Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: sea level rise

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.

 

National Observer story on Chignecto Isthmus report

The story features this picture of TransCoastal's dyke realignment project (and signage) at Converse near Aulac on the Chignecto Isthmus joining NS to NB.

The story features this picture of TransCoastal’s dyke realignment project (and signage) at Converse near Aulac on the Chignecto Isthmus joining NS to NB.

CBC’s Moira Donovan has written an article for the National Observer about the new report on the future protection of the Chignecto Isthmus. When it came out there was some consternation in the TransCoastal Adaptations team that nature-based solutions like dyke realignment and tidal wetland restoration weren’t built into the solution. There is at least 15 years of local research on the value of such approaches, and a great time series of dyke realignments to learn more from, but consulting engineers clearly aren’t leveraging it yet. The report options seem designed instead to prioritize agricultural land values and thus ‘hold the line’ with higher and stronger walls. Not even the NS Department of Agriculture that manages the dyke system on this side of the Bay has the ethos that all current dykelands can be maintained in the face of climate change.  NSERC ResNet is looking to understand the tradeoffs involved in these and other dykeland decisions, including complex dynamics such as carbon tradeoffs, salt water intrusion, and cultural implications across a range of constituencies.

DalNews on Sea Level Rise

Now I know why everybody says I look like my brother.

Mystified why they used black and white.

Alison Auld and the folks over at our university communication group put together a nice piece on Sea Level Rise, featuring a number of Dal folks working in the space. My coastal research collaborator from Planning, Patricia Manuel,  gets the main storyline, but the piece draws on several other projects including our new NSERC ResNet, which will focus on the Bay of Fundy dykelands. Not sure why they used black and white in the layout, as the painting I’m in front of in this picture is beautiful, but it’s a nice long-form article.

OECD Coastal Adaptation Workshop

Everyone is eager to hear about the coastal protection policy in development.

Everyone is eager to hear about the coastal protection policy in development.

Fun with flood maps.

Fun with flood maps.

Over the past few months I’ve been leading the writing up of a recent dyke realignment and salt marsh restoration project in Truro for an OECD report called Responding to Rising Seas, due out in January 2019. Co-authors are those who designed and implemented the case study from Saint Mary’s University and CB Wetlands and Environmental Services. The Truro case study is one of four cases explored in the report; others are in the UK, Germany and New Zealand. We culminated that case study with an all-day workshop November 21 at SMU on ‘scaling up the insights’ from the Truro case study. Requested by NRCan, funded by Lisa Danielson of the OECD’s Paris office, and hosted by Danika van Proosdij at SMU, we had sessions on policy, financing, engineering and human dimensions. Thirty attendees joined from across all scales of government, NGOs, First Nations and the private sector (as well as a few academics, but that couldn’t be helped). The various conversations and interactions knitted together some previously isolated groups working in parallel, and it felt very much like a day well spent. We hope attendees felt the same way.

New Orleans in the rear view

The final of 50 parade floats in the Chalmette Irish, Italian and Isleno parade, where they not only throw beads and trinkets, but also vegetables, fruit, and here, toilet paper.

The final of 50 parade floats in the Chalmette Irish, Italian and Isleno parade, where they not only throw beads and trinkets, but also vegetables, fruit, and here, toilet paper.

It has a sprint since getting back from AAG in New Orleans. It was my first time at that epic event, spread across several downtown hotels. I was surprised to actually run into people I knew from other organizations like IASNR and topics like rangelands, ecosystem services and climate adaptation that I didn’t necessarily connect with Geography, including MES alum Paul Sylvestre, now doing a PhD at Queens. Didn’t lay eyes on my Dalhousie colleagues, however, without effort.

Geography is big enough in its traditional form, but it has expanded and become much more problem-based than the Australian Geographer’s Association meeting in 2005 after which I swore off Geography conferences (that one kept human, physical and spatial geographers in never-the-twain separate sessions irregardless of topic). Happily surprised, I attended four or five of the Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation special sessions organized by the Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group, which had many highlights but particularly memorable were Hannah Gosnell’s talk on happiness and regenerative grazing (HM) in Australia, and Neil Adger’s speech after his lifetime achievement award, as well as his former postdoc Don Nelson’s moving tribute. I was pleased with the content if not the crowd size in the two sessions in which I participated, on Recycling Energy Landscapes and (via Mike Smit on our new SSHRC) in Computation for Public Engagement in Complex Problems: From Big Data, to Modeling, to Action.

Phase 3 of a 3-phase demonstration of the value of wetland buffers in protecting cities from storm action in the Cabildo Museum.

Phase 3 of a 3-phase demonstration of the value of wetland buffers in protecting cities from storm action in the Presbytere Museum.

It was grand to be back in New Orleans after 16 years, even through a deluge event with flood warnings. I was lucky to get into my old apartment which was wide open, being gutted for renovation. My old boulangerie is still there (though the fougasse is not as I recall), and the streetcars still charm. The French Quarter Festival was on – all local music – and the best food we found was offered by ex-military cajun Adam Lee out of a small pub kitchen uptown in Prytania Hall. A muffuletta sandwich from the Central Grocery, eaten in the sun in front of Jackson Square listening to a brass band, came second. Nothing else came close. Very cool to see ‘planning for water’ and the importance of wetland buffers highlighted in the Presbytere’s museum installation on Katrina.

Erstwhile Fazendeville, Chalmette Battlefield

Erstwhile Fazendeville, Chalmette Battlefield

On our last day in town we ventured east, Ubering through the Lower 9th Ward (hit hardest by Katrina) onward to Chalmette, which was having its Irish, Italian and Isleno (Canary Islander) parade (see top picture). For some reason lost to time those on floats pelt paradegoers with fruit and vegetables, as well as the usual plastic beads and trinkets. Potatoes, carrots, CABBAGES: I even saw someone holding a pineapple. We killed some time first at the Chalmette Battlefield, where American forces beat off the British in 1814. Alongside the straining levee, the Mississippi running high after the deluge, the cemetery and battlefield were very wet. Crayfish chimneys were all over the wet lawn of the former battlefield. I was saddened as much by the story of Fazendeville as by the earlier loss of life . Quoting from the plaque:

Jean Pierre Fazende, a free man of colour and New Orleans grocer, inherited land within the battlefield in 1857. After the Civil War, he divided it and sold it to freed slaves from local plantations. Eventually the community grew to more than 200 people and became known as Fazendeville. The National Park Service bought the land in 1966 after long, contentious negotiations.

Where did they move to? Mostly the New Orleans 9th Ward, that area so hard hit by Katrina. What a bad joke. The old main street is visible only as a linear depression today, but the plaque says the community still meets. Like the residents of Africville here in Halifax, or former residents of what is now the Gagetown weapons range in New Brunswick, they have reunions and otherwise somehow keep the community alive after being forcibly removed.

Chalmette Battlefield Cemetery, inundated

Chalmette Battlefield Cemetery, inundated

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