George Koulomzin raised his left hand and described a moment from the past decade in which a flood of rainwater tore through the streets of Nyack in Rockland County like “class-three rapids.”
The 76-year-old Long Island resident was part of a group of more than 40 adults and children who were offering extreme weather stories in a crammed classroom Saturday at Poughkeepsie Day School.
Columbia University research scientist Radley Horton was leading the session on “building resilient communities,” collecting anecdotal evidence of a changing climate — flooded basements; mold caused by increased humidity; the absence of a frozen Hudson River in the winter.
Horton, who lives in Gardiner and has children in third and sixth grade at the school, said he wanted to be a part of the inaugural Hudson Valley Climate Summit on Saturday to get people thinking about confronting the “built-in” effects of global warming they are already observing.
Koulomzin, alongside his wife, Marina, also offered the story of the time they saw a tornado appear on the Hudson from their 20th-floor apartment in a Bronx high-rise.
“Zoning and building codes can do a lot,” he said of preparing for extreme weather events. “I would argue that … out on Long Island, where we are now, people build too close to the water.”
The two drove to Poughkeepsie on Saturday because of their growing concerns about the environment, and were part of a daylong series of speeches and interactive “breakout sessions” that asked the more than 100 attendees to face the realities of a warming climate with optimism and science.
Columbia University associate researcher Radley Horton discusses extreme weather events and how to mitigate them. He has two children at Poughkeepsie Day School. (Photo: Jack Howland/Poughkeepsie Journal)
There were seven 40-minute sessions, all of them addressing what can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change and make communities more adaptable to extreme weather events. Topics included mapping out climate-smart communities, engaging in climate activism and building resilient farms.
Event organizer and alumni coordinator Liz Vinogradov said the school felt obligated to host the event in a public forum, given recent weather events like the wildfires ravaging northern California and hurricanes that have led to loss of life in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas.
“The context of our present situation really necessitated this to be a public event, open to the Hudson Valley,” said Vinogradov, who began at the day school as a teacher in 1980 but recently took over as alumni coordinator.
The idea for the summit dawned on her as she pored through lists of graduates and found many graduates were now involved in climate sciences. The K-12 independent school has a curriculum with a focus on the environment, beginning with field trips to local farms and ending in lessons on humans’ role in climate change.
“A whole bunch of students are mucking around in the Finger Lakes today, collecting eels and invasive shrimp,” she said. “They’re out there doing this all the time.”
Three of the session leaders were alumni, including Kai Lord-Farmer, a 2006 graduate.
Poughkeepsie Day School junior Joanna Houston takes a picture of the white board after her extreme weather event session. She said she wanted to come to the event to see how the climate has affected other people in the region. (Photo: Jack Howland/Poughkeepsie Journal)
He now works in Sacramento with Ascent Environmental consulting but returned to his alma mater for the first-ever summit. With Libby Zemaitis, a 2004 graduate working for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, he led a session about drafting climate action plans with municipal governments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare for extreme weather.
“I grew up here, and that’s where I get my environmental sentiment and activism,” he said. “The opportunity to come back here and try to inspire others and other communities in the Hudson Valley to write climate actions plans… I think there’s a lot of potential here because this is a progressive community.”
Poughkeepsie Day School junior Joanna Houston, 16, said she attended the summit to see how changing climate affects other people.
“I live in a very different place in the Hudson Valley compared to some people,” she said. “With the variations in the climate…it’s interesting to see how it’s affected other people.”
Source: Poughkeepsie Journal