Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative
An Initiative of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College
The Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative focuses on local efforts to address impacts to the environment and people in Pinellas County and the region, especially as related to rising seas. The Collaborative serves as a clearinghouse to assist in the coordination of the work of individuals and organizations to promote public policies that will inspire the community to take strategic action.
At the invitation of the Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP), the Institute for Strategic Policy solutions hosted a two-day conference in October 2015. The conference, entitled Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move?, bought together 200 community members to hear summaries of policy position papers by three distinguished subject-matter experts. Following each presentation, a panel of 35 questioned the authors on their views. This panel included academics, public officials, individual citizens, private sector and advocacy organizations.
On the second day, participants met in caucus groups to identify areas of consensus and actionable next steps related to individual choices and community-wide decisions. The results from all the caucuses were presented, combined and refined in the afternoon plenary caucus. The conference publication, policy position papers, video recordings and other resources can be found by clicking here. Hard copies of the publication are also available at the Policy Institute office on SPC’s Seminole Campus.
A St. Petersburg/Pinellas County Working Group provided guidance and input to ISGP and ISPS in developing the conference. Immediately following the conference, the Working Group committed to continuing conversations in support of adaptation and mitigation. Meetings were arranged to foster information sharing and to bring awareness existing and developing scientific work as well as initiatives in sustainability. In March of 2016 a Sea Level Rise Networking Event was held at St. Petersburg College.
Next, a community committee worked with the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to present a program called Sea Level Rise: What’s Your Role? in June of 2016. A combination of concerned citizens and government representatives offered presentations highlighting a number of major issues for the Tampa Bay Region. Participants identified their key area of concern – economy, environment or community – and then met in those three groups for in-depth discussions based on questions devised by the committee. All participant comments were collected, charted and condensed into a summary outline.
The primary themes from the discussions were the need for communication and education and for appropriate planning and policy making. Members of the programs’ working group and planning committee agreed that a communication strategy should be devised based on an extensive behavioral science study. In addition, committee and work group members decided to collaborate with the ISPS to offer targeted workshops (such as insurance and public health), community group outreach presentations, resource collection and mapping, plus web- and social media-based information sharing. It was during this time that the planners chose to call the group the Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative.
Protecting Pinellas Waters, one of 2017’s presentations in this initiative took place on February 28. The program featured award winning water author and journalist Cynthia Barnett. Three local experts comprised a panel that joined her in a conversation related to their fields of environment, law and Florida studies.