We all face the same challenges, the only differences are in our perspectives

‘Many people in the USA are not aware how big the climate change and sea level rise challenge is’, thus Will Travis. ‘Some of them say they don’t believe in global warming, as if it’s a religion instead of a scientific fact. That is a big challenge for us. Many of our efforts therefore are focused on informing and trying to involve the public in our work.’ Mr. Will Travis

One of those efforts was sponsoring the Rising Tides competition, an international design competition the Commission held last year, which generated 130 proposals from 18 nations worldwide to respond to sea level rise. ‘We received many innovative ideas for dealing with this problem, including a design for an inflatable curtain that could close off the Golden Gate during extreme high tides and other ideas for buildings and inundation possibilities at the same time.’

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission has turned to the Netherlands for advice and inspiration because of the country’s worldwide fame in engineering solutions and centuries of experience in flood protection. ‘However, the cultural differences are huge’, Travis says. ‘In fact, the primary difference around the world when it comes to dealing with water and sea level rise is how each culture deals with it. Whether you are in San Francisco or Indonesia, India or The Netherlands - we all have the same problems to overcome. The local approach is however different everywhere because the societies differ. You cannot apply the Dutch way of working top down in America for example, since this society is organized through a bottom up system. It would just not work, no matter how brilliant the solution. That is why we try to take lessons from the solution and handle it in a way that fits our culture.’

Despite the differences, the basic challenge is the same everywhere. According to Travis, this is where Delta Alliance has its added value. ‘Because deltas worldwide have far more common features than differences, Delta Alliance gives us the opportunity to learn from each other and share experiences much faster than we could possibly do without the network.’

Next to his activities as Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission in California, Mr. Will Travis is a member of the National Research Council Roundtable on Climate Change Education and serves on the board of trustees of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the board of directors of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. With 240 square miles of low-lying filled land along the Bay shoreline, he has become a leading advocate for a regional strategy to address climate change and sea level rise in the Bay Area.

More information on the design competition: http://www.risingtidescompetition.com/risingtides/Home.html 
More information on the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission: http://www.bcdc.ca.gov/

Delta Alliance Secretary
Thursday 01 July 2010
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