I’ve broken my flight strike to head to Vancouver for the Adaptation Canada meeting, and if you’re going to expend the carbon, at least have a window seat and a clear day. Candy to a geographer. The transect across from Edmonton on the last leg was fascinating, from fields and shelterbelts and intermittent riparian buffers, to oil and gas pump sites cut out of forests, to forestry cutblocks and then into the Rockies proper. On descent towards Vancouver an amazing panorama opened up of the Fraser Valley and its mix of agriculture and industry and development. Vancouver’s new train in from the airport was a real boon, as was not having to put on my parka, hat or mitts, brought just in case. You could easily identify the visitors on the streets: smiling and coatless among the bundled locals.
Congratulations to Kate Thompson, for the first of her PhD comprehensive papers which has just come out in Ecosystem Services. Kate reviewed dozens of municipal plans in Canada, coding deductively for ecosystem services concepts using the new CICES framework, and synthesized what she found into a useful new model for urban planners. The paper, The use of ecosystem services concepts in Canadian municipal plans, translates ecosystem services to ‘planning imperatives’: protect ES supply, mimic and rebuild ES, and capitalize on ES. I am sure this paper will be useful to scholars and practitioners alike.
It has a sprint since getting back from AAG in New Orleans. It was my first time at that epic event, spread across several downtown hotels. I was surprised to actually run into people I knew from other organizations like IASNR and topics like rangelands, ecosystem services and climate adaptation that I didn’t necessarily connect with Geography, including MES alum Paul Sylvestre, now doing a PhD at Queens. Didn’t lay eyes on my Dalhousie colleagues, however, without effort.
Geography is big enough in its traditional form, but it has expanded and become much more problem-based than the Australian Geographer’s Association meeting in 2005 after which I swore off Geography conferences (that one kept human, physical and spatial geographers in never-the-twain separate sessions irregardless of topic). Happily surprised, I attended four or five of the Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation special sessions organized by the Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group, which had many highlights but particularly memorable were Hannah Gosnell’s talk on happiness and regenerative grazing (HM) in Australia, and Neil Adger’s speech after his lifetime achievement award, as well as his former postdoc Don Nelson’s moving tribute. I was pleased with the content if not the crowd size in the two sessions in which I participated, on Recycling Energy Landscapes and (via Mike Smit on our new SSHRC) in Computation for Public Engagement in Complex Problems: From Big Data, to Modeling, to Action.
It was grand to be back in New Orleans after 16 years, even through a deluge event with flood warnings. I was lucky to get into my old apartment which was wide open, being gutted for renovation. My old boulangerie is still there (though the fougasse is not as I recall), and the streetcars still charm. The French Quarter Festival was on – all local music – and the best food we found was offered by ex-military cajun Adam Lee out of a small pub kitchen uptown in Prytania Hall. A muffuletta sandwich from the Central Grocery, eaten in the sun in front of Jackson Square listening to a brass band, came second. Nothing else came close. Very cool to see ‘planning for water’ and the importance of wetland buffers highlighted in the Presbytere’s museum installation on Katrina.
On our last day in town we ventured east, Ubering through the Lower 9th Ward (hit hardest by Katrina) onward to Chalmette, which was having its Irish, Italian and Isleno (Canary Islander) parade (see top picture). For some reason lost to time those on floats pelt paradegoers with fruit and vegetables, as well as the usual plastic beads and trinkets. Potatoes, carrots, CABBAGES: I even saw someone holding a pineapple. We killed some time first at the Chalmette Battlefield, where American forces beat off the British in 1814. Alongside the straining levee, the Mississippi running high after the deluge, the cemetery and battlefield were very wet. Crayfish chimneys were all over the wet lawn of the former battlefield. I was saddened as much by the story of Fazendeville as by the earlier loss of life . Quoting from the plaque:
Jean Pierre Fazende, a free man of colour and New Orleans grocer, inherited land within the battlefield in 1857. After the Civil War, he divided it and sold it to freed slaves from local plantations. Eventually the community grew to more than 200 people and became known as Fazendeville. The National Park Service bought the land in 1966 after long, contentious negotiations.
Where did they move to? Mostly the New Orleans 9th Ward, that area so hard hit by Katrina. What a bad joke. The old main street is visible only as a linear depression today, but the plaque says the community still meets. Like the residents of Africville here in Halifax, or former residents of what is now the Gagetown weapons range in New Brunswick, they have reunions and otherwise somehow keep the community alive after being forcibly removed.
Halifax is a mess. I’m not kidding. For those of us who have cars and kids in summer camps all over the place, instead of its usual peaceful summer self, Halifax is detour central. Downtown is under construction, with towers pushing out of heritage skins, and two of the five roads leading into the dreaded Armdale Rotary are closed for various reasons. This is relatively new. For years, nothing could be built downtown, it seemed, because of the need to protect views to the 18th century defensive citadel at the heart of the city. While the volume of work simultaneously underway is inconvenient, it is like a wildfire spreading after decades or centuries of fire suppression. This is Yellowstone, circa 1988. Liebskind is right (see photo). The citadel is not what Halifax is about anymore. It doesn’t meet new needs for urban densification, for instance. (It also bears mentioning, it never did meet needs; the Citadel was never attacked.)
But why stop at cities? Why is it that busses line up on cruise ship days to take thousands of visitors to Peggy’s Cove? Peggy’s Cove is a simulacra of an 18th century coastal Nova Scotia fishing village, with its Peggy’s Point Lighthouse sitting atop massive granite outcrops arguably the most photographed place in the region. Rather than relying on fishing, this place and others like it now rely on tourism that commemorates a Golden Age idea of ‘Maritimicity’ (coined by eminent Canadian historian Ian McKay in 1988). We might need rural places for new things, like renewable energy, but if we’re not careful, the ‘tourism state’ will deny such alternate visions.
Exciting to hear Ellen Whitman, MES 2013, on CBC Radio 1’s Quirks &Quarks this past weekend, talking with Bob McDonald about her summer field season on post-fire impacts in the north. She did a great job, and touched briefly on her work with Eric Rapaport and I on her Masters working on fire at the peri-urban fringe of Halifax. She is now working on her PhD in Mike Flannigan’s lab at the University of Alberta, looking at fire regimes and adaptation under short-interval fires, combining field observation and remote sensing. Exciting to hear about her progress, and rather awe-inspiring to hear her expertise, so eloquently and smoothly delivered during the 15-minute segment.