Creating climate-resilient communities in Muskoka
By Carley Rennie.
Our world is changing in many ways and the old ways of doing things are no longer sufficient. Such times, although challenging, can bring new opportunities for businesses, municipalities, communities and individuals willing to embrace them. MSE 2021 — the Muskoka Summit on the Environment will explore innovative solutions to build resilience and rise to the challenges of a changing climate.
There is no denying that our climate is changing. The composition of our atmosphere has changed due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases emitted via various human activities. Consequently, more heat is trapped, and the earth’s temperature is rising. The effects of climate change are experienced differently across the globe, from raging wildfires, heat emergencies, ocean acidification, dying coral reefs, melting permafrost, flooding, and much more. No matter the size or situation of a community there are bound to be impacts, some of which are already being experienced. Thus, it is important that these changes be acknowledged and addressed when planning for the future in order to have a habitable, healthy earth. This is not one problem requiring one solution, but a range of problems that requires a range of solutions developed through a holistic approach involving diverse stakeholders all working toward resiliency.
So, what does climate resiliency mean? Climate resiliency is the ability to plan, respond, and recover from the impacts of climate change. This can look different depending on the nature of an area. For example, a low-lying coastal region should strive to be resilient to rising sea levels. Identifying the climate-related risks of an area are important to determine the best ways to mitigate and rebound from the effects of climate change. Building resiliency into a city can be streamed through various avenues, including natural systems, built infrastructure, transportation, technology, and agriculture. Doing this should lead to sustainable decision-making that strategically guides policy and investment.
There are many emerging innovative solutions to creating climate resiliency for both rural and urban communities. Looking specifically within the scope of Muskoka, there are plenty of concepts, models, and strategies that can be applied across our landscape. For Muskoka, a region situated on the Canadian Shield with a high variance of seasonal populations and expansive lakes and forests, we must consider all these characteristics when implementing climate-resilient solutions. An Integrated Water Management (IMW) white paper has been created by the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC). This document recommends an approach that includes all aspects of the watershed respecting socio-economic and ecosystem health as well as supporting collaborative solutions specific to Muskoka. Download your copy at https://www.muskokawatershed.org/wp-content/uploads/IWMP-WhitePaper-Jan2020.pdf. Climate-resilient communities are not only healthier for the environment and human beings, but more economical as well.
Understanding how we can add resiliency to Muskoka through our forests, adapting our infrastructure and landscape, our behaviours, and economy are all topics of discussion at the 2021 Muskoka Summit on the Environment. Bringing these perspectives and this information to Muskoka will help mobilize stakeholders to shift toward a resilient future. Now is the time to be proactive rather than reactive to protect the quality of our air, water, land, people, and economy.
While implementing change can seem intimidating, not taking action is a much scarier prospect. Luckily a societal shift in thinking and acting has started; there are certainly people, organizations, and jurisdictions that we can look to for inspiration and guidance in these times. We look forward to discussing the urgency to change and how resiliency is possible in communities such as Muskoka at the upcoming 2021 Muskoka Summit on the Environment: Creating Climate-Resilient Communities. For more information on the summit, see www.muskokasummit.org.
Carley Rennie is a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council and served as a watershed health intern