AMHERST, N.S. — First of a two-part series on the stunning potential impact that climate change could have on the low-lying, narrow band of land connecting Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada.
John Atkinson stands atop an aging dike, with the rising tides of the Bay of Fundy before him and family farmland behind, imagining the storm that could turn Nova Scotia into a virtual island.
“The water can go over this whole flat marsh,” said the 67-year-old landowner, gesturing to the grassy lands near Amherst.
“If there were to be one perfect storm … it would be very bad.”
This is a potential ground zero of a Canadian climate change disaster, where sea-level communities face rising oceans and await word on a detailed plan and the funding to keep the narrow land link between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick open.
The risk isn’t decades away.
Rather, the event could occur at any time through a combination of stormy weather conditions, according to emergency officials and coastal geographers watching the area.
“The fact is that the right storm occurring at any spring tide at any time of year would be sufficient to put water over our dikes,” explains Jeff Ollerhead, who teaches coastal geography at Mount Allison University in nearby Sackville, N.B.
Over the past 69 years, the sea level at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy has risen about 38 centimetres, even as the dikes and coastal land continue to subside.
The trend will accelerate under most international climate change scenarios, adding a third of a metre to water heights by 2050, according to studies.
Meanwhile, the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms have tripled here over the past 25 years compared to the past century, according to a 2011 study.
Real Daigle, a meteorologist who provides estimates of sea level rise, said all it would take is a once-in-50-year storm at highest tides, with sustained winds gusting up to 80 kilometres per hour and low atmospheric pressure that adds 40 to 50 centimetres to the height of the water.
The one comfort is that the rapid pace of the Bay of Fundy tidal rise and retreat — versus areas like the Northumberland Strait, where tide rises are more gradual and sustained — would make the storm’s arrival at the high tide in the basin an unlikely event, he adds.
Saint Mary’s University geographer Danika van Proosdij’s research unit prepared maps for The Canadian Press showing risk zones that extend into Amherst itself, floods of businesses and wind turbines on the marshes, and potential damage to 20 kilometres of rail, road and electrical infrastructure.
The waters could sweep over the Trans-Canada Highway in lower lying New Brunswick, reaching a waist-deep height for motorists, said Mike Johnson, emergency measures co-ordinator for Cumberland County, Nova Scotia’s westernmost region.
He says he’s planning to knock on doors and collect cell phone numbers of about 80 buildings where rapid evacuation may need to occur.
“We’ve had two tidal surge events in the past decade that would have been sufficient to overtop the dikes. They simply occurred on a neap (lower) tide and because of that factor the water didn’t come high enough to overtop the dikes,” he said in an interview at his office.
A photo he took in the fall of 2015 shows a CN rail train travelling on a dike that is about 8.5 metres above sea level during a tidal surge. The water was just 12 centimetres from the train’s wheels.
Amherst Mayor David Kogon and John Higham, the mayor of Sackville, N.B., are pressing federal and provincial governments to quickly find solutions.
“Our job is to keep their foot to the pedal,” says Kogon, sitting before a large poster depicting a partially submerged Sackville.
“If I were in charge of it, it would be underway now. But we’re not, it’s not our money,” says Higham, who joined his New Brunswick counterpart for an interview at his city hall.
Higham’s town is also protected by a network of about 26 kilometres of dikes created to protect farmlands, but which now shelter commercial areas and homes. His flood map depicts a provincial ambulance depot as stranded on an island after the inundation comes.
If the dikes are brought to new heights and repositioned to resist the rising seas, it wouldn’t be the first time the marshlands were rescued by a combined political effort.
In the 1940s, Ottawa created a federal agency that helped fund the rehabilitation of the marshlands.
However, the responsibility shifted to provinces in the 1970s, and there have been times over the past 50 years when money has been scarce for needed upgrades, say local farmers.
Doug Bacon, a cattle farmer in Upper Nappan, says he spent years fighting for improved aboiteaux — openings in the dikes with sluice gates that allow fresh waters to drain out back to the sea.
His home is full of photos of freshwater floods that came over nearby coastal roads and the grazing marshlands over the past two decades, as aging infrastructure was unable to cope with the flow of water.
He said Canadian governments should have led a plan for the dike rehabilitation at least a decade ago.
“The provincial and federal governments seem very slow to recognize the concerns that we as residents are trying to portray to them,” he said during an interview.
The potential costs and next steps remain as murky to Bacon as the often muddy waters of the Bay of Fundy itself.
Hopes are now pinned on an engineering assessment that New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ottawa say will “explore viable options to climate change impacts on the Chignecto Isthmus trade corridor” between the two provinces.
Kevin Bekkers, land protection manager at the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, says a request for proposals to complete the $700,000 study will go out after April 1, with the goal of completion in 12 to 18 months.
“Fast is not the pace I want to go as an engineer. There’s things we need to confirm and this engineering assessment is one of those steps along the journey that has to take place,” he said in an interview.
The issues include comparisons of various climate change forecasts and what new technologies are available to increase the height of existing dikes, he said. Even the timeline for how long the solution should last remains uncertain, he said.
After options are presented, the governments must agree on the way forward and how much they will spend.
A 2016 federal study said possibilities ranged from $90 million to build up the existing dikes to $345 million to completely re-route the highways and railways. All of the options required at least five years.
Mike Pauley, the New Brunswick civil servant leading the engineering assessment, said he can’t flatly state the study of the trade corridor will result in upgrades to the dikes.
“To say the dikes will never be improved — I think over time, they will. But it may not be part of the outcome we get out of this study,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bekkers notes that maintenance is ongoing and solutions for existing dikes continue.
For example, a damaged portion of the dike near where Atkinson stood was being re-routed to tie in with higher ground and create more shallow lands in front — known as foreshore — that will absorb the pounding tides.
However, Bekkers acknowledges the risk of a tidal surge remains.
“We are working with Emergency Measures Organizations and depending on the storm that comes in, there may have to be warnings that go out,” he said.
Quite often, Atkinson walks to the shore and notices how the sea tosses up more driftwood than in the past, even as it undermines the giant slabs of rock put in place to protect the dikes.
To him, these are nature’s signals that the day of reckoning is drawing a little closer.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed no storm comes. What else can you do?”
NEXT: When the dike breaks.
— Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Is the Meat Industry Equipped to Handle a Pandemic?
Is the Meat Industry Equipped to Handle a Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted industries across the world. One of the main sectors that’s concerning experts is the meat and agriculture industry. This concern intensifies in Western Canada since much of the land there is farmland. The imbalance of supply and demand is affecting present-day agricultural production. However, farmers and industry leaders are focused on what is still to come in the future.
From labour shortages to potential outbreaks during production, the future of the meat industry is unclear. The outcome will depend on several factors: government aid, the spread of the virus and COVID-19’s behaviour — which is often unpredictable. Ultimately, the present handling of the meat industry may impact its future and relationship with consumers.
The Government of Canada recently decided to assist farms across the country with federal funding. These farms rely on the production and exportation of meats like beef, pork and chicken to reach supply and demand needs. However, as the virus continues spreading, farmworkers need to maintain physical distance and increase sanitation practices. The government’s funding will compensate workers during this time.
For Canada, part of the stress on the industry comes from the exportation needs. While farmers need to meet country-wide demands, Canada is also an international exporter, especially for the United States.
While the industry is currently suffering from labour shortages, production remains relatively stable. Farmers are adapting to meet new supply and demand requirements. For instance, since restaurants are closing, demands for certain foods, like cheese, will decrease. As workers fall ill and farms need to enforce social distancing, though, production is slowing down.
The funding from Canada’s federal government is supposed to help workers, especially those who are newly arriving. Migrants from Mexico and the Caribbean make up a large portion of Canada’s agricultural workforce. However, whether this funding will be enough is yet to come to light. Additionally, ensuring the even distribution of that money to migrant workers is another issue.
The Industry’s Future
Many experts are focusing on the road ahead. While the current path is fluctuating, the future may hold a more dangerous outcome for the industry. If the virus continues spreading at its current rate, farms may see more issues than ever before.
One of the main factors is the labour shortage. Currently, Canada’s farming labour force is lacking. Production is slow, and workers don’t have the resources and help they need to meet demands. In the future, this could worsen as fewer employees are available. For instance, the poultry sector faces significant demands every day. Part of the process of raising chickens includes weeks of tending to them. If there aren’t enough people to do this job, consumers will see the availability of chicken drop.
The issue of perishables will also present itself. As meat processing must be quick, slower production means more goods will go to waste. Meeting supply and demand requires healthy workers to keep the chain going.
The other major factor that will affect the industry is the spread of the virus. That depends on how the Canadian government handles COVID-19 and how efficiently people practice social distancing. Federal funding will aid production, but if the virus remains present, it will continue spreading. If it reaches processing plants, contamination will become a more serious issue than it already is.
To increase resources and support for farmers and migrant workers, the government will need to provide more emergency funding. This step allows the agriculture industry to invest in more tools, sanitation products, financial support and benefits for all workers. Monitoring the spread of the virus is also crucial. If the government can properly track and isolate cases, COVID-19 will dwindle in its effects. Then, meat industry workers will not have to worry about contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
This will help you understand “Why We Fear The Food We Eat”
Why We Fear The Food We Eat
Welcome to The Food Fear Series. Our intention with this series is that you will fear less, and enjoy more, the food you eat.
This first video tackles the way our brains sift through the dizzying array of messages we see in food marketing. Our brains have built-in shortcuts that help us navigate a complex world, but sometimes these mental shortcuts can cause problems too. Welcome to the world of heuristics and cognitive bias.
Welcome to The Food Fear Series. Our intention with this series is that you will fear less, and enjoy more, the food you eat. This first video tackles the way our brains sift through the dizzying array of messages we see in food marketing. Our brains have built-in shortcuts that help us navigate a complex world, but sometimes these mental shortcuts can cause problems too. Welcome to the world of heuristics and cognitive bias.The Food Fear Series is a collaboration between Know Ideas Media and Futurity Food, and is based on the work of Jack Bobo. Jack is an internationally recognized food futurist and speaker. He was named by Scientific American as one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology. Jack does an excellent job of presenting complicated information in a way we can all understand, and the team at Know Ideas Media couldn't be happier to collaborating with Jack and Futurity Food. This video is based on the article Why We Fear The Food We Eat (Or, Why You Shouldn't Trust Your Brain), which is available here: https://futurityfood.com/2020/03/10/why-we-fear-the-food-we-eat/Also checkout Jack's website: https://futurityfood.com/Know Ideas Media is on Facebook and Twitter too! @Know Ideas Media
Posted by KNOW IDEAS MEDIA on Friday, April 17, 2020
The Food Fear Series is a collaboration between Know Ideas Media and Futurity Food, and is based on the work of Jack Bobo. Jack is an internationally recognized food futurist and speaker. He was named by Scientific American as one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology. Jack does an excellent job of presenting complicated information in a way we can all understand, and the team at Know Ideas Media couldn’t be happier to collaborating with Jack and Futurity Food.
This video is based on the article Why We Fear The Food We Eat (Or, Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Brain), which is available here: https://futurityfood.com/…/…/10/why-we-fear-the-food-we-eat/
Also checkout Jack’s website: https://futurityfood.com/
Know Ideas Media is on Facebook and Twitter too!
@Know Ideas Media
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