once." As I reflect upon AIA Philly's March theme on Climate Action, I can't agree more. And as I have watched the activities of AIA Philly this past month, I also take hope that many good people around the world are indeed doing everything they can in their power to ensure our collective survival together.
For example, AIA Philly and Center for Architecture spearheaded the BUILDPhilly Mayoral Forum, an incredible coalition of organizations involved in the built environment. We asked questions related to global warming causing damage to buildings and infrastructure that disproportionately impacts low-income communities, and how the mayoral candidates planned to address these issues. We highlighted potential projects to reconnect communities historically destroyed by infrastructure, and each candidate endorsed the Roosevelt Blvd subway project. In this way, this coalition brought to the forefront the importance of not just the importance of preventative climate adaptation (compared with the exponentially more expensive disaster relief required afterwards), but also equitable climate justice.
The following week, AIA Philly Urban Design Committee invited Jacobs engineers to share a program about Commercial Diving,  and how divers work to ensure the safety of urban infrastructure on the waterfront. We also learned that Commercial Diving has a surprising link to both WWII and off-shore wind farms. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) trained divers must ensure that WWII ocean mines - planted to ward against German submarines - are not present where future wind turbine foundations will stand. I was incredibly encouraged to learn that smart, highly-trained folks were involved in this process of building our renewable energy future.
This past weekend, many Philadelphians were surprised with push notifications informing them about a chemical spill in Bristol that might contaminate the Baxter water treatment plant. We had just finished reading chapter 7: Shortages of Fresh Water in the Urban Design Committee book club, Managing the Climate Crisis, which became soberingly relevant, all too soon. We had just read that fracking and other oil extraction processes can cause ground water contamination, and now every Philadelphian can feel all too personally that the plastics production process can also contaminate fresh water through accidents in the manufacturing process. As a result of reading this book, I realized that truly, we need to address the issue at the crux of the problem, which is halting fossil fuel extraction and use altogether, because this type of problem will always be present with continued fossil fuel and product dependence. And it will always harm communities of lower income more harshly because they will have fewer economic means of dealing with the disasters that come.
Reasons for Hope and Takeaways
I've heard from some folks in the book club a lot of frustration and deepening anxiety over the scale of the problem in so many different spheres. Oddly, I've been going the opposite direction, towards hope. Partly this hope results from increasing clarity in the actions we must take, and that I as an individual can support. First, our climate-ready future must be equitably built. We cannot continue to allow climate change to disproportionately impact lower-income communities, and we are making these demands known through collaborative efforts like BUILDPhilly. Second, good people are working on solutions in every sphere, even spheres that folks may not have ever considered before. I take great hope from this. Third, my biggest takeaway from reflecting upon this past month: we must address our climate issue at the crux of the problem, which is fossil fuel dependence. Not knowing where to even start with the climate problem has been a personal source of anxiety, but reading Managing the Climate Crisis has been helping to clarify this root cause. With clarity comes focus, with focus a plan can be made, and a plan can be followed. And we will continue to do everything in our power within our personal spheres, together to build a climate-ready and equitable future.
 BUILDPhilly logo from <https://www.buildphilly.org/>
 Roosevelt Subway map from <https://whyy.org/articles/philly-roosevelt-blvd-subway-project-town-hall-state-rep-jared-solomon/> which got it from @BlvdSubway/Twitter
 Photo of diver from Jacobs, by Benjamin Sheppard.
 "Middelgrunden_wind_farm_2009-07-01_edit_filtered", Wikimedia, photo by Kim Hansen.
 "German_type_IX_submarine_docking_at_Tromsø,_Norway,_during_World_War_II_(NH_71374)", public domain, accessed through Wikimedia
 Push notification, personal cellphone, Sophia Lee.
 Book Cover, Island Press website.
 Concept Diagram, personal hand sketch, Sophia Lee.
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