Mendo Island Transition

Transition: Can the Stuck-in-Place Economy Help Us Face Climate Change?


y

From Yes Magazine

New studies show that people with deep roots in the place where they live are better equipped to handle upheavals of the type that come with climate change.

After I finished high school in the flat, square corn country of central Illinois, I fled—along with many of my fellow classmates. We chased jobs or graduate school in places like San Francisco, New York, or Washington, D.C. I settled in Seattle. It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I became aware of the social costs of this mobility.

It’s about more than mere hand-wringing over the ton of carbon I am dumping into the atmosphere this Christmas as I fly east or the psychic toll of separation from my parents, my brother, and my four-year-old niece. I am somehow ungrounded. I have limited history in this gray and watery city: Even after 10 years I don’t have the same sense of belonging as people who grew up here, and that sometimes feels disquieting.

According to recent environmental research, this could also mean that I am less equipped to cope—if, say, an emergency strikes—than someone who’s better connected to Seattle. Sense of place, community, and rootedness aren’t just poetic ideas. They are survival mechanisms.

Social scientists call it “place attachment”: “the bonding that occurs between individuals and their meaningful environments,” according to psychologists Leila Scannell and Robert Gifford. Based on several studies released in the last couple of years, place attachment