Through a collaboration with Indiana University students at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 11 new case studies have been added to the Environmental Resilience Institute Toolkit (ERIT).
The project is the result of a course, taught by O’Neill Assistant Professor Aaron Deslatte and adjunct instructor Scott Burgins, introducing students to how local governments can increase their community’s resilience to climate change impacts through planning. As part of the course, the students worked with Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) staff to write case studies about local governments in Indiana and the Midwest that have implemented resilience initiatives in their communities.
The case studies focused on projects conducted by local governments in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio and featured a variety of resilience initiatives, such as teaching students about climate change, preparing a community for the effects of drought, conducting an assessment on how climate change will impact public health, and more.
To create the case studies, students interviewed local government staff to document how the projects were executed and the results so far. After drafting the case studies, the students worked with ERI staff to publish them to ERIT to serve as a resource for other local governments who are looking to implement similar projects.
Sadie Neuman, an O’Neill graduate student, researched and wrote about a program in St. Louis Park, Minnesota helping residents install green infrastructure on their property. The experience provided her with insight into how smaller local governments function, she said.
“It gave me a deep dive into a local government working on a resilience project. Learning how St. Louis Park does things compared to other local governments I’ve worked in reinforced the idea that every local government is going to be different, and we need to understand that when approaching climate resilience work,” Neuman said.
Now Neuman is applying what she learned to create a web application and community resources to help small and medium communities with green infrastructure initiatives. She said her motivation came from discovering common challenges that many stormwater coordinators in smaller local governments face, which include a lack of accessible technical and community planning resources and restrictions in staff capacity. “My work was directly sparked by this ERIT project,” she said, “and working on the case study gave me the confidence and assurance I needed to pursue it.”
In addition to the case studies, the students also helped write 20 new implication pages for ERIT. These pages contain information about what climate change impacts Indiana and the Midwest are likely to face and what that will mean for communities.
The following case studies were created as part of the course:
- Cedar Rapids, IA implements best management practices to improve water quality, soil health, and flood mitigation
- Cincinnati creates an air quality advisory action plan for city operations
- Cincinnati energy aggregation program reduces utility costs and supports renewable energy
- Fishers, Indiana measures greenhouse gas emissions to plan for reduction strategies
- Jennings County, Indiana creates 600 new pollinator habitat locations
- Ramsey County and Saint Paul, Minnesota conduct a public health and climate change vulnerability assessment
- Regional watershed council protects Michigan lakes using septic system policies
- The City of Decatur, Illinois implements drought mitigation efforts to protect their water supply and economy
- The City of Evanston Sustainability Office launches interactive activity for students to learn about climate change
- The City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota increases green infrastructure on residential properties
- The People’s Planning Academy in Indianapolis educates underrepresented residents about city planning