Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: infrastructure

Everything Now!

A balm to my sketchy mood on this unsettled Friday is Arcade Fire’s new anthem of consumerism, Everything Now. Besides its irresistible¬†groove, the video is a showcase of energy landscapes and other used up utilitarian infrastructure, and the lyrics skewer the attitudes that propagate our footprint:

Every inch of sky’s got a star
Every inch of skin’s got a scar
I guess that you’ve got everything now

The only way it could be more perfect for my research program would be if there were some livestock trundling through that rangeland. Happy weekend, everyone.

Dam houseboat tour paper out

The Mactaquac houseboat flow-cus (floatus?) group team in August 2013: Beckley, Sherren, Keilty, Demerchant, Mittelholtz, Gutierrez Hermelo and Marmura (clockwise from top left).

The Mactaquac houseboat group team in August 2013 (clockwise from top left): Beckley, Sherren, Keilty (researchers), Demerchant (boat pilot), Mittelholtz, Gutierrez Hermelo and Marmura (videographers).

Back in August 2013, we ran three houseboat tours of the Mactaquac headpond, to elicit locals’ perspectives on the landscape and what they would like to see for its future. A paper about that work, Learning (or living) to love the landscapes of hydroelectricity in Canada: Eliciting local perspectives on the Mactaquac Dam via headpond boat tours, is now out in Energy Research and Social Science (free for 50 days at this link). This was a novel research approach that presented undeniable technical challenges, but generated rich stories of the place and their connection to it, some of which were produced into a short documentary, Mactaquac Revisited.

Despite the trauma that accompanied the construction of the dam in the late 1960s, the local population has demonstrably adapted and come to cherish the new landscape: the need to rebuild the dam, with power or not, was almost unanimously expressed in the focus group elements. In the landscape elicitation, however, done alone or in smaller groups, many people expressed a nostalgia for the old river, and even occasionally an openness to seeing it returned to that state. In fact, it was the misinformation and fear we heard on the boats about what the removal option entailed that inspired our storymap, Before the Mactaquac Dam. This paper shows (again) the adaptability of people to drastic landscape change such as caused by hydroelectricity, where some amenity can be found. The implications of this for proponents of hydroelectricity (and other large-scale energy) schemes is more fraught: “You’ll get used to it” is clearly an inadequate response to stakeholder concerns, yet clearly it is sometimes true.

Wetlands and Climate Change

The view of the Sprott wind farm from the Amherst Ducks Unlimited office driveway.

The view of the Sprott wind farm from the Amherst Ducks Unlimited office driveway.

I enjoyed getting out of the office last week to Moncton and Amherst. In Moncton I attended a Climate Change Adaptation and Infrastructure meeting sponsored by the Climate Change departments of the Atlantic Province governments with NRCan funding. This year’s meeting was on infrastructure, and included participants including engineers, planners, NGOs, decision-makers and researchers on discussions of infrastructure renewal in the face of climate challenges. While being disappointingly light on social science – clearly infrastrcture change can have significant social implications, viz wind farms, hydro dams and dykelands – it was a great networking opportunity. Lots of SRES alumni and other people I had been hoping to connect with on other matters.

I spent that evening in Sackville, connecting with colleagues from Mount Allison University. The next morning I spent at Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Amherst office, talking to the Atlantic region Outreach through Events committee about conservation messaging, supporter engagement and program evaluation. We hope to do some Mitacs-funded research with them this summer around youth engagement. A particularly funny point was some remedial education via YouTube of one of the committee members who was unfamiliar with the term ‘hoser‘.

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