Lasqueti Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan.
Last summer I organized a group of 15 Lasqueti community members to help me think through the following questions:
How are the impacts of climate change going to affect us here on Lasqueti?
And what can we do to prepare for them?
With the reflections and ideas that came out of that focus group meeting I created a document called the “Lasqueti Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan”. It was submitted as my honours thesis as part of my bachelors degree in Environmental Studies at McGill. Below is just an excerpt of my 53 page thesis. Contact me if you would like to read the whole darn thing.
I have posted the most interesting and relevant parts of the thesis on this page. Check it out if you are interested. Below is just an excerpt of my 53 page thesis. Contact me if you would like to read the whole darn thing. And if anyone is interested in beginning to implement some of these adaptation strategies that the group came up with, let me know and I’d be happy to try and help coordinate efforts.
Thanks again to those 15 excellent focus group members who helped me with this research!
jengobby [at] hotmail [dot] com 514-546-3924
1) Lasqueti Climate Change Vulnerability/Resilience Assessment
The process we used to conduct the vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan involved five steps that are outlined as follows:
1) EFFECTS: What are the expected climate change effects of most concern locally?
2) IMPACTS: How do we expect these effects to impact Lasqueti and Lasquetians?
3) RESILIENCIES: In what ways are we resilient to the coming changes?
4) VULNERABILITIES: In what ways are we vulnerable to the coming changes?
5) ADAPTATION STRATEGIES: What can we do to prepare?
1.1 Effects -What are the expected climate change effects of most concern locally?
A study completed by the Capital Regional District describes the impacts projected for southern areas of coastal British Columbia within the century, including:
- An increase of 6-7 mm in precipitation during December and January
- An increase of 10-20% in average annual precipitation
- Continued sea level rise (over the past century, BC has experienced a 4-12 cm rise)
- An increase in average air temperatures of up to 3º C in summer and 5º C in winter
- More extreme weather events (e.g. summer droughts, heavy rains, winter storms)
The following, in order of most mentioned to least mentioned, are the climate change effects of most concern to Lasqueti focus group members: a) Changes in precipitation, b) Increased storm activity, c) Various effects together creating problems for Food Security and d) Sea Level rise. For each of these, the focus group discussed how these effects may manifest in the Lasqueti socio-ecosystem.
1.2 IMPACTS: How do we expect these effects to impact Lasqueti and Lasquetians?
Wetter winters and drier summers are predicted for the Lasqueti region. The focus group envisioned the expected changes in precipitation as impacting the island in various ways. There was much concern expressed about reduced access to drinking water, irrigation for crops and drought conditions increasing the risk of forest fires and there being a lack of water with which to put out fires. There has already been drought problems in the summer months in recent years. Many people already live with limited water resources for much of the summer. Their water supply generally depends on their storage abilities. Some properties are endowed with large ponds or lakes, others store water in cisterns or construct ponds.
Fire is already a real threat to locals. The main form of household heating is wood fire in wood stoves. There have been a number of house fires in the last 10 years. The risk of house fires spreading to surrounding forests is very real as many houses are built in close proximity to trees and forest. The combination of existing water constraints and existing fire risk situates Lasqueti as vulnerable to the changes in precipitation that are predicted to be brought on by climate change.
More rain in the winter and less in the summer will also impact local people in that water is required for growing food. This will contribute to increased stresses on food security. There was also concern expressed that water being scarce (and this leading to food scarcity) will induce conflict among people. There was fear of impacts on wildlife and forests as drought conditions persist. There has already been evidence of cedar trees dying off in the last decade or so due to drier conditions. It was suggested by one participant that compromised health of ecosystems can also make them more vulnerable to invasive species and pest invasions.
Increased Storm Activity
During our impact envisioning, focus group participants expressed concern about increased storms. There were three main ways people anticipated storms impacting their lives: ferry cancelations, communication system breakdowns, and damage to houses and systems.
Already in the last two years, there have been more ferry cancelations due to storms than in the past (personal communication with ferry captain). Increased ferry cancelations can reduce access to off-island employment and more difficult access to food and other staple items. But of most concern to the focus group was the reduced access to health care services that could be caused by more common cancelation of ferry runs. Lasquetians need to travel to Vancouver Island in order to see doctors, dentists, obstetricians, midwives and other specialists. This travel is also required to get prescription medication from the pharmacy and to get their children vaccinated. All this hinges on the ferry’s ability to make the crossing. Clearly increased ferry cancelations will make it harder for residents to access routine health care.
More storm activity will also impact the access to emergency health care as the coast guard (which is called in by the first responders if deemed necessary) cannot make the crossing in large storms. And helicopters, which are called in when the coast guard is unable to come, are only able to land on Lasqueti in daylight hours.
The focus group members also expressed concern that increased storm activity can also lead to damage to houses and cars. It is not uncommon for trees to fall in wind storms and there has already been an increase in house and car damage from falling trees.
Perhaps of most concern to the focus group is that storms can cause breakdown in communication systems. The landline phone system relies on the diesel generator at the elementary school running. The phone wires themselves, buried in shallow ground around the island are already prone to breakdown by various causes, including storms. The island’s broadband internet service is also vulnerable to disruption as its reception towers are on bluff tops and each has its own alternative energy systems that can be damaged by intense wind and rain storm. The worry is not only the economic impacts of damaged infrastructure and hindrances to telecommuting to work, but more that people will not be able to call for help in cases of emergencies. People live far apart, and commonly out of shouting distance from the closest neighbor. The focus group identified this as an impact of great concern.
There was also the concern that emergency situations could generate increased involvement in island affairs by government or other “outside powers”. However, other participants suggested that it was more likely that being so remote and with such a small population, we would unlikely receive any help or resources from the ‘other side’, whether wanted or not.
Various effects together creating problems for Food Security
The focus group had strong concerns about combined effects of temperature increase, changes in precipitation, increased pests and invasive species making it more difficult for islanders to grow food crops. With rising food and transportation costs on Vancouver Island and increased storm activity making it harder to go shopping off island, there is more reason than ever to grow food on Lasqueti. There is already a vibrant community of farmers and gardeners. However, most crops grow in the summer season and so reduced rainfall in the summer season may constrain the ability to maintain or expand local food growing. It was also mentioned that increased rainfall in the winter can have detrimental impacts on plants as too much soil saturation of water can make plants rot and die. Temperature changes are expected to increase the likelihood of pests that can harm crops. Temperature changes can also change the types of crops that can be grown on Lasqueti. Focus group participants expressed fear that crops that they have been growing successfully may not be able to grow in hotter, drier conditions.
The concern was expressed that increasing storage capacity of rainwater catchment may help but that more ponds means more forest clearing which has implications for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. It was noted that increased clearing of land for food production has this problem as well. Another issue raised about food security was that many of the large farms are very close to sea level. Increased storm activity causing coastal erosion and rising sea levels may cause salinization of the water table. Both of these could contribute to threats of food security on Lasqueti Island.
Sea Level Rise
The participants of the focus group identified several local impacts from predicted sea level rise. Many houses are close to the hightide line currently. A rising high tide combined with increased storms eroding Lasqueti’s coastlines clearly pose a threat to property value and homes. Some people may have to rebuild and are concerned about the financial impacts of this. Locals are also worried about increased costs of insurance due to all these impacts. Another concerns is of rising sea level causing salinization of ground water and aquifers compounding the problems of food and water security associated with other climate change effects.
Yet another expected impact is that the cost of living will go up as governments divest responsibility for wharfs. This is already happening and it will be a considerable expense to islands to take responsibility for their own wharfs. This will be a bigger and more costly responsibility with rising sea levels and increased storms requiring more repair and maintaining of the wharfs.
One participant expressed concern about sea level rise, changes in ocean temperature and other ocean effects having impacts on the health and populations of forage fish and the rest of the coastal ecosystems on which the community is dependent.
Other impacts that we envisioned include possible economic uncertainty because of national and international instability and economic collapses due to climate change and other global problems. One man spoke of the social impact of fear and of how living in fear of climate change could pose a threat to social and psychological well-being in the community. Related to this is the concern about scarcity of food and water leading to increased conflict in the island. With no police presence on the island, conflict could lead to real stresses on the island’s informal governance structures and even pose threats to personal safety.
On a more positive note, one woman spoke of the coming effects of climate change being an opportunity for the community to deepen its response to change and for individuals to enhance their capacity for uncertainty. She spoke of the coming challenges as a way to help foster more collaboration and inter-reliance among Lasqueti islanders.
1.3 RESILIENCIES: In what ways are we resilient to the coming changes?
Having discussed the potential impacts of climate change on the Lasqueti socio-ecosystems, we next reflected on the local resiliencies and vulnerabilities that already exist there. A roundtable discussion ensued and below are some of the resiliencies identified.
Lack of easy access to grocery stores means that Lasquetians tend to have large amounts of food stored up. People buy grains and other food stuffs in bulk quantities to last them between ‘trips over to the other side’. As well much of the annual harvest of local crops happens in the late summer/fall and people dry, can, smoke or otherwise preserve the food they’ve grown in the summer in order to last them through to spring. Most islanders have a pantry full of nuts and seeds and canned jams, tomatoes, pickles, dried fruit, smoked fish and canned meat. Less dependent on commercial food products makes the locals feel better prepared for hard times of reduced access to groceries.
Another point of resilience identified is that as a rural people, they are used to living close to nature, of dealing with the “elements and storms and way of nature”. Similarly, they are on the most part used to living with less, to living without excess, and to being used to an irregular supply of things. One person noted proudly that “We wouldn’t be shaken up if we can’t get the newest iphone as folks on the other side would be”.
Efforts in the western world to prepare for climate change often focus on setting up rainwater catchment and renewable power systems and local food initiatives. Several participants commented on the resilience of the water and power systems on the island. Being off the grid means that there are no island wide power outages. Not only are the power and water system renewable and independent, they are individual. If one person’s power system ceases working this has no effect on other residents.
One participant commented: “It relates directly to the concept of resilience. Our systems are independent. It's not just the skills and everything, it’s that they're independent. It's not that we have all solar. If we had one centralized solar, that wouldn't make us resilient. It's the fact that we all have separate systems. If my panels get smashed by a tree I just paddle over to Peter's place and have a cup of tea there. The systems are independent which means they fail gracefully. It would have to be something really big to knock out all the power on the island. Somewhere there'd be power. In Victoria, there's a big storm and boom. The main line to Vancouver Island, if that's cut, that's it. It's a scale issue. It's not just local, it's individual.”
Lasquetians are used to getting buy with less energy and adjusting to different flows of power which makes them less ‘upset’ by changes in availability of goods and services. Further, because each household in fully responsible to set up and maintain their systems, most people know how to fix broken systems. This systemic independence renders them less vulnerable than people who need to call an electrician or plumber every time something breaks. This Lasquetian characteristic has wider implications in terms of general know-how. The average islander is highly skilled. She can grow food, build a house, install a solar panel, fix a leak in the water pipe, etc. As well most people have developed an amazing ability to be resourceful. As one man pointed out “People are willing to do anything, whatever needs to be done…we don’t wait for others to do things for them”.
Aside from the resiliency gained from existing infrastructure and skills, many participants brought up the community cohesion and impressive social capital as assets to the community’s ability to adapt. They noted a good flow of information among people, and the willingness to share skills, knowledge, tools, and resources. One woman commented on this:“I think we can easily ask each other questions and answer them...that sort of the thing. We have the teachers. If you have a question you can call them up and say hey how does this go? And they will help you. Or point you in the direction of someone who can help you.”
A small close knit population mean that in general, people all know each other. And there is a mutual support network whereby no one who may need help is likely to fall through the cracks. “We all know who our neighbours are, whether we like them or not. And when things are tough we check on each other and so on. Nobody's going to be left out.”
One woman talked of the ‘practice of caring for each other’ and we talked about the informal insurance system that seems to exist on the island. When someone is having hard times, they will be helped, be in an illness, old age or a house fire. The community comes together to provide for community members in need.
The group noted that due to the physical labour required and other aspects of the rural life, local are generally in good health and have impressive physical strength and stamina. Another aspect of Lasqueti life that fosters resilience and adaptive capacity is the fact it is less regulated by local and regional laws and bylaws. Several residents mentioned that this lack of regulation and bylaw enforcement means they can work on making adaptive changes that could, in other locals, be restricted by land-use and other bylaws.
1.4 Vulnerabilities: In what ways are we vulnerable to the coming changes?
Of primary concern to the group is the current communications systems. The phone and internet systems are both already prone to breakdown. Phone system depends on the generator at the school to be functioning, which in turn depends on a steady supply of diesel. This relates to another point of vulnerability identified: the monopoly on fuel. There is only one fuel pump on the entire island.. The gas pumps are only open a few days a week and at select hours. The fuel is significantly more expensive on Lasqueti than it is on Vancouver Island, and is generally bad quality (often has water content that can cause some damage to vehicles). Further, there are fairly regular episodes when no fuel is available at all.
Related to this, several focus group members cited isolation as a major vulnerability. One member admitted: “I think we're vulnerable transportation wise. If there's anybody who is sick it's hard to get them off island. And if our transportation gets affected by climate change it'll be even harder.” Relying on the ferry as the sole way to leave or return to the island also constitutes a vulnerability in the minds of the focus group. It makes it harder to access the things people need. It contributes to food insecurity and can exacerbate health issues.
Another issue is that having such a small and remote population means fewer government services are provided. Generally Lasquetians view this lack of involvement from the government as a good thing, but the group felt it makes them vulnerable because “we’re off the radar in terms of emergency response and such”. One participant expressed this in economic terms. “Our imports greatly exceed our exports. We rely heavily on the other side, yet we’re economically inconsequential to the other side. So we’d be last on the list of places to send help to. We are at the end of the supply chain.”
Another aspect of this vulnerability is garbage and waste disposal. The isolation of the island means it is difficult to get rid of waste. This is likely contributing to toxicity in the local environment. For example, dead batteries discarded in the forest leach battery acid into the watershed. This could affect access to clean water. It is likely having deleterious effects on other ecosystems and wildlife on island.
Interestingly, the independent and do-it-yourself spirit celebrated as a strong source of resilience in the previous conversation also came up as a vulnerability. One participant talked of this independent spirit as being “anarchist libertarian”. And expressed how it “can make it hard for people to work together. Especially with any intervention that is seen to be coming from above – the government or the other side. It’s the ‘don’t tell me what to do’ thing.” The group talked about this as hindering collaboration with off island people and institutions but also hindering collaboration between Lasquetians. Similarly, the strong sense of local identity and separateness foster a notion that the problems of the world stay over there. Several participants pointed this out as a vulnerability since it can nurture apathy and denial about global issues.
There were several people who mentioned food related vulnerabilities. One mentioned that being a community of gardeners and farmers increased vulnerability to new pests and diseases and other ways that climate change is predicted to create problems for agriculture. Another spoke of being concerned that the clear island delineation determines a fixed carrying capacity in terms of how many people it can support by way of food and water. One focus group member provided an estimate that only 8-10% of Lasqueti is arable and that we are probably at or very near carrying capacity at current population. Despite the ample local food growing efforts, residents still rely heavily for much of their food and agricultural inputs on imports from Vancouver Island.
Several folks talked about health related vulnerabilities. One pointed out that many local choose to not vaccinate their children and that this increases risk of spreading disease. Another person commented that “we’re vulnerable to spreading of disease between us…because of kissing and hugging all the time.” The aging population poses problems; greater service and care needs and fewer people able to provide them.
Some other points of vulnerability identified are structures of land ownership and land prices restricting the kind of people that could come here. This has led to an influx of people who can afford to buy land at the current prices and this is mostly older, retired people many of whom are buying property as a summer get-away and this is seen as weakening the community.
Lastly, one participant expressed concern that False Bay, (the cove where the ferry docks and where the restaurant/bar and store are located) is vulnerable in terms of defense.
2 ADAPTATION STRATEGIES: What can we do to prepare?
To identify climate change adaptation strategies, the focus group divided into four ‘sector’ groups. The sector groups are a) Wildlife and Wilderness, b) Water, c) Food Security, d) Social and Infrastructure. The group spent several hours in these sector groups brainstorming and strategizing. When this was done, we reconvened and reported back and further discusses the strategies. The final product of this brainstorming is the following:
2.1 The Strategies
a) Wilderness and Wildlife group:
The main concern of this sector group is that “the health of our ecosystems is vital to the health of our communities and to our ability to adapt, yet there are development pressures as well as climate-related threats to our forests and coastal region.” In order to offset the development pressures and their adverse effect on ecological and social systems, this group chose to focus on the following five adaptation strategies: conservation, education, proactive forest adaptive management, planting orchards, the consumption of invasive species.
The sector group envisioned this conservation strategy to reduce development pressure and its impact on local wilderness and wildlife though legally conserving threatened or sensitive parcels of land through covenants or through actual purchasing of the land. Conservation is defined here as maintaining and promoting growth of natural ecosystems. The protection of forest cover keeps water in the soil and is habitat for wildlife. There is a lot of crown land that is vulnerable to development that could be conserved to help protect water sheds (contributing to the adaptation strategies regarding water). Increasing and maintaining vegetation is not only an adaptation strategy, it is also mitigative in that it helps store carbon. The best agricultural land is also the best forest land, and as such there is some tension between conflicting priorities here: encouraging local food production and conserving forest ecosystems. This tension however may be resolved by strategic use of existing cleared arable land (more on this later).
There are some draw backs of this conservation strategy that were pointed out: land purchasing is expensive. This strategy could drive up land prices thus potentially exacerbating demographic issues discussed earlier. One benefit of this strategy is that the conservation branch of the Island Trust (Trust Fund) has in place several conservation programs and covenant mechanisms. Another is that it is already being promoted by the local association Lasqueti Island Nature Conservancy (LINK). Collaborative efforts with the Trust Fund and LINK can make this strategy come to fruition easily, possibly compensating for the drawback of the high cost aspect of conservation as an adaptation strategy for Lasqueti.
Planting orchards is another strategy. The idea is to plant fruit bearing trees in already cleared areas. Orchards attract and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. Orchards could maintaining tree cover and sequester carbon while providing food for people and wildlife. Related to this is another strategy presented. It is an active approach to managing forests called proactive forest adaptive management. It was proposed that we can help our forests adapt to changing climatic conditions, by planting species that currently grow south of here (like genotypes from Mount Washington are). This is based on the prediction that ecosystems will migrate north as temperatures increase and precipitation patterns change. These two strategies could work together. The focus group has proposed that we plant fruit and nut bearing trees on public and private lands that are in need of restoration. They suggest that it would be wise to plant both varieties that we know grow well in current Lasqueti climatic conditions and varieties that grow well in the ecosystems that are expected to migrate to Lasqueti in the coming decades. By doing this we increase food security, restore wildlife habitat, sequester carbon and proactively help forests adapt to changing conditions.
Another strategy proposed by this Wilderness and Wildlife sector group addresses the problems posed to ecosystems by invasive species. This is already happening and is predicted to be made worse by changes in climate. The strategy is to encourage the invasive species as local food sources. This is not as weird as it seems at first glance. Some of the most prolific invasive species on Lasqueti are feral sheep and bullfrogs. The feral sheep which forage through Lasqueti’s forests and clearings impose extensive damage to the understory of the forest. Bull frogs have been doing serious damage to the local tree frog population. Yearling sheep, lamb and frogs legs, which are already consumed on island could be encouraged to become more of a staple food item. This would have the combined effects of reducing the damage to the wild ecosystems that the invasive species inflict and contributing to local food security. It is imperative that these invasive species be sustainably harvested if we would like them to be a food source long term, benefiting locals as the climate changes. The proposal is a program of regular rather than an eradication effort.
The final strategy presented by this sub-group is education. They stressed the importance of building on local knowledge, sharing of ideas, and providing awareness raising about how we rely on our wild ecosystems. They are suggesting an education program with a long term historical view with the goal of making Lasquetians all more aware of our own impacts and how to reduce those impacts on our wild areas. The team is promoting education as a strategy especially regarding the ocean. The importance of the health of forage fish and other crucial species. Collaboration between LINK, Lasqueti Forage Fish Conservation group and the adaptation focus group could help work towards these adaptation strategies. A first step could be to begin an educational and inspiring column in the local monthly paper on the ways to reduce our impacts on the local forests, watersheds and coastlines, underscoring the community’s dependence on the wellbeing of these systems.
b) The Water Management Group
The main concern of this sector group is the expected impacts from the changes in precipitation and temperature causing reduced access to water during the dry, summer season. As outlined earlier in this paper, the community needs water for growing crops, drinking, washing, fire protection, micro hydro power generation, etc. The main goal identified by this group is to increase water storage capacity. Given the expected increase in rainfall during the winter season, there may not be a lack of water if storage can be increased to provide water through a longer then currently normal dry season.
The specific strategies devised to increase storage capacity are: education (best practices for catching, conserving and filtering water) and neighbourhood watershed management groups.
Education is a low hanging fruit among these strategies because most residents already catch and store rainwater. It is not introducing a new idea to the community, but building on a familiar practice. The photo below is an example of a rain water catchment systems, including catchment surface and storage tanks. The goal of education around this would be in encourage expansion of storage for climate change adaptation purposes. Further goals of the educational strategies would encourage digging ponds and putting in cisterns rather than discouraging deep wells. Deep wells can lead to salinization of the fresh water via saltwater intrusion. Also encouraged will be gravity fed systems. In such a system, the stored water is up slope from the house hold or garden. These systems are considered better due to not needing pumping systems, which are often gas powered an thus contribute to co2 emissions. Ponds can be dug even where soil is sandy and this is done by lining the pond floor with locally available clay. Much of these water catchment best practices are already outlined in the Best Practices for Living and Building on Lasqueti document. As such, this education strategy need only help distribute these documents more widely and encourage the implementation of the practices outlined.
The concern about conflict due to increased water scarcity was addressed by the neighbourhood watershed management strategy. The sector group feels that they can prepare for this possible water scarcity best with a two-fold strategy: increasing storage but doing so in a way that explicitly deals with the reality that what one does with surface water affects others in the same watershed. This strategy will involve:
1) Watersheds to be mapped.
2) Those living in each watershed are encouraged to collaborate to establish the catchment potential of their watershed, in terms of ground water, rainfall and lakes, and streams.
3) These groups can then identify catchment goals based on total expected need for all the neighbourhood’s household, irrigation and fire safety needs.
4) With the help of local water catchment experts, the watershed management groups can devise a collective water storage system, using ponds, cisterns or a combination of the two. Digging, tank and line maintenance costs can be shared, thus reducing individual costs while increasing water access.
There was much enthusiasm for this strategy among the focus group as it builds on Lasqueti’s wealth of social capital and ability to work together. The island already has one very successful example of a cooperatively managed water source: Pete’s Lake which 30 households share and care for. This strategy builds on existing expertise, experience and local strengths. It will have multiple benefits: increased water access, reduced costs and reduction in the likelihood of conflict. If neighbourhoods have established strategies and agreements regarding use and conservation and they work together to increase storage capacity this will have two fold benefits: less scarcity and established methods of cooperation to reduce conflict over use in times of scarcity.
One complication for this strategy centers around water rights. Do residents of watershed have full access to the water? Are there issues of water rights that need to be addressed? According to one focus group member, the crown owns the water but private owners can own the lake, pond or stream bed. Users gain access with water licenses. He went on to say that “you don’t have rights to the whole water shed. You have a license to take out so much and store so much and then there can be multiple licenses. If there’s ever less water that can supply all of them it’s whoever had the first license that gets it and the others legally have to shut off their intake.”
Another important point addressed by this sector group was that increased storage of water does not necessarily extend to benefiting wilderness and wildlife during drought. Storage in lakes and ponds is better for this than storage in cisterns. They create habitat and accessible water source and contribute to ground water regeneration in ways that closed tanks do not. Another important point raised is that increased storage can lead to increased forest clearing, which creates co2 emissions. Both these concerns can be addressed by education efforts.
c) The Food Security Group:
The main objective of this sector group was to strategize ways to counter the impacts to food security induced by climate change effects such as drought conditions, invasive species, increased storms and higher temperatures. The main strategies outlined by the sector group were: neighborhood watershed management groups, education (about water tables, plant varieties, seed saving, dealing with diseases and pests) and strategic arable land use.
It was this group which came up with the idea for the neighbourhood watershed management groups and the water group loved it and adopted it for their purposes as well. One member of this sector group explained the rationale: “well, by developing plans by watershed, you’re linked like a neighbourhood. So if there was watershed planning, or like neighbourhood water watch…where you talk about where the catchments are, who’s using what, who’s got licenses, so you know, you can coordinate.” The implementation stages for the watershed groups are the ones detailed in the previous section.
In addition to the watershed group strategy, they identified the need for education in various aspects of food growing. One is ground water: “because it’s not visible, it’s hard to understand how it works”. As such it is easy to deplete ground water without knowing it. Andrew, the focus group’s resource manager offered to create a draft communication strategy around increasing awareness about ground water. Another education need is on the use of more diversity in crops and seeds, so that if something goes wrong with one variety, there are others to provide back up. Encouraging the development of local varieties, planting crops for the expected changing climate and the saving and sharing of seeds are also priorities established for education strategy.
These educational methods could include activities and booths at the Fall Fair and Saturday Market and columns in the local paper. This could be designed and implemented in collaboration with the Lasqueti Permaculture Guild, the Food Bank, the Saturday Market Association, and the Farmer’s Institute. The contribution of the adaptation focus group could be to enhance these by providing the additional dimension of local adaptation to climate change.
The final strategy of this sector group was strategic arable land use. The idea is that rather than clearing forested land to expand local food production, residents should maximize the use of existing cleared arable land. The focus would be on those areas that are not in immediate proximity to coast line where saltwater intrusion is a concern. The main steps are: to map the existing arable land on the island and identify the areas that are not currently in use but could be. The next step is to match up land owners who have available land with people wanting to grow food. The rationale behind this is the demographic challenges mentioned earlier in the paper: there is an aging population, who are farming less than they used to, and an influx of younger people with the desire and energy to grow food but without access to suitable land due to restrictive land prices. The idea is to facilitate land leasing or loaning so that young people with energy to farm are paired with residents who have unused land available for growing food. This is something that already happens informally but an intentional strategy can aid in coordinating this towards the goal of maximizing food production without further land clearing.
This strategy echoes concerns of other community groups, and as with the educational strategy, it builds on and contributes to existing community initiatives and combines efforts to work toward common community goals. These are not strategies that need to be built from the ground up and as such do not require much startup resource or energy. These strategies represent good mainstreaming with existing community goals and co-benefits with mitigation efforts.
d) The Social and Infrastructure Group
The final sector group was tasked with strategizing ways to reduce the vulnerability due to isolation and lack of access to health care in the case of ferry cancelations, and/or phone and internet malfunctions. Their strategies include: setting up alternative communication systems, encouraging vaccinations (and other ways of building health), creating list of professional health care providers on Lasqueti.
Although access to official healthcare on island is limited to a nurse visit one afternoon a week and a volunteer first responder emergency service, there are several health care professionals on island although not working on Lasqueti in an official capacity. They could be called on in times of emergency when access to Vancouver Island is cut off due to ferry cancelations. One member of this sector group expressed: “we do have a lot of good health care professionals on island here that would be good to involve or at least have available in times of emergency or if it was a major emergency and we couldn’t get people off island, they could be there so…I think of it as increasing the communication among ourselves and our knowledge base about who’s available and what systems exist here, now.”
The next strategy regards the communication system. The group asked the question: How do we get help in an emergency if a storm knocks down the tower and the internet doesn’t work or the phone lines go down as they already regularly do? The group figures that at present communication would happen by neighbours checking on each other during or after storms, though in a haphazard, possibly inefficient way. But if we did have a planned system of communicating, people could more quickly access help when needed. The group is recommending that this alternative communication be organized by way of the neighbourhood watershed management groups mentioned above. This would make sense, being that neighbours share watershed, but may not be ideal as the road network does not necessarily correspond to watersheds. This could hinder the ease of the ability of people to drive to check on each other. Regardless of how the emergency communication is set up geographically, the idea is to implement a network of buddy systems whereby each household has one or two other households to check in with them in person in the event of a storm or other event that takes down phone and internet communication. There was also talk about using CB radio systems and one member has been doing research into the feasibility of this. This strategy is quite promising in that it builds on the existing social norm of community care, and simply aids by planning communication in extreme situations.