Dispatches from the Future
Great Wall of Wildcats
“I can’t believe it’s been 150 years since the founding of Chico State”, I think to myself as I lay in bed the night before graduation contemplating how lucky I am to even have the opportunity to receive a diploma. The year is 2037 and the climate has continued to change for the worse hosting many disasters such as fires, heatwaves, droughts and floods. Such events have caused many colleges to shrink in size or completely shut down all together. However, Chico State has continued on mostly uninterrupted and is now the top California State University out of fifteen.
The University has achieved this accolade through its past leaders who had the foresight to plan for such disasters. I can attest to this first hand because I survived the worst flood in the history of Chico thanks to their planning. In 2034, Chico swallowed 54 inches of rain which is almost double the average for the city. The “Great Flood”, as the townies call it, caused millions in damages, injured many, killed a few and disrupted all city functions for weeks; but not Chico State. The campus only suffered a couple losses being a cafe and greenhouse that were built right on Big Chico Creek (which became a river for a bit). The campus has been the backbone of the Chico community ever since.
The past leaders began adapting for disasters ahead of time because they realized that investing some money then, would save more money later. The first step they took to adapt to flooding was to extend the riparian corridor (vegetation area) along the creek that flows through campus. They extended it by a minimum of 10 feet wherever possible by planting drought resistant trees and other native plants to help slow and absorb any flood water that reached it. They kept cost down and heightened campus morale by having students and faculty bond while planting the trees and learning about the new hazards we face together. Next, they determined the vital areas along the riparian corridor that would need an extra barrier during a major flood event and built a two-foot levee/bench out of hempcrete, decorated with student murals. The “Great Wall of Wildcats” would divert water and also provide a nice place to sit and enjoy the creek. Alumni Glenn and the Mary Lemcke Camellia Garden (open space between Holt Hall and the creek) were also altered to be easier flooded creating a sort of pool during a major flood event that would slow the speed of water as well. And finally, any important items, such as electronics, irreplaceable documents, etc., were removed from the first floors and basements of all campus buildings.
Chico State has become a sort of icon and example for climate resilience by adapting the campus to any and every kind of disaster possible to the area. Entities from around the world applaud the university as they begin to emulate what has been done here. It’s been 3 years since the “Great Flood” and I probably wouldn't be walking across that stage tomorrow had Chico State not planned ahead like it did and for that, I’m forever grateful.
-- Dylan Batie