Stubblefield Institute hosts panel discussion on the need for resiliency in West Virginia

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – On April 3, 2024, the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications, Shepherd University’s Delta Sigma Pi’s Epsilon Kappa chapter, and the Environmental Defense Fund hosted a panel discussion on the need for resiliency in West Virginia. During the panel discussion, industry experts discussed how West Virginia can identify vulnerabilities in local communities to better prepare for and react to natural disasters.  

Resiliency strategy focuses on how well your community organization can maintain its operations in worst-case scenarios. West Virginia’s need for resiliency is elevated by economic shifts, ongoing infrastructure improvement demands, and environmental concerns.

Stubblefield Institute Executive Director, Ashley Horst, delivered welcoming remarks, thanking guests and panelists for attending the event hosted at Shepherd University’s Byrd Center Auditorium. “The need for resiliency is heightened due to the recent floods, wildfires, and storms in West Virginia,” said Horst. “We are thrilled to host an important discussion on a topic that is often overlooked, but one that is real and relevant to all of our communities.”

The event began with a presentation of the U.S. Climate Vulnerability Index, an online resource developed by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Texas A&M University that identifies areas of vulnerability in communities. Lauren Johnson, a Senior Analyst with EDF, shared information with the audience regarding the development of the resource and how it can be used by the public.

“Through this tool, we can identify drivers of vulnerabilities. Our role is to build trust and capacity for individuals, so that those who are closest to the problems can find solutions to better their communities,” said Johnson. 

Following the presentation by Johnson, Paul Teter, a junior Business Administration-Marketing major and Student Government Association President at Shepherd University moderated the panel discussion. 

Dr. Jeffrey Groff, Professor of Physics and Environmental Science in Shepherd University’s Department of Natural and Physical Sciences, joined the panel to discuss how West Virginia is unique in its resiliency needs compared to other states.

“This area is one of the most biodiverse areas in the entire global temperate zone,” said Dr. Groff. “The same topography that makes West Virginia biologically resilient presents big challenges when it comes to socioeconomic factors. In order to have more resilient communities and infrastructure, we need to have connectedness.”

The panel also featured Melissa Scott, Hardy County Planner and Floodplain Manager. Scott brought great expertise to the discussion as Hardy County and other parts of the Eastern Panhandle have been subject to recent wildfires. 

“Resiliency starts with the resilience of the natural environment to provide resources for businesses and provide a place where people have a good quality of life,” said Scott. “It’s important to remember that resilient people are necessary for resilient communities and industry.”

Delegate Evan Hansen (Monongalia) joined the discussion, bringing a breadth of knowledge as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and Principal of Downstream Strategies, an environmental and economic development consulting firm based in Morgantown, WV.

“One type of investment that would create jobs would be to address the infrastructure that’s at risk and try to make it more resilient,” said Hansen. “Diversifying the energy portfolio is another example of how we could diversify our overall economy and become more resilient.”

As the thirty-minute panel discussion concluded, panelists offered solutions as to how West Virginia can become more resilient. The panelists agreed that West Virginia can create a more sustainable future by embracing resiliency. To wrap up the discussion, the panelists answered questions from the audience, addressing questions on how West Virginia can invest in resiliency.

“I am thrilled to have moderated the panel discussion this evening,” said Teter. “My fellow Delta Sigma Pi members and I thoroughly researched the topic of resiliency to prepare for this event and we are excited to continue this very important conversation in the Mountain State.”
For more information on the U.S. Climate Vulnerability Index, please visit https://map.climatevulnerabilityindex.org/map/cvi_overall/usa?mapBoundaries=Tract&mapFilter=0&reportBoundaries=Tract&geoContext=State.

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