[00:00:00:02] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Welcome to Climate Conversations, the podcast from MIT's ClimateX the global community for climate action. I'm Rajesh Kasturirangan and I'm joined here by Dave Damm-Luhr my ClimateX co-founder. [00:00:23:09] DAVE DAMM-LUHR Hey Rajesh. [00:00:23:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And we'll soon be joined by Hannah Payne, who is the sustainability coordinator for the city of Somerville. Dave how did you get in touch with Hannah Payne? [00:00:32:25] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: I was at a Massachusetts Climate Action Network event in which Hanna was on the panel. And she was telling about all the exciting work that she has been doing in the city of Somerville as the sustainability coordinator. So I followed up and she agreed to come talk with us. [00:00:49:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Yeah, I believe Somerville is going to be carbon neutral by 2050. [00:00:54:22] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: That's right and they've been doing tremendous work in reaching out to all members of the Somerville community. The businesses, the individual citizens, neighborhood groups, and associations, as well as coordinating all around the Boston area. [00:01:10:11] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Let's see what Hanna has to say about all of this. [00:01:12:16] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: I'm excited you hear too. [00:01:14:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: We are so happy today to have Hannah Payne, who is the sustainability coordinator for the city of Somerville and DUSP [INAUDIBLE], DUSP being the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Hannah, so nice to see you. [00:01:32:13] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Welcome Hanna. [00:01:33:17] HANNAH PAYNE: Thank you it's great to be here. [00:01:35:04] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So Hannah how did you get to be the sustainability coordinator? [00:01:39:12] HANNAH PAYNE: Yes a good question so I graduated from DUSP, so Department of Urban Studies and Planning from MIT with my Master's in city planning last spring, so spring of 2016. And there I focused on climate change planning, specifically climate adaptation planning, and then did a lot of work on community engagement as well. And so after that, my first job is where I am at now, which is with the city of Somerville as a sustainability coordinator. [00:02:09:16] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And the city of Somerville, for our listeners who don't know the Boston area, is right next to Cambridge. [00:02:16:21] HANNAH PAYNE: Yeah so it's a city of about 80,000 people. It's just Northwest of Boston so in other larger cities it might be considered a neighborhood of that city. But we're actually our own municipality in Somerville and the densest city in New England. [00:02:34:19] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Anything else that sets Somerville apart from the rest of the world? [00:02:38:09] HANNAH PAYNE: Fluff was invented in Sommerville. The marshmallow spread that people like to put on sandwiches, so that's one fun fact about Sommerville. But it's a pretty residential city, close to Boston, so we're really connected with our neighbors and with Cambridge and Boston, we pretty connected in terms of what we need to think about for our planning. [00:03:00:24] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: My daughter was born in the city of Sommerville. Well, she was born in a hospital in Boston but she came home to the city of Somerville. So Hannah what does the sustainability coordinator do? [00:03:14:16] HANNAH PAYNE: Yeah so I work in the Office of Sustainability and Environment, and our office is three people right now. So we have a director, myself, and then an environmental coordinator, and we do some service delivery. So recycling as one, but mostly we work on programming and policy work, so everything from energy, to electric vehicle charging stations, some kind of traditional environmental stuff around pollution and waste, and then also what I'm working on right now, climate change planning. [00:03:49:25] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And last spring there was a big event, I think, or a series of events. Maybe you could tell our listeners a little bit about what happened this last spring. [00:03:58:03] HANNAH PAYNE: Sure, so one of the other big things that I've been working on other than managing the city's climate change plan is working on doing more community outreach on sustainability and environmental issues. So I put together Sommerville's first Sustainaville Week. So Sustainaville is the city's brand for sustainability, so anything that kind of touches sustainability can fall under Sustainaville. So Sustainaville Week was a week of events around Earth Day, really just trying to engage with community members, do some fun, educational events and activities, and get the word out about our office and what some of the work that we're doing, and also help make people aware of Mayor Curtatone's goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. [00:04:47:05] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Terrific, what sort of response did you get? [00:04:49:01] HANNAH PAYNE: It was a great response. So we did one of the events that I liked the most was the tiny great outdoors festival that we put on with the Arts Council. So the Summer Arts Council does festivals throughout the year, a lot of really fun things in Sommerville, it's one of the things people really love about Sommerville. And so this festival was focused on celebrating Somerville's tiny great outdoors. So we, as I said before, we're the densest city in New England. We don't have a ton of open space, but we have a lot of small pocket parks and try to take advantage of the space that we do have. And so it was celebrating kind of the urban environments. [00:05:28:17] So we had our office there talking about the work we do, we had the city's arborist there planting a tree, and we also had some urban naturalists who could speak to kind of different species that you might find in urban environments. [00:05:44:08] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: That's great. So how many people does your office reach sort of routinely or less so? [00:05:51:00] HANNAH PAYNE: I don't know that I have a good answer for that one, but our office works a lot with other departments within the city so it's hard to say how many people we reach. We definitely reach a number of people kind of directly through the work we do. So I am managing the city's climate change plan as I mentioned and it's called Somerville Climate Forward. And for the kickoff meeting for that, which we had in June to introduce the community to the project, we had over 100 people attend. And now we're setting up, we have working groups for that project on different topics, so ranging from consumption and waste, to energy, to health and well-being. [00:06:29:25] And so on all of those groups, we have 75 residents that have signed up to participate in that throughout the project. So I don't have a number for you. But we have a number of people who were engaging directly and then kind of also through working with other departments, so we collaborate frequently with the planning department in Somerville to think about how to bring sustainability into the zoning code update. So they're then talking to a lot more people, and well we're not doing that engagement ourselves, kind of the work that we're doing does touch a lot of people. [00:07:06:15] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So you're sort of catalytic agents. You're lighting fires here and there and trying to ignite interest and engagement. [00:07:13:28] HANNAH PAYNE: Yeah, and I think kind of also working within the city with other departments to integrate sustainability and climate change into the work that they're already doing. So we're not trying to take on all of that work because a lot of things are better done through other departments. So planning can do things through zoning and through park design to manage storm water or things like that. Transportation planners can think about they're already working on getting people out of their cars, and walking more, and biking more, and taking transit more and so that's not necessarily something our office would work on, but we can help provide information, or data, and policy ideas to those other folks. [00:07:57:25] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Fantastic, so tell us a little bit more about this. So you said Somerville Climate Forward? [00:08:02:19] HANNAH PAYNE: Yes so this is the city's first climate change plan. And the way that we're approaching it in Somerville is doing both climate mitigation plan and a climate adaptation plan. So looking at ways to reduce the city's contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and working towards mayor Curtatone's goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, and also looking at ways to prepare for the impacts of climate change. And so this is a little bit different than how a lot of other cities have approached this. A lot of cities do a climate action plan focused mostly on mitigation, and then will maybe do a climate adaptation, or resilience, or preparedness plan, whatever they're calling it to think about ways to prepare for climate change. And we really see those as kind of different sides of the same coin. [00:08:54:13] So we want to be addressing those together and holistically. And so that's kind of where we're heading to with Somerville Climate Forward. And so we're just starting this stage of looking at different solutions that will be analyzed that will eventually bring through as the kind of key actions that the city will move forward at the end of the plan. [00:09:21:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: This is fantastic because you're saying that mitigation and adaptation are two sides of the same coin. Is this process being documented, and will it be shared with the public, not just the citizens of Somerville, but also the world at large? [00:09:37:09] HANNAH PAYNE: Yes so we are hoping to document what we're doing, and have a plan that is accessible to many people, and that shows kind of the steps we went through to get there. Especially because we are engaging so many people, we want to make sure that people can really see kind of how their involvement is being used throughout the process. But I think thinking about beyond Somerville, we'll definitely share our plan and what we've learned. And one of the ways that we often share our work is through the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, which is USDN for short, which is a network of sustainability directors and sustainability offices of cities and towns throughout the United States and Canada that kind of exchange ideas, best practices, answer each other's questions. [00:10:28:29] And so this network has been really helpful to not just our office and the work we've done, but I think sustainability work throughout the country because people are able to kind of draw from one another and not start from scratch every time. [00:10:45:16] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: What's the web address again? [00:10:46:26] HANNAH PAYNE: I believe it's just USDN.org. So it's a network organization so cities have to pay dues to-- [00:10:54:11] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Oh not anybody can't just step into that space. [00:10:56:25] HANNAH PAYNE: Right, right, and I think that one of the benefits of that in kind of working in the public sector is that on calls, and you can speak to folks from cities throughout the country, and ask questions that you talk about politics, or talk about things that maybe you can kind of get the nitty, gritty details from other folks on what the challenges are, and I think get a little bit more honest feedback than you might in just like a report from what happened. [00:11:27:14] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So if people are in positions like yours, something you might want to seriously consider if they're not already in the network to join it. [00:11:35:11] HANNAH PAYNE: Definitely. There are some parts of the website that are public. They put out different reports and I believe they have a whole initiative on equity and sustainability. And so that section is available to the public for kind of information on how to think about bringing an equity into sustainability work. [00:11:55:16] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So are there other cities that Somerville is learning from or partnering with? What is their concrete form in which the USDN actually functions in collaborations and projects? [00:12:10:23] HANNAH PAYNE: Yes so through USDN is one way, but we also, on a more local level, partner with our neighboring communities. So one of the ways we do that is through Metro Mayors Climate Preparedness Task Force, and that is the 14 cities and towns in the Boston metro area that get together the staff from the sustainability departments whoever works on climate change planning in those cities. We get together on a regular basis to discuss climate preparedness and what each of us are doing, and share data and best practices, answer questions, things like that. MAPC, so the Metropolitan Area Planning Council staffs that and facilitates that task force. And so that's one way that we work with Boston, and Cambridge, and Medford, and Chelsea, and all of the different cities in the Boston region. [00:13:05:00] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Excellent. So what's the topic that recurs most often in these kinds of meetings? Is there something that everybody seems to be concerned with? [00:13:13:28] HANNAH PAYNE: Yeah so I mean I think sea level rise is one thing that is a issue for the entire region. But what we kind of use the meetings more for is talking about data needs and things like doing climate change vulnerability assessments, so learning from one another. So when Boston put out Climate Ready Boston, they presented on their work and we were able to ask questions about that, talking about how do you work through certain things on understanding the urban heat island effect in the region, and then also collaborating on grant proposals on different tools that are kind of looking at the regional impacts. And I think one of the challenges, but also one of the major benefits of it, is that the cities within the group are at really different stages in their climate change planning process. [00:14:02:28] So cities like Boston and Cambridge kind of first to go on this work, and Somerville we're kind of second. And then a number of other cities are just getting started. So Somerville has done a greenhouse gas inventory. We have completed a climate change vulnerability assessment, and so now we're doing our climate change plan. There are some cities that don't have the same sort of staff capacity that Somerville does, or Cambridge, or Boston, and so they haven't been able to do as much work. But they can learn from us and some of the other cities and draw on that so they don't have to again start from scratch and can kind of take the pieces that we've done and think about what that means for their community. [00:14:46:25] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: I was having a look at your really well put together web site, Somerville's Sustainaville, and really impressed with everything you've done. One of the things that jumped out at me was that Somerville has been grappling with the same things over the years, it's just more exaggerated versions of the same things. Could you say a little bit more about the ways in which Somerville is vulnerable? [00:15:08:03] HANNAH PAYNE: Sure, so some of the key things that we looked at in our climate change vulnerability assessment were impacts from increasing temperatures, so hotter summers and more heat waves, impacts from precipitation based flooding, and impacts from sea level rise and storm surge along the Mystic River. And so in Somerville what we're seeing is that where it floods today during a heavy rain storm because we have flooding events when it rains a lot, there's not a lot of place for the water to flow, and we have an aging sewer system. So we're dealing with some of these challenges today without the increase in rain from larger storms. [00:15:50:29] So on that front, what we need to prepare for is more frequent flooding, because with climate change we're expecting rain storms to bring 30% more precipitation. So trying to think about that as we're trying to also manage the flooding that we're experiencing today. And then for heat waves you know we have hot summers here in Massachusetts, and we'll experience heat waves here, but the change will be more frequent heat waves that last more days. So it's something that our public health department is already working on, and knows about, and has systems in place to manage high heat days and heat waves. But we need to be thinking about that happening more frequently moving into the future. [00:16:38:21] And then storm surge and sea level rise, that's one where we really haven't experienced those impacts as much in Somerville. So what's different about Somerville than say Boston, is that in Boston during a King tide, you'll get some flooding up onto the sidewalks today. So you can kind of see that this is maybe what sea level rise would start to look like in the future. In Somerville, we are not looking at the climate models. We're not facing the same sort of impacts from sea level rise of mean high tide flooding. We would only see flooding along the Mystic River with the combination of sea level rise and more intense storm. So in that 100 year flood, or 1% chance of a flood, and that would really be one of the ways that we could experience flooding in Somerville is by storm surge overtopping or going around the Amelia Earhart Dam on the Mystic River. [00:17:43:01] So we have some infrastructure in place that helps protect us today, but looking into the future, if we aren't preparing and making changes to some of that infrastructure we could see flooding from larger storms. [00:17:55:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So moving on to-- because these are very, very complex problems, and I'm just thinking is this exactly the kind of thing that DUSP wants their alumni to do, because it feels like such a complex combination of understanding weather patterns, urban planning, political exigencies of various kinds. So do you feel like you got exactly what you wanted from DUSP to be able to do the work that you're doing? [00:18:30:00] HANNAH PAYNE: Well, I'll say that this is the work that I wanted to be doing when I went to DUSP. This is why I was interested in city planning because I've always been interested in environmental issues. But I really wanted to address it at the local level. And I thought city planning was kind of the best way to do that. And I really like thinking about a lot of different things at the same time and being able to pull things together. And so I think that this is the sort of job that DUSP does set people up well to do. So at DUSP we had to do a lot of group projects with people who were interested in all sorts of different things. [00:19:08:18] So affordable housing design really forced me to think about how to bring different elements together and different interests together, and think about those all at the same time well moving forward on finding solutions. So I think that's one of the things that DUSP set me up well to do. [00:19:26:00] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And it struck me from looking at your web site, was reflecting exactly what you said that you're making the dots visible and connecting them for people. [00:19:34:00] HANNAH PAYNE: That's what we're trying to do. [00:19:35:26] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Which is terrific. [00:19:36:29] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So much of this, at least from the way you have talked about, there seems to be a research component. I'm not sure if it's necessarily academic research, but you know there is a need for data, there is a need for modeling, there's a need for communication. And Boston is of course the home of so many well-known institutions of higher education. Is this work done in partnership with academic groups and labs, or is it mostly done in-house within the city and elsewhere? [00:20:08:29] HANNAH PAYNE: So for some of the baseline studies we've done for climate change planning, solar greenhouse gas, inventory, our climate change vulnerability assessment, we worked with consultants on that. So not necessarily working with academic institutions, but kind of going out and hiring experts to help us with some of that research and rigorous analysis because we don't have the time in our positions in the city. We're a staff of three to do all of that work in house. [00:20:41:06] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And are there, I'm just thinking, many of our listeners as well as some of the people we want to reach are students who, like you, might think, wow this is great work. Are there opportunities for them to intern or enter into this research planning work while they're still students? [00:21:04:08] HANNAH PAYNE: Yes so our office tends to have internships. We have an intern this summer who is updating our greenhouse gas inventory, so kind of taking on that whole project. And we've had interns different semesters throughout even since before I started. So there are definitely opportunities, and I would encourage students to look for those opportunities because I think you learn so much by working in the public sector and working for a city. It's a really different experience than talking about policy at an academic setting. You learn a lot of the kind of nuts and bolts of how things actually get done, and some of the challenges that we face working in the public sector. [00:21:45:14] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: What are a couple of things that you've learned since you graduated from MIT last year? [00:21:49:11] HANNAH PAYNE: You know working for a city, some of the things that I was like, oh, these are like the sort of policies that I would want to implement. You learn some of why those don't work. Or what would need to happen. I think navigating politics and the different kind of local nuances, of I've learned a lot about kind of Massachusetts state policy, and what cities can and can't do, and then also I've also learned a lot of the technical stuff on the job as well, so you know about solar, or one of the programs that we just launched in Somerville is community choice electricity aggregation. I didn't know anything about that. [00:22:35:05] So while I was at MIT, and I think this is maybe unique to DUSP, was I did learn more about kind of the systems thinking policy, and now I have the opportunity to on the job really dig into kind of more technical programs and things like that. [00:22:52:00] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: What a great opportunity it is to extend your learning. [00:22:55:05] HANNAH PAYNE: Yeah it's great. I love to continue to learn. [00:22:58:00] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: You mentioned Massachusetts state policies and also the political landscape. What kind of political support are you getting for your work? Certainly within the city, and I don't know if you need political support beyond the city, but you speak to both if you can. [00:23:18:06] HANNAH PAYNE: Yes so I feel very fortunate to work for the city of Somerville. Mayor Curtatone is very supportive of taking action on climate change. He has said the city's goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, and has really kind of put a lot of energy behind the work that we're doing. So I feel that we have political support but at the top in Somerville to really take strong action on climate change. And he has been very supportive of Somerville Climate Forward and the work that we're doing with that. And then also the board of aldermen within Somerville are also very supportive of this work. So I think being in a progressive city, it's great to have the support from leadership to really take this work seriously, and that there is funding behind it to fund my position, and some of the work that we're doing in our office. [00:24:16:19] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: You're also working with the Somerville Commission Energy Use And Climate Change, can you tell our listeners a little bit about what's going on there? [00:24:24:09] HANNAH PAYNE: Sure, so the Commission On Energy Use And Climate Change is a commission made up of Somerville residents that have expertise or experience in climate change, energy, environmental issues. And they are appointed by the mayor, and then they meet monthly and provide advice and feedback on our work, and help us think through different ideas and they bring ideas to our office. And then they also advise the mayor kind of on policy, and programs, and kind of the direction that Somerville should take. So they were actually integral in kind of pushing for that carbon neutrality goal and helping the city see that that is the goal that we need to set in order to keep climate change in check, and that will set that goal, and now our job is to figure out how to get there. [00:25:15:04] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Great. Talking about how to get there, we are getting towards the end of this conversation. And we always end our conversation with the magic wand question. And today we might try to do a double magic wand. So the first magic wand question is you've been in Somerville for a year, you've kind of got a sense for the landscape. If there was one pressing issue that you would like addressed, what would that be? [00:25:47:04] HANNAH PAYNE: One of the biggest challenges we face in Somerville is that we have really old building stock. So they're not going anywhere in the near future. And so what I think I would love to do is to wave a magic wand, and have all of those homes and you know older buildings have perfect insulation, be weatherized, have solar on their roofs because it's going to be a real challenge to retrofit all of our buildings in order to really achieve the carbon reduction that we need to. And the biggest challenge with that, and this will I think lead into my magic wand question, is that doing all of those retrofits cost money. And housing is already very expensive in Somerville. [00:26:37:20] We're seeing housing prices go up, and so affordable housing is kind of the other big pressing issue that I see in Somerville as we're thinking about climate change. So if I could wave a magic wand and have for free everyone have safe, energy efficient, carbon neutral housing, that would be my dream. So my magic wand question for the listeners of this podcast is really a climate equity question. So how can we further our climate change goals and have deep carbon reductions without perpetuating gentrification and furthering the affordable housing crisis that we're seeing in many of our cities that are like Somerville and Boston. [00:27:23:21] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: That's such a wonderful question Hannah. And all of us here in ClimateX are very, very concerned exactly about those kinds of climate justice issues. And we're so happy that you came here and shared your thoughts on your work in the city of Somerville. [00:27:38:16] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And we hope that people who are just listening to this right now can give us a comment that answers Hannah's question, as well as anything else you'd like to add in. [00:27:48:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you so much Hannah. [00:27:49:26] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Thanks Hannah. [00:27:50:14] HANNAH PAYNE: Thank you. [00:27:51:06] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Climate Conversations can be found anywhere you listen to a podcast, including iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and if there's something that we haven't covered, tell us. Visit us at climatex.mit.edu and join the conversation.