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Nature and Our Future: Part 1

January 26, 2013

The panelists © Green New Yorkers

I have been really fortunate to live in two of the greatest cities in the world; New Delhi in India and New York in the US at present.

I cannot believe the number of events and activities that go on in this city, especially when it comes to something quintessential to our survival. The latest in this line is the ‘Nature and Our Future’ series.This is a joint initiative of The New York Academy of Sciences and Science at The Nature Conservancy. This is a three part series and the first one was titled “Adapting Cities to Climate Change in a Post-Sandy World”, which took place on Thursday, January 24, 2013.

I am presenting my observations and summary of the first lecture here as briefly as possible. You can read about the event online by clicking here.  This is how the evening unfolded.

The highlights:

Radley Horton, PhD, Columbia University

Dr. Horton  emphasized on the following points:

  • What is the significance of Sandy given its magnitude?
  • What contributed to its magnitude (High tide/bad luck on that day)
  • Surge was worse than otherwise
  • Rise in the sea floor level
  • Very hot water in the Atlantic ocean
  • Track shifting towards the west
  • Huge loss of sea ice in the arctic

Major concern: Future events could be outside the scope of climate model’s prediction.

Klaus Jacob, PhD, Columbia University

Dr. Jacob emphasized on the following points:

  • It’s a global phenomenon/threat to the entire world
  • High sea levels can be dangerous even in the smallest of storms which are more frequent
  • 50 times increase in the probability of storm for the global financial city, New York
  • How to adapt? protection, accommodation adjustments, matched retreats
  • Investments in buffer zones: Every $1 spent gives $4 return instantly.
  • Good news: storms are out; Bad news: sea levels rise
  • We can keep the storms out but not the ocean.

Major concern: Action is needed; right here, right now

Nicole Maher, PhD, The Nature Conservancy

Dr. Maher emphasized on the following points:

  • Green/natural infrastructure needed to promote coastal resilience.
  • Promotion as a part of the solution
  • Spreading the importance of wetlands/mangroves
  • Biggest threats: Coastal development and water quality

Major concern: Spreading education and awareness  to prevent future damages

Rob McDonald, PhD, The Nature Conservancy

Besides the above mentioned issues, the other pressing needs are:

  • Heat waves: example quoted from 2003 heat wave episode in France
  • Diseases: epidemics
  • Mitigation is cheaper and quicker than adaptation

Major concern: What future climate are we planning for?

James S. Russell, Bloomberg news, Author: Agile city
  • What happens when people can no longer live where they used to?
  • Why it doesn’t happen that people leave for good even after a calamity?
  • Moving people is the difference between science and nature
  • What is the value of the land that people leave behind?

Major concerns: Land trusts should be established for the protection of the property. Mitigation banks should be established ( quoted the example of Holland/Netherlands)

Questions and answers session:

This was the most interactive part of the evening. Mr. Andy Revkin ( New York Times), moderator for the evening, welcomed the following questions to be answered by the panelists:

  1. Imagine that you are addressing a community in far Rockaway. How would you sell the idea of adapting against future events to them?
  2. How do we educate the generation next about climate change?
  3. How do you afford to leave your neighbors behind in a devastated area?
  4. What will happen to the expensive real estate for example in downtown Manhattan?
  5. What role does urban planning/design play? (Example Hafencity, Hamburg)
  6. What about barriers such as ecological and building infrastructure( flood gates)
  7. Did the storm have an effect on the manmade contribution to climate change in the future?


The event also provided great networking opportunity over drinks and dinners.

If you would like to attend the next two lectures in the series you may reach out to the organizers at

The last I have heard the event was sold out and I know why! See for yourself


It was sold out! © Green New Yorkers

  1. Thank you for sharing. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during question two of the Q and A session: ‘How do we educate the generation next about climate change?’ I am a teacher and we are currently in the process of creating a curriculum in this area.


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