COVID-19 and the Changing Face of Adaptation

Alex Cameron-Smith
Apr 9, 2020 · 3 min read
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There are countless definitions of adaptation. Biologists will know that it means how an organism responds to changes in its environment so it has a better chance of surviving. Engineers will say that adaptation is changing how a device functions for a different purpose, and artists will understand the necessity of adapting plays or books to suit a different medium or reach another audience. Climate change experts have been warning us for years that we need to both reduce our carbon emissions and make sure we’re prepared for the worst-case global heating scenario.

Yet over the last few weeks, we have had to suddenly and severely change how we function under and respond to a very different type of worst-case scenario. All of our lives are under threat from the spread of COVID-19; like a bowl of spaghetti this virus is touching every single aspect of our existence. We have been driven back to the most basic meaning of survival, that is, trying not to die. Some people can only stay home, some are dropping off supplies to those in need, and others have to open their shops every day, or go directly to the front line to look after the sick. It’s a terrifying purgatory, but one that we need to accept and ride out.

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Our project is called Coastal Communities Adapting Together (CCAT), and we are trying to help vulnerable communities living by the sea to become more resilient to things like extreme weather, rising sea levels and hotter summers. Yet the spread of the coronavirus has completely changed how we operate — we’ve had to put heads together (remotely) to adapt the adaptation project itself.

Climate change has been pushed to the bottom of the world’s agenda, and the postponing of COP26 will mean action is delayed even further. It’s far from ideal, especially as the effects of COVID-19 pale compared to the long-term suffering that the climate crisis will cause, but at least now we know the scale of response and behaviour change that is possible. We must maintain this state of emergency going forward so we can deal with what is to come.

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Under CCAT we will take our responsibility seriously, committing to follow all government guidance, work from home and acknowledge that we are incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. We have stopped travelling, we will stay in touch with local communities to identify their needs, and we are working hard to provide resources and guidance to education professionals and anyone else for as long as it’s necessary. Right now there is only room for empathy, compassion and helping others — maybe that’s all we really need.

If you need education resources, want to find out more about CCAT or just tell us how we can help, please contact Alex ( If we can’t help you directly, we’ll put you in touch with people who can.

CCAT is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme.

CCAT (Coastal Communities Adapting Together)

The Coastal Communities Adapting Together (CCAT) project…

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