April 21, 2010  |  Rising Currents
Rising Currents: The Impact of “Glocal”

Tidal flooding at the edge of shops and homes in Can Tho, Vietnam (one of the Rockefeller Foundation ACCCRN cities). Photo courtesy Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio

At the opening of the Rising Currents exhibition at MoMA, curator Barry Bergdoll used the word “glocal” to describe the impact of this exhibition. At first I thought I misheard, but then I realized he meant that the exhibition was part of the growing global grassroots movement to address the impact of climate change with smart, local solutions.

Local governments and civil society groups around the world are starting to “Ask the Climate Question” about what differences in everyday decisions it will take to make their communities more resilient in the face of climate change impacts. So instead of being immobilized by the fear of insurmountable climate problems or by the urgency of day-to-day challenges, they are finding a multitude of creative and innovative solutions that they can implement today to reduce current and future risks and costs. In most cases they are finding that these measures make their cities more livable, greener, safer, equitable, and productive now as a result.

Walking and riding through tidal flooding in Can Tho, Vietnam (one of the Rockefeller Foundation ACCCRN cities). Photo courtesy Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio

For instance, Durban, South Africa, has developed a Municipal Adaptation Plan and is testing different community-based approaches to climate adaptation. The rapidly growing city of Surat, India—a member of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network—has just launched a design competition aimed at developing disaster-resilient housing and planning solutions for residents living in areas in danger of high levels of flooding. This May, Bonn, Germany will be the site of Resilient Cities: the First World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change, a meeting hosted by Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), to share ideas and brainstorm about what measures to take. ICLEI is an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local government organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

In the U.S., cities are also creating climate action plans. For example, Chicago’s plan includes priority measures to reduce the impacts of heat waves, poor air quality, and flooding, and the local government is engaging community groups and businesses in finding innovative solutions to climate challenges. New York City is a leader on this issue with Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and the city’s own Panel on Climate Change, comprised of leading local experts on climate change and modeled after the Nobel Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Storm cloud over Bangkok, Thailand (where Rockefeller Foundation has a regional office). Photo courtesy Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio

These cities are all making wise investments that will pay off today and long into the future. So, yes, the Rising Currents exhibition is a “glocal” phenomenon—one that is engaging architects, planners, designers, community groups, NGOs, foundations, and businesses across the globe to find positive local solutions to a problem that will unfortunately be with us for decades to come.