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Preparing People for Climate Change in California: Sonoma County Listens and Shares

Last summer Bob Doppelt asked me to join a planning committee for a conference on climate change.  I was surprised to be asked as my recent professional expertise is tied to addressing childhood adversity.  Bob changed my perspective on the relevance by saying, "Adversity and trauma are the social side effects of climate-related disasters.  Imagine the social-emotional impacts on Katrina survivors."  The connection was a glimmer in my mind, but I agreed to support a California conference.  Little did I know how incredibly relevant this topic would become in my life - wildfires took 5,000 homes in my community just a few short months later.  

When the Preparing People for Climate Change in California conference came round in January, I was much more open to Bob's urging to help prepare California for the social-emotional impacts of climate change.  In fact, his compelling case for supporting Transformational Resilience helped me "find purpose and get present" as I struggled to overcome my own trauma related to our Sonoma County wildfire disaster.  (Slides here.)  I also appreciated the way he demonstrated these difficult experiences could actually present an opportunity through his presentation on "Using Climate Adversities as Transformational Catalysts to Increase Personal, Social, and Ecological Wellbeing." 

Other workshops such as:

Dr. Brenda Ingram on Integrating Resilience Building and Trauma Informed Approaches with Cultural Humility in Communities of Color. Moderator: Holly White-Wolfe, Program Planning Evaluation Analyst, Sonoma County Human Services Department, and Conference Planning Group Member


Dr. Maryam Kia-Keating on Empowering Communities to Build Resilience Using Participatory and Human-Centered Approaches. Moderator: Trudy Townsend, Conference Host and ITRC Steering Committee member

offered insights for how to use these experiences to heal communities and uplift community member voices and cultures as part of the transformative experience.

I shared Sonoma County's perspective during a panel session on Building Resilience Within Children and Families in California with Dana Brown.

The conference presenters and workshops were amazing, but it was the conference participants I'll never forget.  I sat at a table with several college students, whose enthusiasm and stories gave me hope that the trying times ahead may yet be something we can endure as a society. 

Ryan urged the conference attendees to make human connections as a first step in our transformation, and offered to lead an activity to help us unite our voices and experience a deeper connection.  He called us outside to the busy sidewalk in Oakland in front of the California Endowment.  He instructed us to clap and hum, giving us the space to tap into our own feelings with a healthful, artful expression.  He then led us in a heartfelt call and response of Rachel Schragis's "The Same Thing."  I felt truly vulnerable as we sang out the song, and honored to be part of the circle of people that formed. Ryan was right - singing gave us a palpable connection.

Jeremy, a medical student/ social justice major at Berkeley and University of San Francisco State, talked with me about the Sonoma Fires.  He offered to use Sonoma as the focus of his required research for his graduate program. I later learned that this impressive young man has battled several bouts of brain cancer, but continues to live a life of service.

Another student told me about her experience living at the co-housing/intentional community "Work that Reconnects Ecovillage" with conference presenter Johanna Macy. Folks living in Ecovillage uphold this vision:  "To decolonize our minds, hearts and behaviors of hyper-individualism, separation and competition, realizing that we really do belong to one another, that we’re all part of the web of life and that humans need to re-inhabit the earth in ways that are not destructive."

Each of these young activists sought to connect deeply with their communities, were clear about their own purpose, and each were finding ways to cope and connect during difficult times.  

I'm ready to make some changes in life become even more present and purposeful myself.  Would you like to join me? Start with Bob's Introduction to the Resilient Growth Model for Transformational Resilience attached.  If you like what you see and want to teach others, read this blog posts on Bob's upcoming San Francisco training: 


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