Climate change adaptation has become a major topic of discussion across the country and around the world. For some municipalities, it's been in process for years. But what is it?
Climate change adaptation is the action we take to respond and adapt to a changing climate. For example, building flood defences or landscaping with drought tolerant plants. Adaptation is different from climate change mitigation, which is the action we take to slow or stop climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Much of the attention for municipal climate change adaptation has focused on cities. These large urban centres are making great strides in paving the way. But adaptation in small and rural communities will look very different. The issues faced by these communities are often very different, and in some cases, a department consists of one person. It's critical we start to examine the elements of small town adaptation, and more importantly, overall resilience.
Approximately 38% of Albertans live outside of the province's largest urban centres. They are our rural and small town residents, and they have contributed greatly to the history and culture of Canada. Many stand to be severely impacted by changes in climate, as their livelihoods and lifestyles are tied closely to the land. Resilient Rurals wants to ask on their behalf, “As small communities, how resilient are we to things like changes in climate, infrastructure deficits, economic downturns and changes in demographics?” “What makes us resilient?” “What makes us vulnerable?” And, "What can be done?"
A HOLISTIC VIEW
Often when we approach climate change adaptation, we talk about climate. We talk about projections and we make action plans to address what we're expecting in terms of precipitation and temperature----all with the very best intentions and efforts to ensure our municipalities are resilient when they need to be.
But what about the other aspects of our communities that will impact our capacity to adapt and be resilient? Our human and financial resources? Our communication materials and relationship with the public? Our access to contracted services and funding? Resilient Rurals wants to look closer. We want to understand our communities' capacity to adapt to climate change and any other challenge on a more holistic level.
Communities are like an ecosystem. Each part is a critical function of the whole. With a clear understanding of the health of each component, our resources and assets, we can take a more balanced, holistic approach to addressing challenges with innovation and preparedness.
CELEBRATING OUR NATURE
Diversity is the essence of success. Alberta's and Canada's history, culture and economy are made richer through diversity and we believe our differences must be celebrated.
Our cities are a hub of activity, of modernization and energetic ventures. They are often a source of learning and generous assistance to smaller communities. And in return, small towns and rural areas contribute to the health of larger urban centres by providing a talented workforce, land area to support industry and agriculture, a refreshing perspective for lifestyle, a place for recreation, and a source of local goods, produce, crops, and more.
While our small communities face unique challenges in providing programs and services with resources that vary greatly from larger urbans, they offer a very important quality of life that can’t be found in larger urban centres. A strong sense of community. They provide people with a place they can get to know each other, connect and belong.
Significant strength comes from the hard-working people of rural communities. Resilient Rurals is excited to celebrate the nature of our communities, and to create a small town lens from which to view resilience.