Back in 2020 I submitted a proposal for a panel for the ResNet L1 team at the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership (BOFEP) meeting to be held in Truro. We finally had a chance to deliver that panel last week, after two years of delays due to COVID. BOFEP was held in partnership with ACCESS (Atlantic Canada Coastal and Estuarine Science Society) , which led to a very diverse set of presentations from isotope analysis to citizen science and beyond. Our panel was originally designed to present the Facets paper as it was in development; instead we showed how ResNet L1 was filling in the gaps in the conceptual model we presented in the Facets paper on services like cultural, storm protection, carbon, and pollination, and how that related to practice.Being in Truro also enabled a great meeting with ResNet partners, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, visited lovely Victoria Park for a walk, and enjoyed a great public forum on flooding in Truro and the region.
That last item was the standout event for me. Truro Planning Director and a local African Nova Scotian resident demonstrated the political and justice dimensions of flood planning decisions in the region. Coincidentally or not, that theme was taken up yesterday on CBC Information Morning by Lynn Jones, who seems to be a part-time neighbour of that resident. The resident is now surrounded by homes that their owners could afford to raise on pads to the 1988 requirements currently in force for development on the flood plain, and he (downhill) feels he is receiving their runoff, worsening his situation. He can’t get insurance, but can’t really afford to raise or leave. He thinks the river should be dredged to store more water but the CBCL modelling suggests the sedimentation is so high it simply wouldn’t work. Meanwhile, Jones says her community, before they left or were squeezed out, used to ‘work with nature’ by keeping boats in the backyard so they could navigate the street, a pretty extreme form of what in adaptation terms would be called ‘accommodation’. She wants to see her community come back to these ‘ancestral lands’, but the risks today are higher than they were then. The past is a poor predictor of the future. This additional dimension to the challenges of Truro’s complex flood situation echoes those in other places like New Orleans where minorities are relegated to marginal lands, build strong communities and then are first displaced when conditions change: adaptation would mean not helping people to stay or return to such increasingly at-risk places, but such decisions have uneven impacts. Today, however, it sounds like flood plain development is still being permitted by Truro’s pro-development council and provincial UARB, in full awareness of expanding flood risk areas, locking in more risk and complexity for residents, the town and the wider public purse that will eventually have to wade in and make it right.