Reflection: Relocation Task Force

By Hannah Ornellas  

I am currently two weeks away from finishing my final quarter of my undergraduate career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and am becoming more and more excited to use what I have learned here to do what I am most passionate about, which is using my education to support others. Working with LiKEN this past quarter has given me a taste of what it is going to be like to very soon be contributing to projects and working outside of the university setting.

Many coastal populations, including Native American and Indigenous tribes in low lying areas are at risk of losing their land due to climate change and sea level rise. In response, LiKEN, through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant award to support the Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Science program, hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR/NCAR) in partnership with LiKEN, has facilitated the development of a Rising Voices Relocation Task Force Team. To support this work, myself and two other LiKEN research assistants were assembled to investigate government documents to better understand what is allowable under existing policies, laws, and regulations in relation to community relocations.

My first role while working on the first part of the Task Force was to comb through government documents and national and state policy to find essential pieces of information and legal definitions. I specifically looked through the policies and projects of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Flood Insurance Program (NIFP), and the United States Army Corp of Engineer document 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Governmental documents and policies are a navigational maze. Having spent the last four years focusing on learning research skills, I still struggled to find the specific information I was looking for in these policies and documents. This assignment made me realize how difficult it must be for people who are not native English speakers or those who do not have secondary education to try and find governmental policies that can help them. It illustrated how difficult it must be for disaster survivors trying to deal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims.

This project has confirmed my desire to use my education to support others. It is my responsibility in the fight for climate justice and a post-carbon world to use my education and my acquired skills to stand with communities and together, rise up and advocate for policies in favor of sustainable changes. We are running out of time to slow down the rate of climate change, and the work that LiKEN and other organizations are doing is essential for a sustainable, just future for all.