Posts

At Kanaka Bar, preparing for climate change is seen as an important milestone towards the achievement of community’s vision of self-sufficiency.  It is being incorporated in everything that is being done by the community on a day to day basis.  The Traditional Territory of Kanaka Bar is located 14 kilometers south of Lytton, B.C., in the Fraser Canyon. Water plays a critical role in the health of the community. Kanaka Bar has five watersheds: Kwoiek Creek, Morneylun Creek, Nekliptum Creek, Siwash Creek and Four Barrel Creek, all of which support traditional food sources, wildlife and agricultural activities, provide drinking water to the community and hydroelectric power to BC Hydro’s grid.

Over the recent years, many changes have been observed throughout the Traditional Territory. Community members have noticed that wildlife is moving away from the community and travelling further up-mountain, salmon numbers are decreasing and are swimming deeper in the Fraser River in search of cooler temperatures and vegetation growth is changing. As well, consistent rainfall has been replaced by long periods of dry weather and unpredictable storms. These local observations are consistent with scientific predictions of how climate change is likely to affect the region. Although drought has not yet affected the community’s water resources, there is substantial concern that they may be threatened as climate change impacts intensify.

In response to these concerning changes within their Territory, Kanaka Bar has undertaken a Community Vulnerability Assessment to better understand how their environment may continue to change, and how these changes may impact key community values and areas of concern.

Understanding Kanaka Bar’s concerns and priorities was the first step in the Vulnerability Assessment process. Together with environmental professionals from Urban Systems, community members gathered at engagement events to ask questions, and express their concerns about climate change and how it would impact community life and well-being.

After priorities were identified, current and future effects of climate change on these areas were studied. Some anticipated changes that emerged from this research were warmer temperatures year-round; less precipitation in the summer but more in the fall, winter, and spring; less snow; more frequent and intense storms events; changes in water resources; continued stress on the salmon population; changes in the availability of traditional foods; and increased risk of forest fire.

Understanding the ways in which Kanaka Bar was vulnerable to climate change has allowed the community to take meaningful steps towards reducing their risks and becoming more resilient by developing an adaptation strategy. Kanaka Bar’s Adaptation Strategy supports their goal of self-sufficiency while increasing their resilience. It maps out short and long term adaptation actions in six priority areas: Water Resources, Forest Fires, Traditional Foods, Access Roads, Supporting Self-Sufficiency and Youth and Community Engagement and Education. These actions range from installing weather monitoring stations in the community, to expanding food production initiatives, to hosting annual workshops on climate change. Together they represent a “Made at Kanaka, by Kanaka for Kanaka” adaption plan that will benefit the community in a holistic way that goes far beyond coping with climate change.

To learn more about Kanaka Bar and the great strides they’re making towards climate resilience and self-sufficiency, visit their website.

Figure 1Kanaka Youth at Morneylun Water Gauging Station

 

Author: Kanaka Bar

Globally, we have been discussing the effects of a changing climate for quite some time.  However, it has been only recently that these discussions have widely acknowledged the urgency of this change- an urgency that acutely reflects the experiences of many First Nations communities.  This acknowledgement is represented by the very words we use to talk about our planet’s climatic situation.

Following the Paris Agreement discussions of 2015, many have adopted the term “climate crisis”, when referring to the extreme shifts in our global climate.  Terms previously used for these shifts included “climate change” and “global warming”.  This progression in terminology reflects our evolving understanding of the environmental situation our planet has ben put in.  Interestingly, it also shows a transformation in our understanding of how people respond to the situation, depending on the labels we use to talk about it.

Through to the mid-2000s, “global warming” was the term widely used when referring to our changing climate.  Slowly though, many began to realize that the term “global warming” not only falsely represented the true complexity of the issue we were creating, but that a slightly warmer planet even sounded appealing to some.  And so came our use of the term “climate change”.

While “climate change” succeeded in acknowledging the complexity of this phenomenon, and is still the most accepted term used today, it has proven unable to captivate the majority of people into taking meaningful climate action.  It dampens the message of urgency that the world needs to hear, leading to the acceptance of these changes as a fact, rather than a fault.  Instead, we need words that instil meaningful action.  We need words that convey urgency.

For the first time, we have a label that now directly reflects the realities faced by many communities around the world, as the planet struggles to keep up with the lifestyles of many humans.  The “climate crisis”.  First Nations communities in Canada are among the many able to articulate this crisis experience.

In the past few years alone, the increase in extreme weather events, including forest fires, flooding, and higher annual temperatures have been notable.  Habitats and wildlife are being lost.  Lifestyles are being threatened.  First Nations communities are often the first to feel these changes, through effects including the loss of traditional means of gathering food, reduced access to winter roads, and the destruction of traditional revenue sources.

This coming week, leaders from various First Nations communities will be gathering in Ottawa for the 2019 Indigenous Climate Adaptation Gathering.  They will be discussing their current and future experiences with the climate crisis, some of which will be shared across communities, others of which will be unique.

Just as the statistical reports of scientists have shown us around the world, the lived experiences of First Nations communities prove that we can no longer passively hope that our planet will be okay.  Instead, we must act on creating meaningful change, and we must encourage the development of realistic adaptation plans for the communities most vulnerable to these changes.

 

(Author Credit: Charlotte Corelli)