The launch of the Rural Climate Network comes at a pivotal time. With the recent government shutdown, ongoing political stalemate, the lack of a Farm Bill and lagging public confidence in our government by citizens of all political stripes, on-the-ground action on climate change adaptation and mitigation has never been more critical.
This urgency is particularly true for our rural communities and economies. Whether you work in agriculture, forestry, tourism, or another aspect of the natural resources sector, the changes that are occurring to our landscapes, weather and communities are unquestionably tied to climate change, which is primarily driven by fossil fuel and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Where the Rural Climate Network perhaps differs from some is in the solution. While we fully support the need to significantly reduce the use and burning of fossil fuels, we also firmly believe that farmers, foresters and rural economies are essential contributors to a successful response to the climate challenge. Whether it is building a renewable energy system, shifting how we grow crops and manage forests and land, or transitioning rural economies away from dependence upon the extraction of coal and other fossil fuels, the answer to these questions has to come from and be supported by rural leaders in order to succeed.
The aim of the Rural Climate Network is to meet the climate challenge from our diverse yet shared rural contexts. This network intends to connect rural organizations and individuals with other likeminded groups and citizens around the country. The “members” section of the website provides information about the work Rural Climate Network member organizations are doing with their communities to address the changing climate. As you would expect, there are many different ways that Rural Climate Network members are tackling this complex issue. A member spotlight in each newsletter will provide a deeper look at a specific member’s work on climate.
In addition to promoting the work of its members, the Rural Climate Network will also work to advance practical strategies to adapt to and mitigate the current and anticipated effects of climate change. Our intent is to document and disseminate innovations, best practices, impacts and other stories on what real people in rural communities across the country are already doing to take on this enormous challenge.
Finally, while we recognize the critical nature of on-the-ground action, the global nature of the climate change problem requires a policy response and framework. To date, most policy initiatives have had minimal opportunities for rural action. As the Rural Climate Network develops, we will work with members and other rural stakeholders and policymakers to identify and advance preferred policy options and programs that can help ensure appropriate and effective rural responses to this challenge.
Now is the time for a rural response to climate change, but to do that right, we need your help! This newsletter, which will highlight new climate information as well as key documents and resources for rural communities, will come out every other month. Any climate-related ideas and projects that you would like to share can be sent to RCN@iatp.org. Thank you for taking the time to read this initial Rural Climate Network newsletter. We look forward to working with you and rural citizens across the country to take on this challenge and build a more resilient rural America!