Little girl standing in red rain boots in flood water
Image by Stock snap via Pixabay

Disaster Recovery Efforts Can Serve More than One Goal

This opinion piece from Dr. Sawin stems from the devastating July 2023 floods that took place in Vermont.

A multisolving recovery would ensure that every dollar and every hour of investment serves more than one goal,” Sawin said.  “It would design for the future that’s coming, not the past we once knew. It would expand the idea of recovery to include nature and community, as well as bridges and roads.”

The op-ed explores how places like Vermont that are hit with disasters might be able to recover in ways that meet other goals, too – like health, climate resilience, nature protection, and greenhouse gas reductions.  

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That opened a new front of research at Climate Interactive: what else would improve around the world if countries truly transitioned away from fossil fuels? From improvements in air quality to energy security we documented many co-benefits of climate action, and incorporated some of them into Climate Interactive’s well known computer simulation, En-ROADS.

But, the multiple benefits of actions to protect the climate remain mostly theoretical without ways of overcoming the obstacles to multisolving. That’s why, from the beginning of our work we have collaborated with others to understand the bright spots of multisolving around the world and to pilot multisolving approaches. First in Milwaukee in partnership with the Milwuakee Metropolitan Sewerage District and then in Atlanta, with Partnership for Southern Equity, we began to see what was possible by bringing the different parts of a system together in pursuit of actions and investments that lifted up many goals at once.

From this action research, along with a series of case studies of multisolving projects, we began to see attitudes and approaches that are in common across a wide diversity of multisolving projects, a topic we wrote about in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Then came 2020. Pandemic. Escalating climate change impacts. Dire warnings about biodiversity loss. And more and more folks connecting the dots between each of these issues and structural inequity. Invitations to write, speak, and teach about multisolving came fast and furious and with it the possibility that what we’ve learned from multisolving bright spots could help support leaders around the world to respond to crises with multisolving. That spark led to the launch of the Multisolving Institute and our mission of supporting leaders as they pursue multisolving approaches