Across Atlantic Canada, coastlines and communities are being adversely affected by climate change, and as temperature, sea level and storm surge increase, adaptation initiatives are being planned and implemented to navigate the impending storm. Dr. Ian Mauro and his multi-media research team are using video to document this remarkable story of Atlantic adaptation and, over the past year, have conducted over 100 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders across the region, including: researchers, local and traditional knowledge holders, government officials and industry.
Using cutting edge multi-media research techniques, the objective of this project is to holistically assess and present the challenges and opportunities facing Atlantic Canadians, as their environment, cities and municipalities, and mechanisms for societal governance experience often immense and immediate climatic changes. The results of the project suggest four main thematic case studies – focused on climate, coastlines, communities and adaptation – and have produced this multi-media website to showcase the results and raise awareness. Given the high-impact nature of digital media, this project seeks to increase awareness and educational opportunities for Canadians, about the real world experiences of coastal communities, and how they are on the front lines of climate change and adaptively responding to it.
Atlantic Canada is comprised of four provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Over 2.3 million people live in urban areas and small communities along the coast, so it is no wonder that Maritime culture is so closely connected to the sea, with a span of more than 40,000 kilometers of predominantly rocky coastlinei. The region is also home to some of the highest tides in the world, specifically in the Bay of Fundy. With more extreme weather, decreasing sea ice cover, increasing storm surges, sea level rise and erosion rates, Atlantic Canadians are feeling the impacts of climate change and realizing the necessity of adaptation. Important programs, at the national and provincial levels, are helping to implement these changes in communities across the region.
Adaptation Programs in the Region
The Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions Association (ACASA) is part of a national program developed by Natural Resources Canada to support a regional focus on climate change, adaptation and decision-making. ACASA has been working on projects that assess coastal and inland vulnerability to climate change impacts.ii
ACASA also administers the Atlantic Regional Adaptation Collaborative (RAC) program, focused on climate change and risk reduction, which “helps communities prepare for and adapt to local impacts posed by our changing climate, such as: decreasing fresh water supplies; increasing droughts, floods and coastal erosion; and changing forestry”iii. The RAC initiatives are designed to work with all levels of government and organizations to coordinate sustained region-specific adaptation planning, policy development, decision-making and action across the Atlantic region.iv
Our project, in part funded by ACASA’s RAC initiative, was able to take advantage of a growing network of actors working on climate change adaptation and capacity building across the region. In consultation with provincial RAC coordinators, our team identified important individuals, communities and projects focused on adaptation and we set out to document and create case studies about these stakeholders and initiatives.
Atlantic Canada has a mixed economy, with larger industrial centers such as St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown, and Fredericton, as well as smaller communities that often engage in forestry, fishing and agricultural enterprise. While all coastal communities are affected by and on the frontlines of climate change, this project was specifically interested in land-based communities, given their extensive local knowledge and experience observing the environment, weather and larger climatic patterns. The project also included climate change researchers, government officials and industry, given the diversity of studies and municipal and corporate planning initiatives taking place across the region, largely coordinated through the RAC network. By focusing on local, expert, governance and industrial knowledge, this project holistically assesses climate change vulnerabilities and adaptive responses, and documents, integrates and communicates these findings using video. This video-based methodology is ideal for both research and public awareness.
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Over the past year Dr. Mauro and his team collected 107 semi-structured video-based interviews across all four Atlantic Canadian provinces (Figure 1). Interviews were conducted within a year timeframe, from November 2011 to August 2012, using a pace and approach that combined techniques of Rapid Rural Appraisalv and risk analysisvi. The project included a diversity of stakeholders across the region (n=107), such as local knowledge holders (n=69), researchers (n=25), government officials (n=9) and industry (n=4). All interviews were recorded using professional high definition video and audio equipment and participants were informed about and consented to this approach.
Interviews were largely conduced at participant’s resident or place of work, allowing for a comfortable atmosphere for discussion, and visual context to be built into the data collection process and outcomes. Interview questions focused on climate change impacts and adaptive responses and, given the semi-structured nature, participants were encouraged to guide discussion into topics relevant to their knowledge, experience and expertise.
As interviews were collected, they were clipped, coded and organized into themes using a combination of content analysisvii and social science video research methodsviii, which Mauro has helped to pioneer, and has used extensively on other documentary research films about biotechnology and sustainable agricultureix and Arctic climate changex. Similar to grounded theoryxi, the meta-narrative emerged from interview data, and the voices and perspectives of participants generated the storyline instead of a script or directorial decisions of the video researchers (Figure 2). All video editing was completed with Adobe Premiere Pro software.
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Figure 2: Multi-media research methodology utilized by the project that merges social science
and filmmaking to create research documentary based on data collected through interviews, content analysis, and grounded theory.
Interview clips are coded, organized, and the larger meta-narrative and storyline are generated using Adobe Premiere Pro.
The results of the project suggest four main thematic areas: climate, coastlines, communities and adaptation. To learn more about what impacts communities are facing, how they are adapting, and what types of research and governance initiatives are being carried out and implemented, please view the following videos.
Discussion, Summary, and Usage
Atlantic Canadians are beginning to realize the importance of climate change adaptation, as they are seeing and experiencing impacts on their coastlines and within their communities. Given the large-scale nature of this multi-media project, with over 100 video-based interviews across various stakeholder groups, this research holistically assesses and presents the state of knowledge and action regarding climate change adaptation in Atlantic Canada. Our innovative digital approach and associated website encourages public education and awareness about climate change adaptation and will hopefully contribute to discussion and capacity building.
To facilitate this discussion, we have set up a Facebook page for this project, and encourage you to follow along, provide comments and talk about your own personal experiences and/or relevant initiatives. We have also created an “extras” page, on the website, which collates relevant news, resources and project updates so you can learn more and find out about important opportunities related to climate change and adaptation across the region.
As a publicly funded project, we encourage widespread use of our multi-media materials, and think that they will be useful to school and university educators across Canada and the world. While you are free to use these materials for educational purposes, we request that you contact us to let us know how and when they are being utilized, so that we can track the efficacy of the project and its impacts. If you are interested in a commercial screening, please contact us for details.
Works Cited and Bibliography
iEnvironment Canada. Celebrating our coastlines from rivers to oceans. 2012. http://www.ec.gc.ca/envirozine/default.asp?lang=en&n=82B538B3-1.
iiAtlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions Association. Regional Adaptation Collaborative (RAC). http://atlanticadaptation.ca/program
iiiNatural Resources Canada. Regional Adaptation Collaboratives: Facilitating Regional Adaptation Planning and Decision-Making. 2011. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/climate-change/community-adaptation/regional-collaborative/48
ivNatural Resources Canada. Regional Adaptation Collaboratives: Facilitating Regional Adaptation Planning and Decision-Making. 2011. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/climate-change/community-adaptation/regional-collaborative/48
vChambers, R. 1997. Whose Reality Really Counts: Putting the First Last. Intermediate Institute.
viLazo, J.K, Kinnell, JC. And A. Fisher. 2000. Expert and layperson perceptions of ecosystem risk. Risk Analysis, 20, 179-194.
viiMaxwell, J. 2012. Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
viiiHaw, K. and M. Hadfield. Video in Social Science Research: Functions and Forms. New York: Routledge.
ixMauro, I.J., McLachlan, S.M. and J. Sanders. 2005. Seeds of Change: Farmers, Biotechnology and The New Face of Agriculture. Available at: www.seedsofchangefilm.org
xKunuk, Z. and I.J. Mauro. 2010. Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change. Available at: www.isuma.tv/ikcc
xiCharmaz, K. 2006. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.