When we think of remedies for systemic threats to Florida’s infrastructure, the first things that come to mind are large-scale resilience efforts – industry-level interventions on carbon emissions or changes in the way society generates and disposes of energy.
But there are a number of things individuals can do, in and around their own homes, to help their communities become more resilient in the face of threats relating to flooding, pollution, or energy independence. Certainly there are multiple limitations to doing so, but our recent survey of Florida voters revealed the number one barrier: Residents are almost entirely unaware of their options.
We asked respondents if they’re familiar with the concept of “nature-based solutions” to address resiliency challenges, and were disappointed to lear that just 1 in 7 (14%) said yes. With one exception, there were no statistically significant differences in who expressed familiarity with this concept – not by age, political affiliation, or gender. The lone exception: Nearly 3 in 10 of those living within 1 mile of the coast expressed awareness, about double the rate of those living farther inland.
We next listed several “nature-based” solutions and asked respondents to indicate which they would consider adding to their own home, assuming that cost was not an issue.
We found substantial willingness to consider nearly all of the options presented. Specifically, 7 in 10 said they’d consider adding solar panels to their home to generate energy to meet some household needs. Another 56% said they’d consider using rain barrels to collect and store rainfall for later use or yard watering, while, about half (51%) said they would consider adding a rain garden to their yard to collect runoff from their rooftop.
We found significant, but slightly less, willingness to consider adding an electric vehicle charging station if having it would be relevant (46%) – which may reflect the fact that relatively few Floridians currently utilize electric vehicles. More than 2 in 5 said they would consider transforming their roof into a green or “living” ecosystem to reduce runoff by soaking up rainfall and lowering energy costs for cooling (41%). Notably, just 6% said they would not consider any of these.
Obviously, cost is an issue for each of these solutions, as some are expensive to implement or maintain. Other barriers, such as local ordinances or homeowners association restrictions, also may meaningfully limit effective use of some of these approaches.
But widespread lack of awareness that these interventions exist is a substantial barrier that must be addressed – particularly in light of the fact that Floridians do express significant interest in learning more when they’re told about these options.
As we work to expand federal, state, and local investment in Florida’s resilient infrastructure, we haven’t lost sight of the need to engage the public as well. This means a commitment to expanding outreach about nature-based solutions that individuals and neighborhoods can adopt.
The Florida Resilience Conference, set for October 5-7 in Bonita Springs, will bring together state leaders, local governments, federal agencies, industry executives, and policy experts for in-depth discussion on Florida’s burgeoning resilience programs.The conference program features concurrent sessions on beach management, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure.
We hope you will join us to participate in important discussions to address the options Floridians say matter to them.