MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • MEOPAR Blog: Risks and Hazards

    Photo Caption: Living along the shore has its risks. This section of Lakeshore Road was patched and a stacked armour stone wall was installed after the 2017 floods.


    Risks and hazards are two similar, but often confused terms. A hazard is classified as anything that can cause adverse effects or harm to someone or a community. There are three different types of hazards: occupational or safety hazards (which most people are familiar with), including equipment malfunctions or slippery floors; health hazards, such as work stress, air pollution, or bacteria exposure; and natural hazards, such as earthquakes, heatwaves, hail or tornados.

    The chance that a hazard will cause harm is considered the risk—a low risk translating to a low possibility of being hurt. A hazard could also be low risk when the severity of the harm caused is minimal. Your level of risk is also dependent on your likelihood to be exposed to a specific hazard. For example, residents living on top of the Niagara Escarpment are at a lower risk of being flooded by Lake Ontario than those living along the shoreline.

    When we think about natural hazards, we used to be talking about events that occurred once in 100 years. But with climate change—this is no longer the case. Heat waves, freezing rain and heavy rainfall are occurring more frequently , often classified as disasters.

    Understanding hazards and their associated risks plays an important role in the development of climate change adaptation strategies. Some disasters, like hurricanes, cannot be avoided. It is at this point thatdisaster risk reduction becomes the only option. In the case of hurricanes, the best long-term risk reduction strategy may be to avoid building close to the coastline. In the case of existing structures that lay in the path of the storm, the best course of action is to hurricane-proof the dwelling and evacuate.

    Although it’s not always possible, we can reduce our chances of being harmed by natural hazards. Risk reduction strategies have saved lives, which is why it’s crucial that we gain a better understanding of the hazards that can affect us and properly assess their risks.

     

     

     

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR BLOG: A new way to look at us and our environment

    Stacked armour stone walls along Charles Daley Park are an example of a location that may benefit from using ecosystem-based adaptation techniques. 


    There are various types of climate change adaptation strategies: technological, structural or those that are determined by policies and governmental decisions.

    Technological or structural adaptations are those that are related to any type of manipulation or intervention — such as the construction of a protection wall, infrastructure improvement, or even structural relocation. While some of these strategies can be simple and inexpensive to enact, others may be complex and potentially cost-prohibitive. What’s more, when we focus only on structure, technology or policies, we can sometimes forget other important factors: overall well-being, enjoyment of nature and the benefits that the natural environment gives us, such as clean air, shade and heat reduction, and clean water.

    That’s where ecosystem-based adaptation comes in. Often referred to as ‘EbA,’ this form of adaptation can be defined as any strategy or action that employs the use of nature-based solutions to ensure humans and the natural environment can adapt to climate change. It considers that we, as humans, are also part of this ecosystem and uses the natural environment and the services/benefits it provides to adjust to climate changes. EbA has also been promoted by many international organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

    There are many possible strategies in EbA, and many of which are less costly than technological or structural adaptations. Techniques utilizing soft protection of the shoreline (such as planting more vegetation) are less expensive and usually can last a lot longer than constructing a concrete retaining wall, for example. Adding more trees along the street can also help mitigate climate change, as well as providing shade and reducing heat waves and wind turbulence. Restoration of wetlands is another example of an EbA and can reduce the danger of flooding in a flood-prone neighbourhood.

    With a little imagination and lots of discussion with everyone at the table, we can discover many possible adaptations that will help our ecosystem while contributing to our overall quality of life in the process.

    These posts are written by the MEOPAR research team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us via email at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca.

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Reducing Our Water Footprint By Living Sustainably

    Canada is blessed with many lakes, rivers, and streams and has an abundance of water for its small population size. However, 60 per cent of Canada’s water flows northward, making it unavailable to southern Canada, where the majority of the country’s population lives. The Niagara Region, for example, only has access to a very limited amount of water for personal, industrial and agricultural purposes. What’s worse is that climate change further limits freshwater availability due to droughts and other extreme weather events.

    Approximately 30 per cent of Canadian households rely on groundwater sources for water. Since most of these sources must be recharged from the surface, changes in river flows and land use can significantly impact the amount of water available to these households. As climate changes continues to make our water supply more limited, we need to be vigilant about how we use our water and for what purposes.

    Our water footprint is the amount of water we consume in our daily life. This includes the water used to grow the food we eat and to produce the energy and products in our daily life (our books, music, house, car, furniture, clothes, etc.). The global average water footprint was 1.4 million litres per person per year in 2017. However, water footprints vary greatly depending on where you live. The average water footprint for a Canadian is approximately 6400 litres of water per person per day. On the other hand, residents of countries like China and India consume only 3000 litres of water per day.

    Our water footprints vary significantly based on the types of food products we consume. For instance, a 250 millilitre cup of tea has a water footprint of 30 litres, whereas the same amount of coffee has a water footprint of 280 litres. The location where our food is produced also impacts its water footprint. Locally produced broccoli, for example, requires one tenth the amount of water that is required to produce avocados. A 100 gram bar of chocolate requires a whopping 2400 litres of water to produce! With that in mind, it is understandably more sustainable to consume locally produced food products if we want to minimize our water footprint on the planet.

    Virtual water is the amount of water needed for each commodity or service that you receive.

    The water required for producing goods that are imported into Canada is an example of virtual water, such as the more than 10,000 litres required to manufacture one pair of jeans. Understanding where water comes from and how it is used can help us better understand challenges both globally and locally in the era of climate change.


    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our articles every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Pulkit Garg) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at ​meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca​.

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Call for Photographs

    CALL FOR PHOTOS EXTENDED

    We have discussed what climate change is and the importance of adapting to the environmental changes occurring and anticipated. But how can we be sure that some of these changes are truly a result of climate change? MEOPAR team member Meredith DeCock is hoping to demonstrate just that with her master’s thesis.

    Brock University Master of Sustainability Science and Society Candidate, Meredith DeCock is conducting an analysis of the Lincoln shoreline of Lake Ontario to see how it has changed since the 1930’s. As part of her research project, she is asking for help from the community. She is interested in acquiring electronic copies of historical photographs anyone may have of the shoreline to help visualize how it has changed over time. Photographs are important visuals in climate change research to help tell the story over time. It is a way of sharing your local knowledge and contributing to the research project.

    Don’t miss out on an opportunity to participate in a local research project!

    Photos are now being accepted until October 31, 2019. 

    Find out more information on the project and how to submit your photographs here.
    *Please remember to sign a waiver (found at the web address above) and submit it with your photograph(s)*

    Continue to monitor this page to read new blog posts every week. These posts are written by the MEOPAR Research Team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at lvasseur@brocku.ca@brocku.ca

     

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    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: Mitigation will not be enough: we need to adapt

    Flood waters rise up to the Niagara Rowing School and Paddlesport Centre at the Jordan Harbour Conservation Area, June 2019.


    What is adaptation and why is it important?

    The top scientists around the globe know our climate is changing at a faster rate than Earth has ever experienced—largely as a result of the actions taken by humans since the industrial revolution. This is resulting in changes to the Earth’s natural processes, including our climate, and action needs to be taken to slow down and deal with these changes.

    These actions can take on two different forms: mitigation or adaptation. Mitigation refers to actions taken to slow down climate changes, mainly targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for example. Adaptation, on the other hand, goes even further: acknowledging that even if we halted 100% of all emissions right now, we will still inevitably see some of the effects of climate change for decades. Adaptation means preparing for the inevitability of these changes by engaging in actions or strategies to better respond to the risks of climate change. Strategies may be either reactive (drying out your basement and preventing mould after you’re have been flooded) or proactive (relocating entirely because your house is getting too close to the shoreline).

    Adaptation actions may include:

    • flood prevention
    • relocation
    • land use changes
    • health programs
    • restoration of shorelines and forests
    • smart building design

    To successfully tackle the complex challenge of climate change, a combination of mitigation and adaptation efforts need to be prioritized by everyone: from federal to municipal governments, as well as local agencies, businesses and community members. Using the Town of Lincoln as a case study, the MEOPAR-Lincoln research project focuses on how communities can adapt to changing environmental conditions, and what will ultimately motivate citizens to get involved and start moving into action.

    A wide range of community voices will be needed to complete this study, as there will be a wide range of impacts to be addressed and strategies to be examined.

    Continue to monitor this page to read new blog posts every week. These posts are written by the MEOPAR Research Team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at lvasseur@brocku.ca@brocku.ca

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    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: Mitigation, A fancy way to say “Reduce the use of fossil fuels!”

    Flooding under the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) leads to partial closures of Charles Daley Park, Spring 2019.


    How much do you like driving your car or turning up the heat in your home on a frigid winter day? How often are you awake long after the sun has gone down, relying on the flick of a light switch in order to go about your evening routine? While many of these things are considered a common part of life, have you ever wondered where the energy comes from to do everything that we often take for granted?

    Many of the modern conveniences we rely on every day require the use of natural gas or gasoline—both of which emit a lot of greenhouse gases. The more of these gases that get pumped into the air, the greater the impact to our climate and our overall health and well-being. As convenient as it is to jump in our cars and zip from Point A to Point B, the ozone emitted by those cars creates smog that causes major health issues, like asthma and cancer, prompts our government to issue air quality advisories and cautions us from spending too much time outdoors.

    So, what can we do?

    We can start by committing to making a few, little lifestyle changes today. If we want future generations to enjoy life the way that we have, spending time outdoors engaging in Canadian summer pastimes like hiking and boating, we can’t afford to wait.

    A good place to start is by having open, honest and intergenerational discussions about our consumption patterns and over-use of resources. Think about whether your next potential purchase is a want or a need, for example. Do you really need a new car or a new cell phone, or do you just want to keep up with the latest update and features and your current device still does the trick? Do you need a new house of several thousand square feet for only two people, or, would a more modest dwelling suffice? If your initial response is that yes, you need it, then ask yourself why? While it’s nice to have the newest technology or an extra bedroom or two in our home, these material possessions and status symbols won’t be worth much when our forests and waterways are gone and there’s no clean air to breathe.

    It doesn’t have to happen all at once and no one is expecting you to relinquish all your possessions and decide to stop driving your car overnight. However, we all need to commit to doing our small part to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions now before it’s too late. It won’t be easy, and we’ll all need to put in the work because it’s not only up to governments to do something—we are all responsible for making changes. Even if we can only commit to small, incremental changes at first.

    It’s time to rethink the future we want and the steps we can take to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We have to do this only for us, but also for our children, our grandchildren, and all other future generations on this planet we share.

    Continue to monitor this page to read new blog posts every week. These posts are written by the MEOPAR Research Team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at lvasseur@brocku.ca

     

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    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: A few thoughts on climate change

    The pathway at Charles Daley Park was closed this year due to significant spring flooding. Photo by Meredith DeCock, June 2019.


    Everyone in Canada loves to talk about the weather. We hear about it on the radio, see it on TV and it’s often the first topic of conversation with anyone you bump into. We also hear the word climate (or climate change) used interchangeably with weather—and this is where we start having some confusion.

    Weather is what you experience on a day-to-day basis. For instance, it may be sunny and cold today with rain in the forecast for the rest of the week. It’s what we feel when we go outside, and it influences our activities: If it’s sunny and cool then it’s time for a walk! Freezing rain? You might want to rethink your outdoor plans.

    Climate is a little more complex to explain.

    Climate is more about the characteristics of a place over time. We live in a temperate climate here in Ontario. This means that we have four seasons, with cold winters and warm summers. Scientists characterize climate by looking at the mean of weather variables (such as temperatures) over a period of 30 years or more.

    Since the beginning of time on Earth, the climate has changed—and continues changing—to coincide with geological changes, such as the movement of continents. There are also cycles in the geological record of changing climates that are largely centered around significant events such as ice ages and meteorite impact on the Earth.

    So, if climate change is a natural occurrence, why are we talking about it so much these days? Climate usually changes at a very slow pace and we would need a very long time period to detect most of those changes. So slowly, in fact, that you usually cannot even feel these changes. Since humans have started using fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, gasoline, tar sands and oil), however, these changes are happening at a significantly faster pace.

    Why? Fossil fuels bring chemicals (now infamously known as greenhouse gasses) back to the surface and into the atmosphere, which accelerates changes in temperature and other variables, such as air currents and rainfall. We need some of these gasses to keep the Earth relatively warm (if not, we would be at about –98oC!) but when too much is released, we heat up the planet to a problematic degree.

    A warmer planet may not seem like a bad idea in theory—especially for those of us who yearn for longer summers here in Canada! A warmer planet, however, means warmer water and air, which in term leads to melting sea ice and glaciers. This results in more water in our seas and lakes that accumulates until there’s nowhere left for it to go, causing coastal communities to flood. These changes in temperature in the air and water also cause other extreme events such as storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and heavy rainfall.

    The serious flooding and increase of severe rainstorms we’ve experienced across the Niagara region this year alone is evidence of the serious implications of our changing climate.

    So, what can we do about it?

    Researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can adapt, and increase resiliency, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    Continue to monitor this page to read new blog posts every week. These posts are written by the MEOPAR Research Team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at lvasseur@brocku.ca

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: What is the MEOPAR – Lincoln project?

    View from the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek, looking North towards Lake Ontario.  July 2019.


    November 2018 marked the launch of the new MEOPAR-Lincoln Community Sustainability Project in the Town of Lincoln. Although the study is now approaching the one-year mark, there may still be uncertainty about what it is, and how it will help you and your community deal with the impacts of severe weather and environmental changes.

    That’s why we, the researchers involved in the project, have launched this weekly blog series to educate the public on the work we are doing and the ways they can get involved.

    The study launched in November 2018, one year after two back-to-back storms in Lincoln caused massive flooding and prompted the Town’s first-ever voluntary evacuation order for residents living along the Lake Ontario shoreline.The study is a joint venture between Brock University, The Town of Lincoln and the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Centre (MEOPAR).

    Based at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, MEOPAR is federally funded through the Network of Centres of Excellence and supports interdisciplinary research and development in Canadian universities, provides training to students, and helps mobilize the knowledge gained by research to communities and institutions across Canada.The project in Lincoln is part of a larger one that also includes multiple communities in Quebec. Steve Plante, of the Université du Québec à Rimouski, is the principal investigator in Quebec and Brock University’s Liette Vasseur is the investigator for the Ontario portion. The goal here in Niagara is to support the community of Lincoln as it defines and acts on climate and environmental changes that may affect its development in the future.

    How do we plan to do this? The first step was to create a profile of the town (which will be available online soon), and to interview residents in Lincoln as well as staff at the Town and the Niagara Region. With a better idea of where we’re starting from, the next steps will come this summer and fall, when we will be establishing working groups to examine the specific climate-related issues that people are facing. We will also discuss possible solutions and strategies to reduce the risks associated with changing climate and environmental conditions.

    The project is meant to be very participative and iterative. We hope that everyone can participate and gain a better understanding of the various aspects of climate change, ways to adapt and to be better prepared now, and in the future.Stay tuned to our weekly blog posts that will cover the goals and progress of the study, how to get involved, and broader discussion about climate change and its impacts on not just the Town of Lincoln, but the entire Niagara region.

    Continue to monitor this page to read new blog posts every Tuesday. These posts are written by the MEOPAR Research Team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

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    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair