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Geos Institute helps communities build resilience in the face of climate change

From the Executive Director

From the April 2024 Cornerstone Newsletter

The first few months of 2024 have been busy! Our Southeast Navigators have fanned out across Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida to help at-risk communities build climate resilience. It’s a sight to behold. 

In this time of unprecedented federal investment in disadvantaged communities, the landscape of technical support, funding, and capacity building assistance is a hot mess. New programs are coming online almost daily and leaders in at-risk communities simply do not have the time to work their way through the maze to find the help they so desperately need.

At the same time we are being approached by many organizations asking for help finding communities that are well suited to their programs. This is surprising, but also not surprising. These organizations have great programs, but have trouble connecting with the communities that could benefit from their help the most. It is a common refrain we hear from our resilience partners.

Enter our Navigators.

Their job in the Southeast is to help communities that have received the 72 Community Disaster Resilience Zone designations across the four states build resilience. They find out from the community what it is trying to do and then journey into the maze of resources to help local leaders find and take advantage of the programs that can help them. Communities lead the way and our Navigators help them get where they need to go.

Early reports from the communities our Navigators are helping are promising. So promising, in fact, that we are working to expand the Navigator Network nationwide. More on that soon.

In a world increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change, the need for resilient communities has never been greater. To address this pressing issue, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched the Climate-Smart Communities Initiative (CSCI). This groundbreaking initiative establishes a public-private partnership among the NOAA-led U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit and private sector adaptation specialists, aiming to pave the way for a more climate-resilient nation.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 22, 2023

For media inquiries, please contact:
Tonya Graham (; 541-482-4459 x301)

Ashland, Oregon — The Geos Institute has been honored with the third annual Lightship Prize for climate action by a private Midwest foundation. This prestigious award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of climate action, comes as a testament to the Geos Institute’s unwavering commitment to addressing the pressing issue of climate change.

The foundation, which became acquainted with the Geos Institute through their collaboration with Climate Ready Missoula, was impressed by the Institute’s Climate Ready Communities program, which played a pivotal role in the development of a comprehensive climate resilience plan.

When it comes to preparing for and mitigating the impact of natural disasters, collaboration and coordination across all levels of government and various sectors are essential. Recognizing this need, the Community Disaster Resilience Zones (CDRZ) Act, passed with bipartisan support in December 2022, represents a significant stride towards building disaster resilience across the nation.

Driving Resources to Vulnerable Communities

The primary goal of the Community Disaster Resilience Zones Act is to channel federal, public, and private resources toward underserved communities that are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards. These communities often lack the support and resources needed to enhance their resilience. On September 6, 2023, FEMA took a crucial step forward by announcing the initial designations of 483 CDRZs. For more information and to view an interactive map, visit the FEMA webpage.

April 19, 2023

Dear friends, colleagues and supporters,

We at the Geos Institute are deeply saddened by the untimely loss of our long-time former board member, Bill Bradbury. Bill passed away on April 14th due to complications in his long battle with Multiple Sclerosis while traveling with his wife, Katy Eymann.

Bill began his decades-long public service in the Oregon Legislature, first as a Representative and then as a Senator. After retiring from the Legislature, Bill was appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to replace retiring Phil Keisling as Secretary of State. Bill was also appointed to serve on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Bill’s notable accomplishments include directing “For the Sake of Salmon” with tireless efforts to rescue threatened Salmon runs statewide. Yet another project Bill undertook was as one of Al Gore’s first “Climate Warriors”, having been trained by Al and going on to train many more!

This Oregonian article touches on much of his extraordinary legacy, embracing other areas as well, including voter registration, leading Oregon to be the first state to adopt mail-in voting, and so much more.

Geos Institute benefited tremendously from Bill’s lengthy service on our Board of Directors, where he brought exuberance and passion to climate and other environmental deliberations, with ever-present positive energy and encouragement, and light-hearted humor, tempered with the sage advice of a veteran.

His passing will not eclipse the enduring radiance of his joyful, youthful spirit, which lives on in those who knew and loved him, as well as with each nascent run of wild salmon up the cool coastal rivers of Oregon.

As our Executive Director Tonya Graham so beautifully put it: “The world has lost a bit of its sunshine.”

And so indeed… Shine On, Bill!!

With gratitude,

James Ince
Board of Directors, Geos Institute
Ashland, Oregon

On January 23, 2023 Geos Institute submitted comments to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality regarding their Community Climate Investments Program. The OR DEQ issued a Request for Information to gain insights for how to best structure this program. The comments submitted by the Geos Institute included

  • Recommending awarded entities demonstrate strong connections to environmental justice organizations in the communities they will serve;
  • Flexibility in project types;
  • Seeking out projects with co-benefits and those that address other community concerns;
  • Supporting organizations with the administrative tasks of the program;
  • Promoting innovative partnerships

Read the full comments here.

From the December 2022 Cornerstone Network Email

The past few months have been a whirlwind as we worked to bring our Climate Ready America system of climate services to fruition! And, because of that effort, I have much to report:

Support from Federal Agencies

In October, we worked with the NOAA Climate Program Office to host a gathering of federal climate resilience programs ahead of the National Adaptation Forum. In this half-day workshop, agencies helped identify the challenges of getting federal money to the ground where it is needed most.

To close out the day, we shared the details of Climate Ready America. Across the board the agency representatives agreed that Climate Ready America would help to more effectively deploy their climate programs and better understand emerging needs in communities.

After almost two years of working to develop this initiative from the ground up, we are energized by the strong support from the federal agencies. It reinforced that we understand what is needed and that Climate Ready America will meet that need.

From the October 2022 Cornerstone Network Email

A preview of our Climate Ready America poster for the National Adaptation Forum

Members of our team are about to head to Baltimore for the National Adaptation Forum. As I write this message, we are putting the final touches on a pre-conference workshop we are co-hosting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Program Office.

This workshop will bring together climate resilience leaders and federal agencies to discuss getting the new federal investments to ground where they are needed most. On the agenda is a presentation about Climate Ready America. We want to hear from federal agencies about how this initiative can help them do their work more effectively.

From the August 2022 Cornerstone Network Email

The great news: As you no doubt saw, Congress last week passed legislation that included the largest investment in climate change to date. In a move not unlike nabbing Al Capone on tax evasion charges, the title of this bill doesn’t address climate change. While it is officially called the Inflation Reduction Act, given what is in it, we might expect it to be called the American Climate Action Act. But names don’t matter. What does matter is what is in it – investments that put the US on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. While still shy of the call to action by the International Panel on Climate Change, this target is a very good start.

From the May 2022 Cornerstone Network Newsletter

I have spent the last few weeks putting the final touches on a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Maui County, Hawai‘i, with a focus on the three populated islands of Maui, Lana‘i, and Moloka‘i. It has been a sobering experience to see how these small islands are facing climate change impacts that threaten to transform their communities – and not in good ways.  

The obvious risk in Hawai’i is sea level rise, but that’s just the beginning. Trade winds, which bring moisture and help cool the inland areas, have decreased markedly in recent years. For Maui County, climate change means increasing drought, wildfire, larger hurricanes, bigger floods, coral reef loss, invasive species explosions, and potentially massive supply chain problems, including for food. It also means severe disruption for the cultural foods, practices, and burial grounds of Native Hawaiians.

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