Social Connectedness Can Boost Climate Resilience, Study Reveals

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Social connectedness can boost climate resilience, study reveals

The poor,  traditionally disadvantaged, and underrepresented communities and social groups are those typically identified as more vulnerable to the impact of climate change because they lack the resources to make them more resilient to extreme events.

For instance, they don’t usually have enough money to buy air conditioning, a piece of crucial equipment to avoid the fatal effects of scorching temperatures or heatwaves, not being able to move outside of flood zones, purchase flood insurance – resources that could reduce the impacts of extreme weather.

In the United States, a community-based organisation, Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW) and some faculty members of Tufts University, a private research university in Greater Boston, conducted a research project to understand better how social connections play a role in people’s preparing for extreme events.

In partnership with CREW, the researchers identified neighbourhoods in Boston that are most at risk for future climate emergencies and resilience hubs – community institutions such as public transit stops, schools, town halls, libraries, hospitals, houses of worship, and so on that can inform residents on extreme weather preparedness, and climate change impacts.

The study points out that the availability and accessibility of these resilience hubs can lessen vulnerability and increase the resilience of residents.

They conducted the research in Chinatown and Grove Hall from January to June 2022. Residents in these areas belong to the low-income bracket and are identified as more vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.

The research goal was to boost social connections in the most climate-vulnerable communities in Boston.

Researchers asked a sample of residents the following questions:

  • How socially connected do they feel within their community?
  • What are the differences in such feelings across various demographic dimensions (age, race, income, religion, neighbourhood, smartphone use, etc.)?
  • What are the factors that can strengthen or weaken this social connectedness?

Through the interviews and various data-gathering approaches, they learned of residents’ lack of awareness of extreme weather resources. They must be informed of these resources available in the community.

Although some people choose not to get support, and some do not feel supported, this is not an excuse for the lack of knowledge of these support systems.

Along with the formal support systems, the study finds that informal support systems are equally impactful to residents.

These informal support groups include neighbours, church communities, and workplace environments – connections they can rely upon or contact during emergencies.

Therefore, residents need to maintain high social relationships within their community.

For residents to maintain a high social connection within their community, the study recommends the following:

  • Ensuring diverse political representation in local government can encourage cultural competence and makes citizens share their voice in local affairs;
  • Work of community-based organisations such as CREW – holding community events, educational workshops, overcoming divisions, etc. can also improve social connectedness;
  • Provide opportunities to educate community members about skills, tools, and opportunities to think broadly/systematically “around” climate change and social resilience.
  • Lastly, “In addition, and in parallel, cities must focus on developing and delivering mechanisms to measure, promote and increase social connectedness. This project is the first step in that direction, and we plan to continue this important line of work over the coming years.”

Read the entire study by clicking on the link below.

Extreme Weather and Social Connectedness: A report to the Tisch College Community Research Center

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