Community Initiatives Build Climate Resilience in the Pacific Northwest

January 23, 2024 | By The Pachamama Alliance

White Salmon, WashingtonImage courtesy of Peter Robbins.

2023 was a historic year for climate-related disasters. Wildfires, floods, and record-setting heat waves have had devastating impacts on ecosystems and human communities alike. 

As the impacts of the climate crisis continue to rapidly unfold, it’s clear that climate resilience is becoming a pressing need as climate change continues to put a strain on communities’ needs around housing, food, energy, transportation, among others.

Knowing that extreme climate-related events are likely to continue and how important it is for communities to be prepared well before disaster strikes, Galen Tromble—a graduate of Pachamama Alliance’s Action Trainings—is facing the issue of climate resiliency head on. 

Grappling with the Realities of the Climate Crisis

Like many others in the climate movement, Galen has been concerned about the impacts of climate change for many years.

Before retiring, Galen had worked in marine fishery management where he became familiar with the findings of fish scientists who 15 years prior had noticed major disruptions in the distribution of fish along the U.S. coasts that were driven by ocean warming. Through this work, Galen became aware of the ways in which climate change was unfolding and just how quickly it was happening. 

Not only has Galen become familiar with the impacts of climate change, but he has also become knowledgeable about solutions. He became interested in permaculture several years ago and got involved at a local urban farm where he learned about regenerative agriculture. As with many climate change issues, Galen sees the ways in which food is grown and distributed is connected to other issues like land ownership, water access, and social inequality.

Galen believes seeing these connections between different issues—and between possible solutions—is crucial for developing a comprehensive approach to climate resiliency. He also sees the importance of creating connections between people in the community who are implementing solutions but may be doing so in silos. As Galen explains, creating these connections and relationships will strengthen the community’s ability to drive systemic change, ensuring they do not return to “business as usual” which is what made them vulnerable to climate change impacts to begin with. 

This focus on creating connections and driving systemic change is at the heart of the climate resiliency projects that Galen has become involved in.   

A Community-Led Approach to Building Climate Resilience

Galen has become involved in two projects that focus on bringing local communities together to assess the kinds of changes they need to make to be more prepared, regenerative, and equitable in the face of climate change.

One of these projects, called the Community Disaster Recovery and Transition Project, was started by a local group in Eugene, Oregon called the New Era Convergence. Galen attended their first event and was invited to participate in their Steering Committee. The purpose of this project is to engage the community in discussions around crisis response strategies that prioritize the well-being of those impacted, enhance community resilience, and foster positive systemic change. 

The first iteration of this project included a planning exercise where community members practiced problem-solving around a hypothetical natural disaster scenario. The scenario they looked at outlined a major weather event that causes enough flooding to displace thousands of people who end up relocating to central Oregon. This scenario was based on actual events that occurred in California last spring. 

Participants were divided into groups to look at how they could respond in a way that meets the needs of those displaced while building community through solutions that center wellbeing and regenerative practices. Each group had a different area of focus, such as food, housing, wellbeing, and governance. Afterwards, the groups came together to share ideas and discuss how the decisions made in one area impacts all of the other areas.

Key questions were raised in each of the groups, including more specific ones like how the community would house those who are displaced and how sufficient food could be produced, and more broad questions like how would the community be different if there were land and decent, affordable housing more readily available to those who need it.

Now, those involved in the project are in the process of sharing the results of this planning exercise with others in the community, including members of the county government. 

For Galen, what’s most valuable about this project is that it encourages the community to think about what could be different—about its food system, its housing infrastructure, the way it governs—and how these changes can meet the needs of those directly impacted by climate change while ensuring a thriving and resilient future for the community. 

Cultivating Relationships to Cultivate Change

Galen hopes to apply the planning exercise from the Community Disaster Recovery Transition Project to another project he’s started which focuses on the White Salmon River Valley where he calls home.

About 10,000 people live in the White Salmon River Valley of Washington, and as Galen explains, if a climate-related disaster—like a wildfire, drought, or earthquake—were to strike, this community could become isolated and struggle to meet its basic needs. Using insights from the Community Disaster Recovery and Transition Project, Galen plans to engage the White Salmon River Valley community with key questions about how they can respond to the realities of the climate crisis in a way that takes care of everyone impacted while driving lasting change. 

Using the community mapping tool introduced in the Action Training, Galen has started identifying community members whose work can help answer these questions. For instance, there are community members already involved in the local food system, including some who have started a seed library, others who are involved in a local food security coalition, several who are local farmers, and those who have land to offer. 

Seeing the clear connection between these efforts, Galen is working to bring them together to develop a comprehensive approach to building a resilient, sustainable, and equitable food system for the community. This past summer, he took the first steps towards this as he worked with a friend he had met through the seed library to establish a 2,000 square foot garden where they grow food for their families and the community, while saving seeds to distribute at the seed library. 

It’s been encouraging to Galen to see just how many community members understand the issues around the climate crisis and are already in action to implement solutions. And although not everyone in his community agrees about climate change, he sees how crucial it is to continue cultivating relationships—even across political differences—as it’s going to take all of us working together to create a more regenerative and just future. 


Many thanks to Galen Tromble for his contributions to this piece.