Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: Climate change

Mr Soubry goes to Senate

Mr. Soubry goes to Senate (screen snap from CPAC)

Mr. Soubry goes to Senate (screen snap from CPAC) – Bernard is the happy one.

Amidst lots of marking, which often displeases one if not both people involved, happy to get news Friday of New PhD student Bernard Soubry’s recent appearance at Senate. Bernard skyped from Ottawa to update me on the dissemination in policy circles of research findings from his Masters, which included giving evidence to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (televised by CPAC here, forward to hour two; transcript here). Great to have such a skilled political player on the team. Looking forward to having him back in the Maritimes this winter, conducting new interviews for his Oxford PhD which again engages with  small-scale Maritime farmers and climate change.

“Can we just watch the beginning of this?”

[UPDATE Dec 8, 2016: The full documentary is now private – hope you saw it when it was free]

That’s what I said right before sitting rapt for an hour and a half watching the new climate change documentary, Before the Flood: “can we just watch the beginning of this?”. I thought I knew what it was going to be (i.e. a celebrity vanity project) and what it would be about (i.e. we’re screwed). Certainly I knew all the facts presented, individually, one way or another. But this documentary puts them together in a way that hits hard, and meaningfully. It spurred an immediate conversation of what we will do differently at home, and how our respective work aims to contribute. The documentary has only been viewed 3.5 million times so far, but at least that’s a million more than when I watched it last night. I hope it gets picked up by the American voters in advance of this critical election. I dare you to try and just watch the beginning…

Canadian Society for Bioengineering panel

Kenny Corscadden moderates the CSBE panel with David Burton, Peter Swinkels, Charles Bourque and me.

Kenny Corscadden moderates the CSBE panel with David Burton, Peter Swinkels, Charles Bourque and me.

Yesterday I was invited to participate in a four-person panel discussing “the impact of climate change on sustainable food production; minimizing on-farm climate related risks“, at the Canadian Society for Bioengineering meeting currently  being held in Halifax. As a social scientist (certainly the only one on the panel, possibly in the room) I really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with individuals tackling the technical solutions to climate change mitigation (e.g. bioenergy) and adaptation (e.g. water management) about social license and political will. Contributions covered some challenges and solutions, including meeting the increasing unpredictability of agricultural inputs with a resilience approach, re-engineering landscapes for ecosystem function and diversity. I also discussed the importance of understanding farmer perceptions and uptake of new techniques and technologies, increasingly challenging given the dearth of spatial and social science data infrastructure (e.g. farmer databases for surveys, commodity and soils maps) and given the poor state of agricultural extension in this country. Tradition is a powerful thing in agricultural settings, and what it means to be a ‘good farmer’ will take time to shift, for farmers and policy-makers. We have a limited set of policy instruments: information (education), persuasion (moral appeals), assistance (incentives) and regulation, but perhaps the most important of all is to look first – before making new policy – to see if there are any perverse policies in place that discourage useful action. Perverse incentives that encourage the delaying of adaptation, like event-based insurance, serve as buffers that will not prepare farming well for new climate futures.

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