Rural Areas Left Behind in Climate Adaptation Plans

While resources pour in for urban climate resilience projects, smaller communities often bear the brunt of extreme weather events.

2 minute read

October 29, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Midwest Flooding

George Burba / Shutterstock

According to Timothy Schuler, climate adaptation planning in the U.S. "has, with some notable exceptions, tended to focus on large metropolitan areas, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy." But more recently, "Hurricane Ida served as a harsh reminder that the nation’s rural and smaller coastal communities often bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, suffering extensive flooding and other damage, yet lack the resources to rebuild or to implement measures that could prevent future disasters." These areas, Schuler writes, essentially become a "national climate sacrifice zone," overlooked and underresourced as climate change brings increasingly disastrous effects. 

Yet "some 60 million people—1 in 5 Americans—live in rural areas," with the total rising to almost 90 million when including towns of 2,500 to 50,000 people. Weak political support, a low tax base, and "lack of access to the kinds of technical assistance design professionals provide to urban resilience projects" leave rural communities behind when it comes to resilience planning. 

To mitigate the problem, organizations such as the Coastal Dynamics Design Lab (CDDL) provide cost-free "design and planning services to underserved areas, specifically around issues of disaster recovery and resilience." Projects like this "point to the value of university-affiliated design studios and research hubs, which at times offer smaller communities the only avenue through which they can access climate adaptation planning assistance." Additionally, "while smaller communities can stymie traditional design and planning models, they can serve as important testing grounds for how to work sensitively in other under-resourced places."

Monday, October 25, 2021 in The Architect's Newspaper

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

"It's The Climate" sign over street in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Oregon Town Seeks Funding for Ambitious Resilience Plan

Like other rural communities, Grants Pass is eager to access federal funding aimed at sustainability initiatives, but faces challenges when it comes to meeting grant requirements.

February 18, 2024 - The Daily Yonder

Close-up of bottom half of stroller being pushed onto sidewalk with no curb cut by person in jeans and brown shoes.

How Infrastructure Communicates Values

The presence and quality of sidewalks, curb cuts, and other basic elements of infrastructure can speak to much more than just economic decisions.

February 23 - Strong Towns

Greyhound and Amtrak buses at a temporary bus terminal in San Francisco, California.

Despite High Ridership, Intercity Bus Lines Are Eliminating Stations

Riders on the ‘forgotten stepchild’ of the U.S. transportation system find themselves waiting for buses curbside as Greyhound sells off its real estate in many U.S. cities.

February 23 - Governing

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo Residents Push Back on Proposed Cap Park

State and local officials say the $1 billion project will heal neighborhoods divided by the Kensington Expressway, but community members say the proposed plan will exacerbate already poor air quality in the area.

February 23 - Bloomberg CityLab

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.