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Our thoughts about things that interest, inspire, and motivate us.

Environment


The DE team has direct expo­sure to the real impli­ca­tions of cli­matic change and vari­abil­ity in our work in the Caribbean and the result­ing prob­lems we see are wide-ranging and in many cases extremely disruptive.

The arrival at Chedi Jagan Inter­na­tional Air­port in George­town, Guyana. After 3 flights (Vancouver-Toronto; Toronto-Trinidad; Trinidad-Georgetown), we are ready to get to work

Over the past six months we have been work­ing with IICA (Inter-American Insti­tute for Coop­er­a­tion on Agri­cul­ture) con­duct­ing work­shops on how to cre­ate ARM’s (Agri­cul­tural Risk Maps) for droughts, floods, land­slides, saline intru­sions, and pest infes­ta­tions. We have worked with the gov­ern­ments of Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St. Vin­cent and the Grenadines, and Suri­name. Each coun­try presents a unique con­text but there are com­mon ele­ments throughout.

Each of these coun­tries is now pre­sented with a new cli­matic real­ity that includes more acute storm dis­tur­bances, increased cli­matic vari­abil­ity, and a struc­turally changed cli­mate[1]. The storm sea­son used to be active only for a par­tic­u­lar set of months each year, how­ever, now we are see­ing high-energy storms occur­ring through­out the year. These changes present daunt­ing man­age­ment chal­lenges for gov­ern­ment agen­cies, the pri­vate sec­tor, and for soci­ety at large.

DE GIS Spe­cial­ist, Trevor Smith, out­side of the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture where we con­ducted the workshops

The impacts on these coun­tries can be seen through­out the econ­omy, soci­ety, and envi­ron­ment. Floods have dis­placed peo­ple from their homes and destroyed whole indus­trial sec­tors. Droughts have pro­foundly reduced agri­cul­tural out­put. Land­slides have laid waste to crit­i­cal trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture. The haz­ards that envi­ron­men­tal change is pre­sent­ing are highly non-linear and asym­met­ri­cal which have cas­cad­ing effects. With such an unpre­dictable and dynamic envi­ron­ment to work with, we need to have mod­els or heuris­tics that can guide efforts for adaptation.

Work­shop par­tic­i­pants from var­i­ous gov­ern­ment min­istries and orga­ni­za­tions brain­storm­ing agri­cul­tural risk map solutions

We have opted to use open source tools and open data solu­tions. We are pro­po­nents of the ‘Open Data Move­ment’ and feel that access to tools should not be a bar­rier to sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. QGIS is the soft­ware we are train­ing peo­ple on and we also use CKAN and GeoN­ode as sup­port­ing plat­forms for web-based data management.

In the coun­tries we work in the two guid­ing prin­ci­ples for adap­ta­tion are resilience and adap­tive capac­ity. Resilience is the capa­bil­ity for a soci­ety to absorb a shock and then per­sist with­out a shift in states (eg. A healthy, sta­ble soci­ety to a dis­rupted and dis­or­dered soci­ety)[2]. The adap­tive capac­ity of a soci­ety would be the capa­bil­ity of the peo­ple in the soci­ety to adapt to a dis­tur­bance like a flood. The two con­cepts are directly related, yet dis­tinct. In our work in Guyana and Suri­name we are cre­at­ing agri­cul­tural risk maps to help min­i­mize the impacts of haz­ards by inform­ing those respon­si­ble for plan­ning deci­sions. The end goal is the build­ing of resilience.

Mis­sion accom­plished. Three days of intense work­shops with the final out­come being sat­is­fied participants

Cri­sis sit­u­a­tions may result­from climate-induced haz­ards, but the flip­side of cri­sis is oppor­tu­nity. The oppor­tu­nity here is for inno­va­tion in infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, data acqui­si­tion and man­age­ment, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, and social plan­ning, to name a few.

We need to think of cli­mate resilient ways of mov­ing for­ward and DE is at the fore­front of these efforts.

In the news:

http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/

http://agriculture.gov.gy

[1] Pul­warty, R.S.; Nurse, L.A.; Trotz, U.O. Caribbean Islands in a chang­ing cli­mate. Env­i­ron. Sci. Pol­icy Sus­tain. Dev. 2010, 52, 16–27

[2] Stokols, D., Perez, R. and Hipp, J. 2013. Enhanc­ing the resilience of human-environment sys­tems: a socio-ecological per­spec­tive. Ecol­ogy and Soci­ety 18(1): 7