Insights //

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


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:

[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