Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Infrastructure (page 1 of 3)

Cornell Energy Incubator

Dylan Bugden chairs our discussion of research best practice.

Dylan Bugden chairs our discussion of research best practice.

Excellent first day here at the ‘Energy Incubator’ invited meeting here at Cornell, sponsored by Rich Stedman‘s social science fellowship at the Atkinson Centre for a Sustainable Future. Mostly Americans, save for Tom Beckley and Louise Comeau (UNB) and I, this group is gender- and experience-balanced and engaged in research across a range of energy/society issues: landscape, justice, gender, ‘booms’, impacts on other industries (ag), etc.

Getting started at the Energy Incubator.

Getting started at the Energy Incubator.

We started with short bursts on the more or less ‘half-baked’ ideas people pitched up before we came–at the half-baked end I talked about my ideas for an enpathy engine (that is, energy empathy) to combat climax thinking. We then brainstormed best practice for energy impacts research and broke into groups for some more focused discussions, which is what we’ll spend today doing. We then had a chance to explore the stunning Ithaca campus on the way to dinner.

The small hydro facility on the Cornell campus.

The small hydro facility on the Cornell campus.

Our meeting today was held in a beautiful centre at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, but the gracious campus buildings are also nestled beside stunning gorges that tumble down to the townsite. There is even a small hydroelectricity dam that provides power to the campus (probably a project of the Engineering school)? Sign me up, Cornell. 

Ithaca is Gorges!

Ithaca is Gorges!

Jeffrey Jacquet tours us around Cornell's gorges.

Jeffrey Jacquet tours us around Cornell’s gorges.

New Orleans in the rear view

The final of 50 parade floats in the Chalmette Irish, Italian and Isleno parade, where they not only throw beads and trinkets, but also vegetables, fruit, and here, toilet paper.

The final of 50 parade floats in the Chalmette Irish, Italian and Isleno parade, where they not only throw beads and trinkets, but also vegetables, fruit, and here, toilet paper.

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.

Phase 3 of a 3-phase demonstration of the value of wetland buffers in protecting cities from storm action in the Cabildo Museum.

Phase 3 of a 3-phase demonstration of the value of wetland buffers in protecting cities from storm action in the Presbytere Museum.

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.

Erstwhile Fazendeville, Chalmette Battlefield

Erstwhile Fazendeville, Chalmette Battlefield

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.

Chalmette Battlefield Cemetery, inundated

Chalmette Battlefield Cemetery, inundated

New postdoc opening: Social Dynamics of Nature-based Coastal Adaptation

Wild child with storm surge, Regatta Point, March 3, 2018.

Wild child with storm surge, Regatta Point, March 3, 2018.

As of March 21, DEADLINE EXTENDED to April 15, 2018 for May start.
Thanks to a recent funding decision I’m circulating a new postdoctoral fellowship opportunity to work on a project with Dr Danika van Proosdij and I. This postdoc will be based in Danika’s lab at Saint Mary’s University, and work closely with us both to lead landscape social science around nature-based coastal adaptations such as dykeland realignment, salt marsh restoration, managed retreat and natural shorelines. This postdoc will support the new Making Room for Movement project and be part of an emerging interdisciplinary community of practice in the region on coastal climate adaptation. It could hardly be more timely, given the significant storm surge we’ve had the past few days. Please help me spread the good news!

 

Funded MES projects for fall 2018

Students who are interested in starting a thesis-based MES in my lab starting fall 2018 should start getting in touch now. Early applicants, if high quality, can be put forward for important scholarships like the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship program: its first round closes in late November.  I am looking particularly for students interested in the social perceptions and implications of energy installations such as wind and hydroelectricity. Backgrounds in sociology, art history, cultural studies, human geography, anthropology are particularly valuable for these roles, but the most important variables are interest and motivation:

  • One project will collaborate with me on a project led by John Parkins out of the University of Alberta, exploring wind energy transitions in Alberta. This research will include engagement with social media as a research tool (e.g. this), as well as quantitative surveys and possibly landscape visualization.
  • Another project is expected to be funded from a grant proposal currently under consideration, to explore the ways that images in social media and digital archives (e.g. newspapers) can help us understand the social impacts of hydroelectricity development over time, and if such insights differ significantly from those provided by conventional social science methods like surveys and interviews. Read this paper for more information.

If you think you have a good alignment with these topics, skills and backgrounds, please get in touch.

New year, new challenges

The mainland side of the Canso causeway, you can see the additional transmission capacity being constructed in preparation for the Maritime Link from Labrador's Muskrat Falls.

The mainland side of the Canso causeway, you can see the additional transmission capacity being constructed in preparation for the Maritime Link from Labrador’s Muskrat Falls.

Things are quiet on the blog as I start a new term (and new course, and new Senate term) after a year’s sabbatical.  A forced trip to Cape Breton increased the pressure, though it also occasioned reminders of my day job. I ran into Ducks Unlimited Canada collaborators in Sydney. We saw energy infrastructure being reinforced in preparation for the Maritime Link (above), as well as clear evidence of coastal storm damage that may have climate links (below). Right before term started I was asked by Natural Resources Canada to be the coordinating lead author for the Atlantic Canada chapter of the new National Climate Change Assessment. The last one was in 2008.  A daunting but welcome opportunity to serve.

A damaged boardwalk at Port Hood, Cape Breton.

A damaged boardwalk at Port Hood, Cape Breton.

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