17 Dec Message from President & CEO Marissa Christiansen on FoLAR’s New Mission and Visions
It’s 2022. Think about that – we are living in a time that was once fodder for the futuristic science fiction of our collective childhood. Despite its many challenges, this decade is a little more optimistic than those stories posited. We’re adjusted to life in a pandemic, we’ve successfully kept the robot-alien takeover at bay, and the only planet sustaining human life is still Earth. Those are wins! As the pandemic and our response to it continue to evolve, there is an even greater clear and present challenge to life on Earth that we must all unite to solve: climate change. We here at Friends of the Los Angeles River have deepened our focus and commitment to making sure the river is part of Los Angeles’ solution for it.
With your help, FoLAR was able to rebound from the first challenging year of the pandemic in an exceedingly strong way. This position of strength has allowed us to evaluate our impact, priorities, and the way we work. As we did so, we watched climate scientists and world leaders convene in Fall 2021 to commit to climate action and reflected on our own power and responsibility to do the same right here on the Los Angeles River. While the present and growing forces of climate change are overwhelming, at FoLAR we’re eager to take our next steps towards a Los Angeles River that truly is a benefit to all. To that end, we are pleased to share our updated vision centered on the river’s potential as an equitable and natural climate solution particularly for the communities most impacted by forecasted changes. Much like our oceans, rivers are intractable natural resources that follow only the will of mother nature, no matter the amount of concrete poured in attempts to control them. We believe that nature will always find a way, and that we are all inextricably linked to nature. This belief informs our updated vision:
We envision a verdant Los Angeles River that supports vulnerable communities in climate adaptation. The river will be transformed into a dynamic, functioning ecosystem that reduces flood risk, cleans the air, cools temperatures, and supports the biodiversity essential to our collective wellbeing.
Over the last several years we’ve deepened our understanding of and work in equity and climate action. This new vision statement simply memorializes what we embody on a daily basis. As we contemplated this new vision, it became clear that our mission also needed updating. Our work has always been centered on grassroots education and engagement as a proven way to build the constituency for change. That work is more important than ever. As cities, communities, and individuals around the world seek ways they can each adapt to climate change, it is imperative that communities be deeply connected to and involved in the adaptation of their own landscapes, particularly for those frontline communities who will be hit first and hardest by mounting climate impacts.
Running 51 miles from the valley to the sea, the Los Angeles River holds great potential as a source for adaptive measures for the communities alongside it. As Los Angeles looks towards a future of increased storms, flooding, fires, and heat, the river’s potential as a partially-restored riparian, tree-lined corridor can offer real benefits by way of shade, cooler temperatures, carbon sequestration, and a respite for those who need it most. All of these nature-based climate solutions do co-exist with and augment effective flood control along rivers all over the world. We expect as much for Los Angeles.
We are committed to facilitating equitable, climate-forward, community-driven change on the Los Angeles River and understand what we offer is information, education, and opportunities to engage in the decisions that will shape the future livability of the river corridor and its watershed. Our work is centered on nature and equity, and driven by the power of civic action. We are pleased to be able to clarify that in our updated mission:
We build capacity for communities, students, and future leaders to advocate for nature, climate, and equity on the LA River.
The years ahead will be impactful, action-packed, and challenging. We know we’re up to the challenge because we have friends, supporters, advocates, and allies like you. We look forward to standing with YOU in your quest for climate justice and adaptation. The river, Los Angeles, and nature itself will be better for it. Thank you for your work so far. Let’s do this!