What is a Resilient Community in the face of Climate Change?

Climate Change: How does it affect Sackville?

Sackville is already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate. Due to its low-lying coastal location, Sackville has experienced hurricanes and storm surges. Sea levels around Sackville are expected to rise by a 1m or more by 2021, which will increase the impact of coastal storms. The dykes, meant originally to protect farm lands, are now expected to protect infrastructure, including a community. The Sackville area is expected to see more annual precipitation (rain and snow) but falling less often and in more intense events. Sackville has already experienced various fresh water floods and drought periods as well as increasing annual temperatures. Residents can expect to see more heat waves and ice storms. Invasive species such as ticks have also moved into the region. These climate change impacts are also affecting some residents’ mental and physical health.

Community members who responded to the surveys listed a variety of climate change impacts that concern them. They are most concerned about:

  • coastal flooding and dyke breaches
  • droughts
  • more and longer heat waves
  • human health impacts
  • sea level rise

The most commonly reported concerns among students are human health impacts (due to mental health, polluted water, heat alerts, tick, etc.), drought, invasive species and more powerful hurricanes happening more often. Businesses and organizations are concerned about how climate change may affect their operations including reducing the number of clients or members, communications challenges, loss of suppliers, shipping interruptions, difficulty getting essential supplies, having to close their physical location, and loss of power or internet.

How Resilient do Community Members feel?

A large percentage of residents feel that people in Sackville are committed to the well-being of the community, know how to work together to help each other prepare, respond and recover from crises. Likewise, students feel that Sackville has the ability to unite and come together during times of crisis such as helping university students impacted by a recent apartment fire. The connected, community-minded nature of Sackville is a significant resource. People feel that Sackville has an engaged and concerned population which is willing to act. Having a diversity of experience, ages, skills, and resources in the community was also noted as an important community strength. Several respondents feel that the mayor and council are supportive of climate change actions and that they have confidence in local decision-makers, making climate action more likely. However, not everyone felt that way and there are concerns that the Sackville community does not have the resources it needs to address future climate risks effectively. Focus group participants said the community should build off the successes of the Sackville Refugee Coalition and the Tantramar Covid Taskforce.

Residents are confident in their own abilities to adapt to climate change. Those older than 55 reported more “confidence in their ability to respond and adapt to climate change” than younger respondents. Only 40% of student respondents (ages 11 to university) say they feel prepared for climate change. A large percentage of residents feel they can be of help to neighbours and that their neighbours can help them in the event of a disaster. However, the phrases respondents most commonly disagreed with included: talking to their neighbours about preparing for an emergency or disaster and helping the community prepare for or respond to an emergency or disaster. Some focus group participants said people in apartments don’t know their neighbours so there is no one to turn to for help.

While respondents to the community survey feel strongly that Sackville is resilient and well resourced, connecting people with those resources and with each other is more challenging and could be an important action to address climate change.

Key informant and focus groups said the community needs more focus on long-term adaptation. Some feel it is hard for community members to see long-term. Others said the community is further ahead than when climate discussions started in the early 2000s, but there are still a lot of people who do not see climate change as a threat to their personal situation and so more education is needed. Some participants said Sackville could easily have a food shortage, supply chains could be disrupted, and that transportation is at risk. The pandemic has been useful to show people how precarious things like food systems are. Sackville is very vulnerable as one large storm could have a huge impact; however, it is a strong community, with deep roots or strong ties.

What is a Resilient Community?

EOS Eco-Energy asked focus groups and key informants what a resilient community looks like and received a long list of qualities. A resilient community is:

  • Positive social connections and relationships among residents
  • A strong sense of community where people contribute and benefit
  • Embracing diversity
  • Effective communication and inclusive
  • Access to basic needs (shelter, food, health care, security, jobs)
  • Knowing who the vulnerable are, what they need, how to reach them and support them
  • Always working to address inequalities
  • Monitoring and supporting essential local businesses and services
  • Good relationships with neighbouring communities and sharing resources when in need
  • Key services, features and resources contributing to vibrant local business and community sectors
  • Self-sufficient and has local food producers, residents able to use traditional skills, etc.
  • Confidence in long-term planning
  • Integrating climate change into day-to-day operations with a comprehensive approach and long-term planning throughout the community
  • Citizens able to take action and sustain continued action
  • Citizens that are part of solutions, not relying only on government
  • Proactive, not reactive
  • Knows how to get its voice heard
  • Has good municipal leadership that knows its role
  • Knowledgeable municipal, provincial and federal governments supporting it with effective, forwarding thinking policies, regulations and funding programs

Continue reading: Great Ideas for Community-based Resilience in Sackville: Health and Wellness