Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Infrastructure (Page 1 of 13)

Restore America’s Estuaries 2022 in New Orleans

A foggy day on Pass Manchac, on Sunday’s field trip. Some buildings have not been rebuilt after Hurricane Ida made a direct hit last year.

Boardwalk was destroyed at Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station during Hurricane Ida last year.

Our pontoon boat tour at Turtle Cove, returning down Pass Manchac toward three big bridges.

Yesterday was the first full day of the Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) conference in New Orleans. This event is a first for me. It is practitioner-dominated, and very US-focused (they sure don’t mean North America by that title), and the focus is very much on the science. But there is an infectious enthusiasm here for all things estuary. I presented about the Nova Scotia coastal focus groups from Making Room for Movement, including a bit of the experimental paper and the new qualitative paper . The highlight of the sessions so far was one on social marketing: with work inside organizations (though small numbers of core comms/ed staff were clearly pulled many ways) and with a diverse and skilled set of contractors (notably, not generally academic partnerships) to achieve online ‘reach’. I have also really enjoyed talks about landscape change that included some social insights: Katherine Canfield on public perceptions of converting cranberry bogs to wetlands in Cape Cod; Melissa Paley on citizen mobilization for dam removal on the Oyster River in New Hampshire; Daniel Brinn on restoring water and habitat quality in Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina (which has a long history of human modification); Susan Adamowicz on the traces of salt marsh farming on coastal wetlands in Maine (and for providing some different vocabulary to that used in NS); and, Theresa Davenport on regulatory challenges to and opportunities for living shorelines in New England. Tomorrow is the last day of sessions and I’ve circled many more to attend. In general, I’d love to see more discussion of social monitoring of the kinds of actions being undertaken by this great group of wetland nerds, as well as ecological.

I’ve also enjoyed the more informal events around the conference. Our field trip to Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station (University of Southeast Louisiana) was fogged in, the result of unseasonably warm weather, but enjoyable. We saw swimming crab, a small alligator and a dangerous cottonmouth snake, and had great jambalaya courtesy of Reno’s. It was interesting but sad to see the impact of last year’s Hurricane Ida on the region and the Centre (see above). The trip to and fro I got to experience again the American penchant for constructing highways THROUGH water rather than going around. There is a 9 km bridge through the WIDEST part of Lake Pontchartrain, to the north of where I am now. Similarly, heading west through wetland toward Baton Rouge, you drive predominantly on raised highways through the marsh. In Canada we’d just be told: you have to go around. That doesn’t even seem to occur to Americans, bless them. At Pass Manchac there were 3 bridges next to one another (see above, in the view behind the pontoon boat), main highway, secondary highway, and rail.

Finally, the really informal stuff. It’s been nice to see the good people from CBWES and Clean Foundation all the way from Halifax (the only Canadians I’ve met so far). It was super to catch up with Brandon Champagne, ResNet MA student from SMU who is back in Louisiana working for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Because I worked at the UNO back in 2001-2, though, I also have earlier connections. It was great to see Denise Reed at the poster session, who was at the Coastal Research Lab (CRL) during my year there, and share stories of the singular Shea Penland. I have also gotten to tour the post-Katrina city and enjoy some great food with Mark Kulp, another colleague from CRL (now PIES): crab burger, frog legs (yup), shrimp and grits, and grilled oysters. Looking forward tomorrow to catch up with my office mate from CRL, Dinah Maygarden, who still runs wetland education programming for PIES at the new(ish) Coastal Education and Research Facility named for Shea. Still need to get myself some gumbo and a po’boy…

I’ve been enjoying the working Mississippi River view from my hotel room.

Not everybody has the cash or inclination to raise their homes after Katrina.

Meddylfryd yr anterth

A quick thanks to the PloCC (Places of Climate Change) network at the University of Bangor, Wales, for the invitation to present to their monthly seminar series on Nov 9th. I spoke about climax thinking (the title of this post is its Welsh translation, literally, “the mentality of the peak” according to Google Scholar) using examples from wind energy, coastal adaptation and flood-risk mapping (highlighting work by past and current graduate students Kristina Keilty, Ellen Chappell, Krysta Sutton and Samantha Howard). Thanks to the effort PloCC took to translate my abstract, I’ll share it here for any Welsh speakers who discover this page.

Trosiad yw meddylfryd yr anterth am wrthwynebiad i newid y dirwedd er lles y cyhoedd. Deilliodd o ymchwil seiliedig ar le yn Nghanada Atlantig. Yn yr un modd â damcaniaeth olyniaeth mewn ecoleg, rydym yn aml yn credu bod tirweddau mewn cyflwr delfrydol neu ecwilibriwm (h.y. yr anterth), ac y dylid dychwelyd ato ar ôl pob aflonyddwch megis trychinebau naturiol. Mae angen inni symud at ffordd ddi-ecwilibriwm o feddwl am dirwedd o ystyried yr heriau a wynebwn o ran cynaliadwyedd a’r goblygiadau posibl i’r dirwedd. Dyma gyflwyniad sy’n rhannu gwaith achos ynglŷn â gosod ynni’r gwynt, enciliad yr arfordir a mapio perygl llifogydd i symud o lefel y canlyniad (gwrthiant) i lefel y broses (achosion) y syniad newydd hwn, a’r goblygiadau i ymchwil ac ymarfer.

Topically, a great example of climax thinking came into my morning news media today, in the local rejection of government-funded wind turbines to help Stewart Island, NZ, get off of diesel generators. As the term otherwise hurtles to a close, and I look ahead to the Restoring America’s Estuaries conference in New Orleans the first full week of December, I’m keeping my eye to related media. I look particularly forward to the NYT reporting about this call for experiences of disaster rebuilding. A final note, do yourself a favour and read Rutger Breman’s book Humankind; I listened to the audiobook through the Halifax’s library’s Libby app on a long bus trip and it made me feel much better.

Fiona

A view from my morning commute on Tuesday, along Quinpool Road; a silver hatchback still sits crushed under that tree.

As September comes to a close, the whole Atlantic region is still reeling from the impact of Hurricane/Tropical storm Fiona, which hit last Friday night and Saturday morning. Many remain without power and/or out of their homes and–most horrifyingly–some have lost their homes and/or their lives in the storm. Many beautiful coastal towns and holiday communities lie shattered, and sad, scary stories abound: I even knew the person missing and presumed lost on the NS coast. My home and family were thankfully spared, and we’ve started feeling a bit guilty about this as the recovery ahead looks so long for so many.

There will need to be a time, however, after the first stage of emergency response and before the recovery process begins in earnest, to ask questions about how and where that should happen. I think some people feel like a big storm like this is so rare and unlikely that once it is past, they are safe for a good while. That is not how it works, unfortunately, and certainly not anymore. With climate change these outsize events will become more common, so this storm is a very stern warning to those who live in vulnerable coastal areas. People may think the changes associated with the climate will come slowly and they’ll have time to react and to decide, but storms like this show they likely won’t. Change will be noisy and unpredictable, not gradual. What we have seen is an extreme form of unmanaged retreat. It’s the worst case scenario, but we’ll have more of if we don’t listen to the lessons Fiona offers and be proactive.

There is a policy window now to consider managed retreat in a coordinated way that supports local communities to reimagine what it might look like to thrive coastally. I did a little media for the Toronto Star and Toronto’s News 1010 morning show in the last 24 hours about this. There will be a lot of insurance and emergency response money flowing, sooner or later. I hope that the political pressure to use such funds to rebuild in situ, regardless the risk, can be shifted to a broader conversation about the resilience that comes from leaving more space for the ocean to do its thing. It’s thing is dynamic, and against that dynamism hard infrastructure will always have it’s limits. Getting out of the way won’t. Yes, this might mean sacrifice, for instance new regulations and constraints on land long-held and cherished (such as the setbacks proposed in Nova Scotia’s Coastal Protection Act), or a lower tax base for municipalities. The conversations won’t be easy and the implications will be uneven, falling at times on people who will need more public support than others to accomplish it. But we should tackle it as a shared challenge, a duty not only to current generations but also future ones.

Last week I was doing revisions for a paper and a reviewer pushed back against the estimation of the length of the Nova Scotia coastline that I had included in my paper. I looked around and found others had used mine but also two other dramatically different numbers. In the end I decided not to include a length, because, well, how do you measure a coastline anyhow? But it is always constantly changing, as the recent PEI pre/post imagery shows quite well.  An unavoidable lesson from Fiona is that coastal stability is an illusion. We need to learn to live with that fact.

 

CBC Maritime Noon

Host Preston Mulligan in the CBC Halifax studio overlooking the Northwest Arm (and my house), Sept 7, 2022.

A quick note to say thanks to Preston Mulligan and producer Diane Paquette for having me into the studio today to talk about climate change and its impacts on Maritime landscapes on the Maritime Noon call-in. UPEI prof Adam Fenech was my co-guest for a fun conversation with local people.

 

Moncton treasures

Wetlands and a cloudy sky to show the Riverside trail at Moncton

Wetland meadows hide the river view on the riverside trail along the Petitcodiac at Dieppe, near Moncton, NB.

I had a forced stay in Moncton last week. I do hate to say it that way, but for some reason I’ve never spent any real time in Moncton despite growing up in NB, beyond volleyball tournaments back in high school. This time it was for the hospital, not for me but for a family member, for whom I was also isolating so avoiding indoor locations. I made two notable discoveries. First, the delightful extended trails along the Petitcodiac River. The tidal river that divides Moncton and Riverview winds amidst extensive wetlands that were covered with a tapestry of plants, and a riverside trail allows you to walk or bike quite far along it.

A section of the derelict rink lingering in backyards in Sunny Brae, NB

Second, and more surprising, was the derelict building I found. I’ve been to an engine roundhouse before, at Junee: it is basically a big circular building to store and switch out train engines. So when I peered between two residential buildings and saw a massive curved wall, roundhouse was the first thing I thought. But it seemed impossible that such a place would persist in suburban backyards. Google Maps confirmed the shape (see below): a perfect circle, with a few big doors, perhaps to allow the engines in and out. The final hint was the adjacent railway and CN Pensioner’s Center. Yet if you click on it in Google Maps, it is labelled as the “Sunny Brae Rink (temporarily closed)”, which is remarkably the case. As you can see to the right, the closure is anything but temporary, however. I am achingly jealous of the kids who get to grow up with this crumbling Coliseum in their backyards. I had to make do with playing in the foundations of old potato barns along the Mactaquac headpond when I was a kid, though this is likely the best way to visit the rink. Thanks to the burghers of Moncton for letting this fall apart in situ since its 1922-1928 period of activity.

A snapshot from Google Maps

The derelict roundhouse is clearly visible on Google Maps, adjacent the railway and the CN Pensioner’s Center.

 

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