Coast-to-coast cream of the crop: Phil Loring, Brian Robinson, Anne Salomon, Evan Fraser and Elena Bennett all cramming slides for the NSERC SPG-N site visit at McGill back in Spring 2019.
The media blackout has finally been lifted, thanks to a whimper of a press release from NSERC, that our Strategic Partnership Grant for Networks led by Elena Benett at McGill was successful! This is the culmination of a few years of partnership formation, collaboration and grant-writing. NSERC ResNet, the short name for our “network for monitoring, modeling, and managing Canada’s ecosystem services for sustainability and resilience”, will advance Ecosystem Services (ES) as a framework for thinking and working across disciplines to make better decisions in this country. The project will apply ES to contentious production landscape issues across Canada, including the Atlantic case study I’m co-leading with Jeremy Lundholm and Danika van Proosdij on the Bay of Fundy dykelands. We’ve got great partners, and a very active case as the NS Department of Agriculture is already deciding which dykelands can and should be sustained, and which realigned and/or restored to salt marsh. This project will allow us to wrap a research programme around that ongoing work, and leverage experts across the country. I look forward to the next 5+ years with this exceptional team.
A work of art featured in the new MES-curated Dal Art Gallery show Nature as Communities
A few quick things to mention about our wonderful MES students at SRES, before I head out for ISSRM on the weekend.
- Jennifer Yakamovich, who is studying environmental art with Tarah Wright (I’m only a committee member) has curated a visual art show at the Dalhousie Art Gallery with some of her research participants, called Nature as Communities. DalNews did a nice profile on her work.
- Jaya Fahey, who I’ve been working with on Space to Roost, collaborating with beach users to share beaches with migrating shorebirds, today shared a short documentary that features the project, Sharing the Coast with Shorebirds.
- Finally, Ellen Chappell presented this morning at Energy Research & Social Science, in Tempe, Arizona, about her survey-based Masters work on utilitarian landscape change and renewable energy in the Chignecto. She’ll be first in her cohort to defend June 17.
Canada’s Climate Change Ambassador, Patricia Fuller (Photo @tcadaptations)
I spent most of this week at an excellent workshop organized by TransCoastal Adaptations, a group led by Danika van Proosdij at Saint Mary’s that I’m aligned with via the Making Room for Movement project. Attendees came from across Canada and the US from academe but also government, NGOs, consulting and other practitioners, and instead of most conferences where those fragment across parallel sessions, the entire event was held in plenary style. This led to wonderfully rich conversations around the shared challenges we faced as members or stakeholders of the Cold Regions Living Shorelines Community of Practice. I met engaged folks from West Coast Environmental Law, White Point Lodge, Helping Nature Heal, Nature Conservancy, Kensington North Watersheds Association, Army Corps of Engineers, CBCL Consulting, and the Geological Survey of Canada, to name just a few, and had the rare opportunity to have dinner with Patricia Fuller, Canada’s Climate Change Ambassador.
Many definitions and synonyms of ‘nature-based’ were discussed, and I noted the tendency of the conversation toward ‘holding the line’ naturally rather than changing what we do behind that line, however green and/or fuzzy it is. Danika and I co-led a session on the communication dimensions where I called for empathy around the challenges that people face talking about retreat and other significant adaptations. We also presented our OECD case study, which prompted a discussion about how communication can be unpredictable. One person volunteered that instead of telling citizens what needs to be done, Surrey found it is best to show them the data and let them discover what needs to be done, then they own it. A Clean Foundation program manager talked about how they approached a First Nations community looking for sites to restore to salt marsh, but heard back about values to restore (such as specific plants). The Ecology Action Centre found that attendance at meetings varies dramatically depending on how recently adverse events have been experienced in the location. There is much more work to be done on best practices in this space. We are looking forward to contributing to the conversation after our focus groups in coming months.
Climax thinking, illustrated (Sherren, forthcoming in Energy Impacts: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of North American Energy Development, co-edited by Jacquet, Haggerty and Theodori)
We recently learned that the collected volume manuscript that began with an NSF-funded workshop at Ohio State University in 2017 has been accepted by the publishers (Social Ecology Press & Utah State University Press) for release late 2019 or early 2020. My sole-authored contribution to that collection, From climax thinking to a non-equilibrium approach to public good landscape change, is a theoretical culmination of a few years of work in hydroelectricity and coastal landscape change. Climax thinking uses a ecological analogy (i.e. climax in succession theory) to explore resistance to landscape transitions like those needed for renewable energy, coastal adaptation or urban densification. Feeling like your landscape has reached its ‘climax’ state is a powerful illusion, and leads those with means to push landscape change to those without. Three dimensions of the pathology are described and some possible ‘cures’ presented, hopefully leading to a non-equlibrium approach to landscape so we can meet the challenges ahead.
As so often happens when I read fiction, I am startled by links to theory. So it was when finishing up Rachel Cusk’s 2003 The Lucky Ones (p. 97-98) last week, a perfect microcosm of the fiction and injustice of holding landscapes in privileged stasis as described by climax thinking:
Ravenley had no pub or shop, no car park or playground, not even a telephone box. Superficially, it had not changed in a hundred years. The world beyond it sustained this appearance in the way that a life-support machine sustains the sleep of a dead patient. It was a costly process that had no purpose beyond the consolation of certain feelings. On the other side of the hill different standards obtained. Electricity pylons marched across grey, cluttered fields. Housing developments rose bloodily from the earth. Roads and roundabouts, petrol stations, landfill sites, industrial estates and shopping centres, all at different stages in a cycle of decay, gave the impression of something injured, something mutilated perhaps beyond repair, but for the time being at least independently alive. Cars issued discreetly from Raveley’s well-tended properties, ascended to the horizon and disappeared, to return again later, freighted with food and fuel. These properties, so unmarked, seemed like embodiments of pure emotion. Detached from their material shame, with no discernible edge of need, they gave the impression of housing lives in which fact was recessive and feeling predominant, in which feeling might have attained the status of fact, and become the moderating force of daily existence.