SACKVILLE – The idea of climate change has often been an abstract concept to people living in Atlantic Canada, but not any more.
Last week, Dr. Ian Mauro, the Canada Research Chair in Human Dimensions of Environmental Change at Mount Allison University, and his team, launched a multi-media project that includes a web site as well as a video and photo exhibit.
“We started the project one year ago, and in that time we have interviewed over 100 people across all four Atlantic Canadian provinces and produced a series of videos and this multi-media website,” said Mauro. “My research is specifically focused on local knowledge holders, people like farmers, fishers and hunters, and their understanding and knowledge of environmental change."
Mauro is a researcher and a filmmaker, and his past projects have focused on climate change in the Arctic. He has worked extensively in communities in the Canadian North.
Upon moving to Atlantic Canada to take up this Canada Research Chair position at Mount Allison, he decided to focus his lens on the issue of climate change in Atlantic Canada.
“For this project we went out and spoke to a variety of people on the ground, people experiencing climate change and talked to them about their every day lived experience.”
Mauro said he wanted to talk to people on the ground so people going to the website can put a face to the problem of climate change.
“The climate change debate is often bogged down in technical science and we can get lost in that,” said Mauro. “Speaking with every day citizens is really intuitive and it starts to open up the dialogue to a larger segment of society, and it starts to create a sense of a shared, common experience around this.
“It’s not experts saying, ‘this is what’s happening.’ It’s people in your backyard and people in your neighbourhood saying, ‘you know what, I’m seeing this.’”
He also said this type of dialogue helps alleviate fears about climate change.
“I’m a father and I have a child and I think we have a responsibility to future generations, not only to get our carbon emissions in check but, also, to reframe this dialogue into one that is hopeful, one that is solution oriented, and one that doesn’t project a bleak future that we can do nothing about,” he said. “If we do that we close minds, we create apathy and we create a future that doesn’t allow for sustainability.”
With that said, he added that the impact of climate change can be devastating if nothing is done.
“If these storm surges continue to occur and these dikes continue to degrade…the potential, if those dikes were to break, (is that) Nova Scotia could be cut off from the rest of the continent,” said Mauro.
“Amherst and Sackville are at the forefront of these impacts, but we’re also at the forefront of the solutions. Communities need to be proactive, not reactive,” he added.
He said a two-pronged approach, mitigation and adaptation, is the best way to deal with climate change.
“We have to cut down on carbon and have to get that in check,” said Mauro. “Climate change is ongoing so we have to deal with the climate change that is occurring.
“In Atlantic Canada we have to figure out how to adapt with increased storms, the frequency and intensity, and the associated damages being done to our communities,” he added.
Mauro hopes people visiting the website become more aware of what is happening in Atlantic Canada.
“People can go to our website and learn about climate change and get into the communities where this occurs,” he said. “It’s a complete game-changer in the sense it will help people realize how serious it is and how we have to have a serious response to it.”
To visit the multi-media website, go to http://www.climatechangeatlantic.com.
Mauro said they are touring the Atlantic provinces with their project and that any community interested in being visited can contact his team through the website.