Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: environmental history (page 2 of 3)

Storymap coverage by NiCHE

Larissa Holman's NiCHE piece on our storymap Before the Mactaquac Dam.

Larissa Holman’s NiCHE piece on our storymap Before the Mactaquac Dam.

I was pleased this week to learn that Dalhousie MREM graduate Larissa Holman, who was a summer intern with the Energy Transitions in Canada project, has a piece about her Mactaquac storymap in an online publication by NiCHE (Network in Canadian History and Environment). The article, Does This Dam Have a Future?, recounts the process of creating the storymap and the role that it was designed to play in the ongoing public consultation process around the New Brunswick dam’s future.

New paper on dykeland futures

Graphical abstract for a new paper in Land Use Policy on dykeland futures in Nova Scotia.

Graphical abstract for a new paper in Land Use Policy on dykeland futures in Nova Scotia.

Pleased to have a new paper out in Land Use Policy with former MREM intern Logan Loik on how Nova Scotians perceive agricultural dykelands in the face of climate change. Bay of Fundy dykelands are Canada’s only UNESCO-listed agricultural landscapes because of their origins in the 1600s with French settlers.  These structures protect little active farmland today, but governance is still in the hands of the farming sector. They are more often used for recreation, or to protect residential, commercial or transportation infrastructure. Climate projections suggest considerable effort and expense will be required to raise all dykes to the levels necessary to withstand sea level rise and storm surges, but it may be that decommissioning some dykes and restoring coastal wetlands may be more resilient. We asked 183 Nova Scotians to sort statements about dykelands, wetlands and coastal governance. The dominant discourse from this Q-method study was supportive of maintaining dykelands for recreational, cultural and flood protection reasons; the next most prevalent was pragmatically supportive of wetland restoration for efficiency purposes. Results suggest challenges for the process of managed realignment, as well as climate adaptation in cultural landscapes more generally, but also some new analytical opportunities for large-n Q-method research.

Mactaquac bathymetry

Bathymetry of the Mactaquac headpond, NB, by the Ocean Mapping Group at UNB, revealing the former townsite of Culliton, near Nackawic, including its road and rail bridges.

Bathymetry of the Mactaquac headpond, NB, by the Ocean Mapping Group at UNB, revealing the former townsite of Culliton, near Nackawic, including its road and rail bridges.

The Ocean Mapping Group at UNB has released the Mactaquac bathymetry (depth of water) in a wonderful Google Map interface. A Nackawic resident sent it to me this morning with a story of how moving it was to see the former features revealed. I have been waiting a long time to see this, too, and it impresses with crisp 1.66 metre resolution detail. Little sedimentation is evident up against the dam wall, and islands, towns and former river channels remain intact. It will be interesting to navigate it in parallel with our storymap of pre-dam airphotos, to decode some of the more curious shapes. The ‘illumination’ applied to provide a 3D effect has the visual effect of making it look inverted, (i.e. causeway lower than water channels). But this is a marvellous dataset which will enable important visualization work in the consideration of options for the Mactaquac dam.

Time Team

When I need to unwind I watch Time Team on YouTube. Tony Robinson (Sir, knighted in 2013), once comedian and actor and now activist and amateur historian, hosts this show that features three-day archaeological digs, generally within the UK. It is in its 20th season, which puts it in slim company. It is fascinating for anyone interested in landscape change, human modification and the meaning of place. Last night’s episode, Beacon of the Fens, was from Season 16, and examined a small rise on the edge of the English fenlands (marshy areas). It’s relative prominence has made it a beacon for millennia, but it is now farmed. They found pottery and remains of a burnt wattle and daub dwelling from a stone age settlement, bronze age axes, evidence of a wooden church, and a medieval stone chapel, as well as landscape modifications (causeway, enclosures) of manor houses, etc. These were all overlaid in situ over time, and then largely forgotten in all but the name: chapel hill. And what was winging away in the background for most of the shots? Massive wind turbines.

Industrial skylines

The smokestacks from the now-decommissioned generating station in Dalhousie, NB, were finally demolished today.

The smokestacks from the now-decommissioned generating station in Dalhousie, NB, were finally demolished today.

It is remarkable how locals can get attached to man-made infrastructure, even that which has no aesthetic value to an outside observer. The smokestacks in the now-decommissioned power station in Dalhousie, NB, were finally demolished today after a failed attempt August 16. They have been standing since 1969, and the plant’s closure represents the third in a line of industrial closures, starting with AbitibiBowater Pulp and Paper and Olin Corp in 2008. What is notable to me is the coverage about the value of these stacks as a local landmark. According to the Mayor, “…losing the smokestacks will be a major loss to the community’s skyline”:

It’s gonna be sad to a certain point because we give direction to people in and out of town. Where do I go and how do I find one route? Well, you just gotta have a look at the smokestacks in or out of town, and then you’ll find your way.

Such attachment to industrial heritage  and landscape has often been described in post-industrial England, but not often in ‘new world’ countries like Canada. There is a lot of infrastructure reaching the end of its life, some of which may no longer be fit for purpose. We will see even more of this as the large number of smaller and more distributed installations (e.g. wind turbines) reach their own use-by date.  How we respond as a culture to the need to re-write landscape to suit new challenges or opportunities, or calls to memorialize past ones, will have a big impact on our capacity to adapt.

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