Saint Andrews – Last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Sir David Attenborough told a gathering of global political and economic elite that “the Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.”
Though climate change is a global problem, at the local level, the work of planning for it is one of adaptation. This planning seeks to reduce the vulnerability of our infrastructure, our social, environmental and economic systems to the disruptions that climate change is bringing.
In this small and beautiful slice of the globe, Eastern Charlotte Waterways (ECW) is spearheading the effort of adaptation.
On Jan. 20 and 24 ECW was at Sunbury Shores in Saint Andrews hosting public engagement seminars in order “to get public opinion and community feedback on the adaptive actions items that we’ve developed for the different climate topics,” said ECW Climate Change Program Manager, Briana Cowie.
Those adaptive action items include five areas that ECW has identified as being particularly at risk of the effects of anthropogenic climate change, and the public has been invited to comment on the proposed management strategies, in addition to ranking the importance of these areas to the social and economic life of Saint Andrews.
The five areas that the town of Saint Andrews and ECW have highlighted are:
Community – ensuring a community is well informed of climate risks and prepared for their impacts increases its resilience to climate change. Awareness of emergency response measures, preparation for possible climate impacts, and participation in community events can all build climate change resilience. Guiding and supporting municipal governments in their adaptation measure will ensure risks are properly managed and create a community resilient to climate impacts.
Drinking water – The Town of Saint Andrews depends on Chamcook Lake as a drinking water source. Chamcook Lake falls outside the municipal boundary and is home to a significant residential population. It also provides potable water to the Bayside Port and the Atlantic salmon Federation. There are many groups depending on a healthy chamcook lake. The Town’s role within this group of stakeholders will be important to ensuring its resilience as a water source. Rising temperatures and heavy rainfall events can impact water levels and increase risks to water quality. Cyanobacteria blooms may become more prevalent, which could be detrimental to lake health, and therefore impact the Town of Saint Andrews.
Indian Point – Indian Point has significant cultural, economic, and social value to the Town of Saint Andrews and the Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy) peoples. Sea-level rise, flooding scenarios, and extreme storm surge events are all climate risks at Indian Point. Vulnerable infrastructure includes the rock sea-wall, roadways, stairways, sewer lines, and residential homes. The nearby sewage treatment facility appears safe from impact, but existing campground facilities must be considered as a high risk to climate impact, but with opportunity for managed retreat.
Market Square and the Wharf – The town has identified Market Square and the wharf as assets vulnerable to climate change. They suffer from deterioration because of climate risks including sea-level rise, coastal erosion, storm surge, and flooding. Wooden cribwork, retaining walls, and decking have settled and rotted. Several areas are sinking because of the movement of fines beneath the surface. There are rotted cross bracings, decking, and fender piles that have resulted in decay and cracking to the concrete decking above the wharf. The Town reports, “normal tidal action, combined with anticipated effects of sea level and storm surges, are expected to accelerate the rate of deterioration at both sites.”
Patrick Street – In Saint Andrews, Patrick Street features key access road infrastructure and many residential homes. A storm in November 2010 resulted in significant damage to the area. Witness accounts and local news reported that the 2010 storm event destroyed a large sea wall on Patrick Street and flooded the area with salt water and seaweed. More infrastructure and personal property damage is likely to occur with the increase of the frequency and severity of storm events.
Cowie said after the data has been gathered, ECW will “present it to municipal council to help inform policy and decision making at a municipal level. That’s the whole adaptation process, that’s the goal at the end.
“And then, of course, this will be nested in with the municipal plan, which is the vision for what the town of Saint Andrews will look like in the next ten years. And the municipal plan covers a variety of different things, like economic and social development, but we’re nesting the climate adaptation planning into that so that it informs bylaws, different policies, and different projects that will need to be adapted by the town.”
In the history books of the coming generations, the Anthropocene may well be the academic term used to refer to that time in our development as a species when we threw our hands up in the air and gave up.
Or perhaps it will refer to the time when we cast aside ideological division, tribalism, and the all too human quality of missing the forest for the trees.
Perhaps those history books will define the Anthropocene as that period in Earth’s history when humanity transcended its most harmful qualities and rose to the challenge of responsible stewardship. As the American poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry pointed out, “the care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”
Want to help write those chapters? Donald Killorn, Executive Director of ECW, said the goal is to have 500 responses to the questionnaire at the end of the community engagement process. If you live in Saint Andrews and would like to have a say in the towns climate change adaptation strategy, the questionnaire can be accessed and completed at www.ecw.ngo/sta