The mundane side of adaptation
Our street has trees all down one side (they hide the tiny railway track). They glow green in the Spring and are brilliant yellows and oranges in the Autumn, and they’re fantastic. But they do drop leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. When the council had a lot of money that wasn’t an issue, because street-cleaners would appear, and the leaves would magically disappear.
Now though, the council is having to make cuts (sorry, ‘savings’) to a great deal of services, and leaf clearing doesn’t count as a priority. This is mildly irritating but nothing more, until we get heavy rains, like today. Today I’ve spent a couple of hours unblocking the now half-decayed leaves from drains, and trying to stop the flood covering the entire road. Which got me thinking about the mundane side of adapting to climate change. We often talk about natural flood management, or sustainable urban drainage when we think about flood risk, but just as important are the basic maintenance activities; keeping drains unblocked, or filling potholes so heavy rains don’t make the road deteriorate. These are the things that form the foundations of our capacity to manage the risks from extreme weather – yet they're just the type of activity which gets cut when money is tight and the ideology calls for austerity. And they’re also the sort of thing which probably doesn’t get considered under the banner of adaptation to climate change. There are quite a few roads underwater in Bristol today. Leaves blocking drains aren’t the only reason, but it can’t have helped!
All of which is to say that there are a lot of mundane and basic actions which contribute towards adaptation – something which I think we have a tendency to overlook when talking about ‘capacity’ for adaptation. The practical side of ensuring that a city has the money available to carry out these activities is an interesting one; adaptation finance for leaf clearing anyone?