Michael R. Boswell is Department Head and Professor of City & Regional Planning at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. He has a Master of Science (M.S.P.) and Ph.D. in Urban & Regional Planning from The Florida State University. He has published on topics such as climate action planning, hazard mitigation, adaptive management and governance, local government planning, autonomous vehicles, and sustainable development.
He is lead author of the book Climate Action Planning published by Island Press. Dr. Boswell served as an expert advisor on ‘Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning’ for the UN-Habitat Cities and Climate Change Initiative and attended the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP-21) to launch the report. In 2017, he represented the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning in the Planners for Climate Action initiative launched at COP-23 in Bonn. Since 2006 he has served as a senior advisor and Project Director, for the California Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan update. He is a founding member and served on the Organizing Committee of the Central Coast Climate Collaborative and he is the Director of the California Climate Action Planning Conference.
Dr. Boswell worked as a professional planner for Brevard County, Florida, the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. His public service leadership includes having served on the board of the non-profit Bike SLO County and as a member and Chair of the City of San Luis Obispo Planning Commission.
Michael Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:
Michael's Final Five Question Responses:
What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?
One piece of advice I have is that you have to find some way to deal with the overwhelming challenge that we face and how it can affect you mentally. I talked to so many fellow professionals in this field who seem to kind of go through these peaks and troughs in terms of their sense of the problem and their ability to make a difference with the problem. Part of this is about taking care of yourself and your own physical and mental health and part of this is about developing good professional networks that provide some support. But, it can be difficult. There are certainly days where you can wake up and feel this problem is overwhelming and it's unsolvable. I remember after I read, David Wallace Wells, Uninhabitable Planet, I just sort of wanted to stay in bed for the day. A great book, but not a feel good book by any means. So, I think that's a real struggle for sustainability professionals and I think we have to help each other with that. We can do that through good networking and communicating with each other, and then taking care of ourselves.
What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?
There's a lot to be excited about. You have to find the exciting things because that's what really gives you hope. I think there are a couple of important ones for me right now. I've come a lot more focused on getting better up to speed on energy and our energy situation. It just really seems like we are finally at that moment where we are really about to make rapid progress on renewable energy, both due to the cost of renewable energy, continuing to come down but also some of the other real benefits to things like electrification, electric vehicles, that sort of thing. I really feel like we're really finally at that moment we all hoped we would get to on energy. Also, there seems to be a resurgence in the global movement on climate change. We seem to be again in a moment of real activism around climate change, particularly with young people. I think that's always really exciting, although we need to get things done now today on this issue. It feels good that there seems to be this next generation coming up that's highly motivated to push really aggressive action on climate change.
What is one book you would recommend sustainability leaders read?
Now, the worst thing you can ever ask a professor is to recommend one book. We want to recommend 20. For me, the classic book on this was Earth in the Balance by Al Gore. I have to admit, I haven't gone back and read it recently, but I remember when I first read it, it really was the kind of book that inspired me and got me on the path to sustainability and climate change. I do want to give a recommendation for one of my fellow Island press authors, and that's Designing Climate Solutions by Hal Harvey. Island presses who publishes our book. They're a nonprofit publisher and they do a lot of great books on the environment, sustainability and climate change. Hal just spoke locally recently and I thought he gave a great talk and the book's full of interesting ideas on how we develop solutions for climate change.
What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in your work?
Yeah, I was trying to figure out a way to answer this where I wouldn't just going to detail a bunch of boring government reports and things of that nature, which tends to be at least for me, a lot of the tools I use things like the Global Protocol for doing greenhouse gas emissions inventories. It's interesting, but it's not a page turner. I thought one set of things I could potentially mention were some of the newsletters that I read. Like I said, there's so much going on in the field of climate change, it's very difficult to keep track of the field. There's a couple of newsletters I'm really dependent on. There's Climate Nexus, which is a daily news digest. That's really great. There's something called EcoAdapt CAKE (Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange). They have a periodic newsletter that's excellent in terms of going over like case studies and new tools and things like that. One greeat energy related resource is called Utility Dive. There's a number of podcasts like this podcast I think are great. I also always try to listen to the Cimate One podcast and the Interchange from Greentech Media.
Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and your work?
Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn of course and then my email firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm periodically on Twitter, and that is at @mboswell