Easton Matters – What environmental issues matter to you?
Nurture Nature Center (NNC) is a science-based community organization located in Easton, PA. NNC works to engage the public in learning about local environmental risks, and uses a multi-pronged approach that incorporates art, science, and dialogue. With the generous support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, NNC conducted a community needs assessment of the Easton community from 2014 to 2016. This project, called Easton Matters, served as a means to learn about and better understand the local community and the issues that matter most to residents. Focusing on the four neighborhoods of Easton – Downtown, South Side, West Ward, and College Hill – NNC asked for input on local environmental concerns and priorities through a public survey, interviews with city officials and leaders of community based organizations, neighborhood focus groups, and a community wide forum. Summaries of the survey and focus group findings are shown in the public report available here https://issuu.com/nurturenaturecenter/docs/easton_matters_public_issu__ . In addition, residents provided photographs of their local environment as part of a Photovoice exercise. These photographs were used in an art display shown at NNC in the spring of 2016. The community valued the opportunity to share their perspectives and to connect with neighbors. The conversation that the Easton Matters effort started continues today – walking tours in each neighborhood allow residents to show and discuss issues and Q&A sessions with city officials provide an additional venue for residents to ask questions and learn about living in the city.
What came through loud and clear in the Easton Matters process was Easton pride. Residents genuinely love their neighborhood and neighbors, and value the walkability of a small town with a vibrant downtown. Issues raised most often related to litter and recycling, traffic, pedestrian safety and walkability, and the maintenance of sidewalks and street trees. The desire for more green space, access to healthy affordable food, easier access to the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, code enforcement, and building re-use were also issues discussed.
Focus on Floods Campaign
Focus On Floods is a flood education campaign developed by the Nurture Nature Center through a cooperative partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service. Focus on Floods is designed to help residents and individuals in the Delaware River Basin and beyond improve their flood readiness. The project shares information with individuals, via radio, television, Internet and other venues, about how to use National Weather Service flood forecasting and warning tools, and other critical flood preparedness information.
As part of the campaign, NNC developed a variety of outreach materials for adults and children (see images below), a Focus on Floods DVD-Rom, and a new six-chapter media piece called “Understanding Flood Risk in the Delaware Basin” which features a series of interviews with flood authorities and experts who discuss the factors that affect flood risk, and the decision-making processes and new technology that can help reduce losses. Visit the project website at www.focusonfloods.org. Read the project’s final report here.
Science on a Sphere Award
In 2010, Nurture Nature Center received an award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to install the administration’s famed exhibit, Science on a Sphere®, and to create a new program for the SOS about the connection between climate and flooding. SOS is a 6-foot suspended globe that displays breath-taking visualizations of earth and space, and is the centerpiece exhibit at NNC. NNC’s new SOS program, Rising Waters, will be shared with the international Science on a Sphere network of more than 70 museums and organizations around the world who have the SOS exhibit. NNC offers weekly programming on the sphere, as well as presentations to school and other groups. Using SOS and the Rising Waters program, NNC is hosting a series of four forums about climate that engage the community in learning and discussion about the local effects of climate and climate change on the region. NNC is partnering with the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, PA, and the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore MD, to showcase the Rising Waters program and host discussion at those museums. Other project partners include Lehigh University, National Weather Service’s Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center, the Dartmouth Flood Observatory, and others. Read the project’s final report here.
The intent of our dialogue program is to ground discussion in sound science and to deliberate for improved community resiliency. NNC’s format is to present a science-based presentation that does not advocate for any one side followed by deliberative discussion. People value the opportunity to share their own stories and experiences with others. NNC’s focuses discussion forums on topics of local environmental risk.
NNC’s work in dialogue began in 2009 with an NSF-funded Flood Forum Project that took place after three devastating floods hit the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania in 2004, 2005, and 2006. NNC hosted community discussions about flooding in three of the hardest hit communities. A report summarizing that project can be found here. Through work on the Flood Forum Project, NNC recognized that people were eager to learn the science behind risks like flooding that threatened their homes or communities, and NNC has expanded its dialogue events to cover other local environmental risks topics.
NNC’s dialogue programming continues under a NOAA-funded project. NNC has created a global to local dialogue program for the Science on a Sphere. This model begins with an SOS program called Rising Waters that focuses on conditions for precipitation, current and future flood trends with a changing climate, and the impacts of global flooding on people. The SOS program is geared to provide lay citizens with the content knowledge they need to participate in discussion about local climate related issues that affect them on a community level. NNC holds dialogue forums that responds to audience questions and local interests about climate that arise after they’ve seen the Rising Waters Program. Discussion at forums is summarized into a report by NNC and given to decision makers in the community as way of bridging conversation between citizens and decision makers. NNC will hold four forums as part of this NOAA-funded project. The first of those was held in February 2012, and was about climate change on a local level. The event was attended by over seventy participants. Read the Decision Maker’s Report from that forum here. The second event was held with over thirty emergency managers from the Lehigh and Delaware Valley area. The summary report for that emergency manager forum can be found here. The third event we held was a discussion forum for high school teachers. The forum was part of a day-long pilot workshop called “Rising Waters: Weather and Climate – a local and global view.” Read the summary report here.
Buy Fresh Buy Local
The Greater Lehigh Valley chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL-GLV) helps residents of Berks, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties find, choose, and appreciate fresh, healthy, locally-grown foods, while supporting the farmers and lands that produce them. Visit our website www.BuyLocalGreaterLehighValley.org to find your farmer!
Buy Fresh Buy Local® chapters in Pennsylvania are managed by a diverse coalition of partnering organizations and agencies, supported by a growing community of local volunteers. This abundant grassroots energy is coordinated by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), on behalf of BFBL’s national partner, the FoodRoutes Network.