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UCLA Luskin Assistant Professor Darin Christensen at a PRG workshop in Accra, Ghana.

Project on Resources and Governance Receives $1.4-Million Grant

The Project on Resources and Governance (PRG), launched in 2017 by three UCLA scholars, has received a three-year $1.4-million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. PRG seeks to address the “resource curse,” in which countries with abundant natural resources that can be drivers of growth and prosperity nonetheless struggle with poverty, conflict and corruption. The project seeks to apply cutting-edge social science research methods to test and discover policies that promote welfare, peace and accountability in resource-rich countries. PRG is the brainchild of UCLA faculty members — Professor Michael Ross and Assistant Professor Graeme Blair of Political Science and Assistant Professor Darin Christensen of UCLA Luskin Public Policy, who holds a joint appointment with Political Science. The grant will be used to initiate new research projects in natural resource governance; to build capacity of decision makers to generate, interpret and apply rigorous evidence; and to grow the knowledge base on what works to help countries maximize benefits from their natural resource endowments.

View photos from the recent PRG workshop in Accra, Ghana.

Read about the origins of the Project on Resources and Governance.


 

Expert Panel Dissects Latino Role in Midterm Elections Chair of Democratic National Committee is among participants in a voting analysis event co-hosted by a policy research group based at UCLA Luskin

By Les Dunseith

As the days passed after the Nov. 6, 2018, elections and vote tallies across the United States were finalized, it became increasingly clear that voters had turned out in record numbers for a midterm election cycle. It also became evident that Latino voters played a pivotal role in many races.

Tom Perez, the first Latino to serve as chair of the Democratic National Committee, told an audience of about 175 people that gathered Nov. 14 at the Japanese American National Museum for a panel discussion of the midterm elections that his party’s get-out-the-vote effort targeted many populations that have been historically hard to motivate in large numbers, including Latinos.

“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon.”
— Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee


“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon,” Perez said during the event co-hosted by UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) and the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program.

Perez was joined by three other experts on the U.S. Latino electorate during a wide-ranging discussion about the outcome of key 2018 races and what it means for the future of Congress and the 2020 presidential election.

Although turnout was higher than in most midterm elections, the proportion of eligible Latino voters who cast ballots was not as high as it could be. Even so, Perez is focusing on carrying the increased voter engagement of 2018 into future elections.

“I mean, you look at turnout and I think it was up 174 percent in 2018,” he said. “Can we do more? Absolutely. There’s no doubt that there are votes that are left on the table.”

The panel discussion coincided with the release of a new report by LPPI that analyzed 2018 midterm results in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas — states with large Latino populations.

“It’s not about this election. It’s not about the next election. It’s about constantly being present in the Latino community and organizing to get people involved.”
— Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of LPPI 


The report found a significant increase in Latino ballots cast, said panelist Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of LPPI and professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA.

“We can observe that here in California about 40 percent of majority Latino precincts in Southern California had over a 70 percent increase. For non-Latino precincts, it was only 20 percent, so it was twice as high in the Latino community,” Barreto noted about the difference in voter turnout in 2018 as compared to 2014.

On the Republican side, Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative, said campaign strategists for the GOP missed opportunities to connect with the Latino electorate on many issues by continuing to focus on the divisive rhetoric that has marked much of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Donald Trump never shaped my values or my conservative views. I am pro-life. I believe in a limited government. Less regulation,” Garza continued. “But [Republicans] weren’t connecting on those issues as well as they should.”

Even though the midterm results generally favored his party, Perez said it is unwise to view any demographic group as a monolithic entity that will always vote a particular way.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that civil rights is about inclusion. It’s about making sure everyone has a seat at the table,” Perez said. “Demographics are never definitive. You need to show up. You need to build relationships. You need to listen. You need to be responsive. And the reason we were successful is that we responded when we heard from folks, ‘I want a better life for my kids.’”

The panelists also talked about voter suppression and how policymakers could make it easier for citizens to cast their ballots. A key point of discussion was the fact that national campaign strategies often focus on likely voters at the expense of people who vote less often, which includes many Latinos.

Barreto noted that a Latino voter tracking poll asked respondents whether they had been contacted by a campaign. Initially, the rate of contact among Latinos was 40 percent. By Election Day, 53 percent of Latinos in the battleground congressional districts said that they had been contacted — a higher rate for Latinos than for whites in those districts.

Even though 53 percent is historically high, “what’s frustrating is that there are still millions of people who didn’t receive any contact at all,” Barreto said.

Also on the panel was Democrat Tatiana Matta, whose bid to unseat GOP incumbent Kevin McCarthy in U.S. House District 32 was unsuccessful. She spoke about some of the challenges she faced to reach potential supporters in her district in the Central Valley of California.

“A lot of [my] connections were made as a Latino, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity. But we have to work for it.” — Tatiana Matta, on the challenge to reach supporters in her bid for a congressional seat


“My district is very rural. So to get from one home to another home, you have to get in your car,” Matta explained. “So you have to physically take volunteers or canvassers to those communities and push those resources out. If not, you’re not going to reach them.”

To reach Latino voters in many areas, candidates must be comfortable speaking Spanish.

“A lot of [my] connections were made as a Latino, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity,” she said. “But we have to work for it.”

Garza expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s hard to get ahold of people,” he said. In Nevada, for example, Garza said that when his organization’s campaign workers made calls or canvassed, people were often unavailable. “So it’s hard work, too. It’s not because of indifference.”

Barreto interjected. “I think it’s entirely because of indifference,” he said bluntly. “When campaigns look at the voter file and someone doesn’t have a vote history, they just put them in another bucket. They don’t say, ‘How hard are you to contact?’ They just don’t contact them. So we have to change that cycle.”

Barreto told the crowd, which included many people who had participated in Latino voter registration and outreach efforts, that the 2018 midterm elections are just one step in a long process.

“It’s not about this election. It’s not about the next election,” Barreto said of the long-term political importance of the growing Latino population in America. “It’s about constantly being present in the Latino community and organizing to get people involved. And at some point that will pay off for whichever side wants to take advantage of our voters.”

Learn more about the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.

More information about the Aspen Institute and its Latinos and Society Program is available on social media via @AspenLatinos.

View video of the event on YouTube:

Browse additional photos on Flickr:

LPPI 2018 midterm elections panel

Manville, Monkkonen Investigate Roots of Animosity Toward Housing Developers

UCLA associate professors Michael Manville and Paavo Monkkonen were recently featured in an article on Sightline highlighting their research on neighborhood opposition to new building. Even more than perceived harm and self-interest, Manville and Monkkonen found that “the most powerful opposition frame is about the developer,” specifically when a developer “is likely to earn a large profit from the building.” Despite the apparent motivation to “enforce community norms of fairness” by reining in developers who strive to maximize personal profits, Manville and Monkkonen note the potential flaws of this approach. Manville and Monkkonen illustrate the potentially “vicious cycle of regulation and resentment” as a result of anti-developer attitudes in which “punishing developers … [risks] thwarting affordability, punishing people who need homes, [and] discouraging all but the least likable, deepest-pocketed and most aggressive developers from building.” Despite the foundations of a moral argument against profit-driven developers, Manville and Monkkonen propose a shift in focus to the accessibility and affordability of “homes of all shapes and sizes [for] neighbors of all income levels.”


New Research Weighs Impact of Gas Tax Repeal

A new report co-authored by Martin Wachs, UCLA Luskin distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, assesses California’s transportation revenue stream and the potential impact of a ballot measure to repeal the state’s gas tax. The tax was part of a law adopted in 2017 to fund road repairs and maintenance, along with new transit projects and infrastructure upgrades. Proposition 6, on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot, would repeal the law and require voter approval for future increases in transportation-related taxes. The study by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University projects that, between now and 2040, California would lose approximately $100 billion in transportation revenue if Proposition 6 passes. “California’s ability to plan and deliver an excellent transportation system depends upon the state having a stable, predictable and adequate revenue stream,” said Wachs, lead author of the report. The study also measured voter sentiment about how to pay for transportation improvements. “Of clear importance to the public is assurance that the revenue is being spent efficiently and on things that they care about such as maintenance, safety improvement and programs that benefit the environment,” said Hannah King, a Ph.D. student specializing in transportation planning at UCLA Luskin. King is co-author of the report with Asha Weinstein Agrawal, director of the MTI National Transportation Finance Center.

 

Scholars Gather at UCLA to Share Research, Plan Data Collection for 2020 Election

Researchers from across the country visited UCLA Luskin for a second year on Aug. 8-10, 2018, to share information and formulate plans for the 2020 update to a landmark survey based on the U.S. presidential electorate. The inaugural effort, known as the 2016 Collaborative Multi-Racial Post-Election Survey (CMPS), was produced by a research collaborative co-led by faculty from UCLA. Among the conference speakers was Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, a UCLA associate professor of political science and African American studies, who was one of the event’s organizers and a co-principal investigator for the survey. Other speakers included co-principal investigator and conference co-organizer Matt Barreto, a UCLA professor of political science and Chicana and Chicano studies, as well as co-principal investigators Janelle Wong from the University of Maryland and Edward Vargas from Arizona State University. The 2016 survey was the first cooperative, multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, post-election online survey in race, ethnicity and politics in the United States. Roundtable discussions focused on ways to improve the survey for the next presidential election, and participants filled a large lecture hall for two days centered around more than a dozen academic studies and reports derived from the 2016 data. For example, one presentation included UCLA alumnus Jonathan Collins of Brown University: “Was Hillary Clinton ‘Berned’ By Millennials? Age, Race, and Third-Party Vote Choice in the 2016 Presidential Election.” The workshop encouraged collaboration to strengthen the academic pipeline in the study of race, ethnicity and immigration through co-authorships and research opportunities, particularly for graduate students, post-docs and junior faculty.

View an album of photos from the conference on Flickr

CMPS conference

Panel, Presentations Focus on Social Justice Issues

On June 7, 2018, students from UCLA Luskin presented research on issues relevant to social justice, followed by a panel discussion about empowering immigrant communities in Los Angeles. Moderated by Val Zavala, formerly of KCET, the panel included Joseph Villa of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; Daisy Esqueda and Nicole Mitchell of LAUSD; Jyotswaroop Kaur Bawa of the California Immigrant Policy Center; and Reshma Shamasunder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. The event was organized by three student groups at UCLA Luskin: Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity, Social Workers for Collective Action, and Planners of Color for Social Equity.

View photos on Flickr:

Social Justice in Policymaking

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin fills a critical research gap and provides a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

The new think tank at UCLA known as the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) has moved quickly to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information that can help political leaders make informed decisions about issues of interest to Latinos.

One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information to help leaders nationwide craft new policies.

“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd at the official launch of LPPI in December 2017.

Representatives of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to effect change in a profound way,” Waugh said at the launch event.

LPPI founders Matt Barreto, Gary Segura and Sonja Diaz, front row, joined with their 2017-18 student assistants for a formal portrait in March. Also on hand was Director of Development Ricardo Quintero, far left. Photo by Les Dunseith

LPPI works with UCLA faculty to produce research and analyze policy issues from a Latino perspective — aided by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of students from UCLA Luskin and other schools. For example, students associated with LPPI were involved in the production of two recently released reports:

  • An empirical analysis of Fruitvale Village in Oakland, California, that assessed aggregate census tract socioeconomic outcomes to evaluate changes for those living there compared to those living in similar communities in the Bay Area.
  • A state-by-state analysis of Latino homeownership, plus data research on national disasters and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the 2017 Hispanic Homeownership Report issued by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).

Gabriela Solis, a UCLA Luskin MPP and MSW student whose focus at LPPI is on housing and displacement, provided some of the information in the NAHREP report, working from raw Census data.

“My background is in homelessness in L.A. County and extreme poverty,” said Solis, a policy fellow at LPPI. “With this research and learning about homeownership rates, and who gets to buy homes and who gets loans, it’s something that I had really never thought about too much. It’s been really interesting.”

Several students also traveled to Sacramento in February, during which LPPI visited legislators and their staffs, and presented applied policy research before the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

LPPI’s inaugural Sacramento legislative briefing included research on three policy areas: the Latino Gross Domestic Product; Criminal Justice and Bail Reform; and the impact of Social Science Research on DACA litigation.

Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18 was also a Monica Salinas fellow during her time as a student. She focused on criminal justice in her schoolwork, so joining the effort in Sacramento dovetailed nicely with her interests.

“Being on our Sacramento trip and meeting with all Latino legislators and aides, that’s really important,” Espinoza said. “The higher up you go in academia, to see people who look like you doing amazing work, I think that is really a value add for LPPI.”

LPPI Director Diaz said her student team includes a mix of graduate students like Solis and Espinoza and undergrads with an interest in public affairs and
Latino issues.

Celina Avalos, wan undergraduate student in political science, served as special projects associate for LPPI during the 2017-18 academic year.

“A lot of it does have to do with political science, what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “My main focus was never on policy. But being here in LPPI and working with [Diaz], I have gotten more passionate about it — how impactful public policy actually is.”

Diaz said the LPPI students work as a team. “For the undergrads, what is great is that they have a seat at the table,” she said. “There is integration. There is cohesive learning. We are learning from each other. The students are on the calls with the external stakeholders. They are going on these trips. They are supporting our events.”

The undergrads also see first-hand what it is like to be a graduate student involved in impactful research efforts.

“Working with the graduate students, I get to hear from them and see the work that they are doing,” Avalos said. “I have found it really inspiring seeing these Latino women — honestly, I look up to them. I see them doing their research work and think, ‘Wow, look at them.’ It has definitely changed my perspective on what I hope to do in the future.”

The inspirational potential of LPPI was an important motivation for Segura in getting the new research center underway and finding a home for it at UCLA.

Segura, who secured approval to hire additional UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in Latino policy, said the day-to-day work being done by LPPI helps bolster UCLA’s capacity to provide role models for its Latino students.

“I genuinely care about every research opportunity that I have with LPPI,” Espinoza said. “And it really hits close to home. It gives you an added desire to do well and a drive to succeed.”

Segura said of the LPPI students: “I have been at events with them. I have seen them present on our behalf. I have seen the product of their work. And they are doing great.”

The students fully embraced LPPI’s goal to advance knowledge about Latinos through work that actually involves Latinos themselves.

“It’s why we do what we do,” Espinoza said. “It’s motivating.”

For more information about how to support LPPI, contact Ricardo Quintero at (310) 206-7949 or by email at rquintero@luskin.ucla.edu.

A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.

9 New Faculty Hired by UCLA Luskin An extraordinary recruitment effort that included visits by 40 candidates will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent, adding new expertise and greater diversity

By Les Dunseith

Nine new faculty members will be joining the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on July 1 as part of a hiring binge that will soon enlarge the size of the full-time faculty by almost 20 percent and further diversify its demographic makeup.

The additions will help UCLA Luskin expand it course offerings, in part to support the new undergraduate major in public affairs set to launch in fall of 2018. A few positions will fill openings that had become vacant because of faculty retirements and other departures.

Dean Gary Segura said the new hires expand the Luskin School’s range of knowledge and evolve its faculty to better match the country’s rapidly changing demographics.

“These additions to the Luskin School faculty represent an outstanding growth and expansion of our expertise and social impact,” Segura said. “With these additions and those last year, we are among the most diverse and interdisciplinary units in the entire UC system and profoundly well-positioned to engage, educate, study, and contribute to California’s diverse and dynamic population.”

Six of the new hires are women and four are Latino. They include two new assistant professors in Social Welfare and three new assistant professors in Urban Planning, plus two assistant professors, one associate professor and one full professor who will join Public Policy.

The new faculty represent additional expertise for the School in international human and women’s rights; survey research; environmental planning, adaptation, and justice; criminal justice and bias in policing; immigration; gentrification; social and political inequality; poverty; and social identity among youth.

Among the additions are three political scientists, two economists, a developmental psychologist, a sociologist and a geographer. All of the positions have multidisciplinary aspects, crossing department lines not only within the Luskin School but also, in some cases, with academic units elsewhere on campus.

In all, 40 candidates were interviewed, coming from across the United States and around the world. The new faculty range from people just finishing graduate school to a full professor.

Here are the nine new faculty members:

  • The full professor is Martin Gilens, who previously taught political science at UCLA and has also worked at Yale and, most recently, Princeton. Gilens, who will join the Public Policy faculty, grew up in Los Angeles and has strong ties to the university.

 Read our previous story about Martin Gilens

 


  • Amada Armenta: She is returning to UCLA where she completed her PhD in sociology, and will join Urban Planning in the fall. Armenta comes to UCLA from the University of Pennsylvania where she is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her work looks at immigration enforcement and its impact on the lives and communities affected. She is particularly interested in the intervention of the criminal justice system in immigration enforcement. She has been published in Social Problems and the Annual Review of Sociology, in addition to her University of California Press book, “Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.”

 


  • Natalie Bau: She is an international economist currently at the University of Toronto and will be joining Public Policy. Bau’s work examines several different aspects of the economics of education and educational policies and their downstream implications, including the effects on marriage patterns, teacher pay, student achievement and motivation, and others. She has projects in the works including “The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers” as well as “Labour Coercion and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Harrying of the North.”

 


  • Liz Koslov: She will assume a joint post in Urban Planning and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability as an assistant professor. Koslov is a scholar of environmental justice and specifically examines the urban socio-cultural impacts of climate change. She is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT, and holds a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. She is in the process of completing her first book, “Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City,” under contract to the University of Chicago Press.

 


  • Amy Ritterbusch: She will be joining Social Welfare. Ritterbusch is a human and urban geographer and currently an associate professor of government at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her work is focused on urban social justice movements, marginalized youth, substance abuse, prostitution and other downstream effects of child poverty. She also brings extensive expertise in field work, ethnographic methods and Latin American populations across the hemisphere. She has written several journal articles, which have been featured in Child, Abuse & Neglect, Global Public Health, Annals of the American Association of Geographers and other peer-reviewed journals.

  • Carlos Santos: Currently an assistant professor in counseling psychology at ASU, Santos is coming to UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. His work is principally on gender and ethnic identities, stereotypes, and their impacts on social adjustment, educational performance and outcomes among adolescents in communities of color. He received his PhD from NYU and his work has been funded by NSF and NIH. In addition to his monograph “Studying Ethnic Identity” for the American Psychological Association, his work has been published in many outlets, including the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

  • V. Kelly Turner: Turner is currently an assistant professor of geography at Kent State and her focus is human-environmental interaction and urban management.  She will join Luskin Urban Planning in the fall. Her focus has been on how institutional arrangements and good metrics for resource consumption can help us build toward a more sustainable ecosystem, and she has applied this work to water resources, sustainable urbanism, and green infrastructure. She is the author of more than a dozen journal articles in publications such as Applied Geography, Ecology and Society, Urban Geography, and others.

  • Emily Weisburst: She is finishing a PhD in economics at UT-Austin and will be joining Public Policy. Her work focuses on bias in policing, officer discretion in arrest behavior, police reform, and the effects of police presence in public schools. Weisburst previously served as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President, and has done collaborative research for RAND and the State of Texas. Her work has been published in the Journal of Higher Education and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

  • Chris Zepeda-Millan: He joins Luskin Public Policy. Zepeda-Millan is a political scientist and current professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on social movements, immigration and communities of color, and has been published in American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Politics, Groups and Identities. His book, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization and Activism,” was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Zepeda-Millan will be jointly appointed in the Department of Chicana/o Studies and will be working with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

 

Wildfires Don’t Have to be ‘Bad,’ Author Says During UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation talk and panel discussion, experts discuss how policy changes can reduce the risk of tragedy in fire-prone areas such as Southern California

By Aaron Julian

Last December, Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area faced many major fire events, including the Skirball and Thomas fires, that caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to hundreds of thousands of acres and hundreds of buildings. Severe fire incidents such as these leave an impression on some people that all wildfires can be nothing but catastrophic.

But the rich history of benefits, losses, debates, policy initiatives and research demonstrate that wildfires are so much more than what meets the eye.

Wildfire was the topic of discussion on April 19, 2018, at UCLA Luskin. Fronting this event was Edward Struzik, a fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and author of the book, “Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future.” Struzik detailed the history, science and approaches taken to control wildfires over the past couple of centuries. He also pressed for a hybrid approach to wildfires that moves us away from the longstanding policy of fire suppression toward fire management.

“Fire rejuvenates forests by removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from forest ecosystems, and yet fire continues to be demonized. … The big problem is that we have not been able to figure out how to live with fire,” Struzik said.

Wildfire incidents have become increasingly powerful and widespread, he said, and in turn have become increasingly difficult to contain. This amplifying issue can be attributed to factors such as global climate change, invasive trees and shrubs, arctic sea ice changes, and, especially, human behavior. As the human population increases, communities grow and spread. As more people spend more time in forests, fire risks increase dramatically.

“Human-started wildfires have accounted for 84 percent of total wildfires, and tripled the length of the fire season,” Struzik asserted. “The problem we can say is not fire, but people.”

He added that preparation is crucial in communities that are at risk of wildfire, so that people understand that we are unable to stop all fires. He argued for improved early warning processes and clearer evacuation protocols. Struzik also proposed doing more controlled burns and allowing remote wildfires to run their course to safely deplete the fuel for these fires and enhance forest ecosystems.

The future is projected to become increasingly dangerous if fire suppression remains dominant. As arctic sea ice continues to diminish, Santa Ana winds will become dryer. Struzik says that our best option is to adapt and embrace “good fire”; otherwise, the “bad and the ugly fires” will prevail.

Following the lecture, a panel of experts expanded on the subject matter.

Doug Bevington, director of the Environment Now Forest Program at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and moderator of the panel, said, “The central challenge we face is to find policies that simultaneously take climate change seriously and take the natural role of large wildfires seriously … while enabling Californians to safely coexist with wildfire as an inevitable part of life in our state.”

Chief Ralph Terrazas of the Los Angeles Fire Department detailed the hard work and strain that California fire departments have experienced in recent years, including last December when multiple fires raged at once. Terrazas emphasized the importance of larger policy reforms to reduce fire incidents and stretch fire combat resources when homes and lives are endangered.

“It is about changing the way we think when we live in these environments,” said Beth Burnham, a founder and current member of the North Topanga Safe Fire Council. Burnham argued that when people live in fire-risk areas like many parts of Southern California, they must make fire readiness and preparation a priority.

Alex Hall, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and director of the Center for Climate Science at UCLA, drew on his work in climate science in adding his perspective. “In California, there is this tremendous sensitivity of fire to climate and weather. Because climate and weather are changing, that means fire is also changing,” he said.

When the conversation was opened to the crowd, topics included technical inquiries from workers in water management as well as personal anecdotes about safety in communities that have previously been impacted by fire incidents. The panel reiterated the need to be prepared and have a plan for fire incidents, but attendees were also urged to work at the community level to promote change on a wider scale.

The event was organized by the Luskin Center for Innovation as part of the UCLA Luskin Innovator Series.

Click or swipe to view a gallery of photos from the event:

How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future