Advancing Climate Well-being in the Memramcook-Tantramar Region

In 2019, EOS Eco-Energy embarked on a project to both understand and provide residents of the Memramcook-Tantramar area of New Brunswick with tools to cope with climate-related stress. In recent years, the area has experienced various storms, floods, power outages, etc. reinforcing worries in local residents. In order to better understand these stresses, the project team conducted a literature review on the topic. EOS also partnered with a student from Mount Allison University to survey residents on their feelings towards climate change. With the support of the Government of New Brunswick and Service Canada, EOS then created a number of materials and events to address climate-related stress. Among these were coping guides tailored to particular age groups, and an array of events and youth programming to build skills and tools to enable climate action.

The events which were particularly focused on climate related stress were held between October of 2018 and March of 2019 garnered positive review from participants. The events aided EOS to further improve their understanding of local stress related to climate change through the administration of evaluation forms at the conclusion of each event. These forms along with other community feedback indicates that there is an appetite for additional events and resources on the topic.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The project team had begun their work with an acknowledgement that the Memramcook-Tantramar community has experienced a number of climate change driven events such as storms, floods, and power outages. Given this history, residents expressed a variety of climate stress. With this base of understanding, EOS set out to better understand climate stress and anxiety broadly, before conducting an investigation into its effects on residents in Memramcook-Tantramar. In order to gain a more robust understanding of climate-related stress and anxiety, EOS reviewed a variety of literature including documents created by reputable environmental non-profit organizations and academic journals focused in the area of psychology. EOS, in partnership with a student from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, then conducted a public survey on climate stress and anxiety locally. Though the sample size (97) was not large enough to be representative of the whole of the Sackville area (in which Memramcook-Tantramar is located), respondents represented a variety of age groups and neighbourhoods. A majority expressed worry and concern related to climate change, with many experiencing associated negative emotions such as frustration, anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.

EOS faced two major challenges related to their above efforts to come to a deeper understanding of climate-related stress, both of which are attributed to funding constraints. Firstly, while the project team intended on undertaking and publishing a comprehensive literature review, an abridged version was undertaken, as described above. Further, initial attempts were made to engage with staff at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) to conduct an in-depth survey of area residents on the impacts of climate change on their mental health, however, limited funding from UNB meant this level of information gathering was not possible.

Identifying Actions

The identification of actions was guided by the overarching goals of the project which included:

  1. Increase public awareness of climate change issues and solutions
  2. Learn more about climate change and mental health in Tantramar
  3. Create NB-focused guides to dealing with climate stress
  4. Reduce emissions while increasing adaptation & community resiliency
  5. Increase climate change collaboration at the regional level

With these goals in mind, the project team produced various materials as well as hosted or presented at a number of climate change related events throughout the community. An aspect of the project with a particular focus on climate wellbeing was the production of two distinct guides on coping with climate stress, one of which was geared towards teen aged users and focused on providing personal coping strategies and presenting actions that may be taken to address climate change. The second, intended for adult users, provided advice for a wide range of audiences including communities, environmental groups, individuals and families, and teachers.

The project also included four local events covering various aspects of climate change action and preparedness. Each event was created to enable participants to better address the effects of climate change by building practical knowledge and sharing various tools, techniques, and strategies. For instance, the first event called Mi’kmaq Medicinal Plants and Wild Edibles served a dual function of connecting people with nature (a key strategy to cope with climate stress) while also providing knowledge as to the medicinal and nutritional properties of a variety of local plants. A full list of events can be found below:

  • Mi’kmaq Medicinal Plants and Wild Edibles
  • Ham Radio Operation Workshop
  • Draft-proofing Workshop
  • Ways to Cope with Climate Stress

Implementation

The project produced a variety of content including guides for coping with climate stress (see the section Identifying Actions for more), various youth programs, as well as four events to increase resilience to climate change and better enable coping to associated stresses. While EOS originally intended to host eight events, budget constraints meant that four were possible. These events took place from October 13th, 2018 to March 12th, 2019.

Each of the four one-day events was enabled and strengthened through various partnerships including with community members, media, and local experts. For instance, in October of 2018 EOS hosted an introduction to Ham (amateur) radio. The event was meant to familiarize residents with a technology which can be used to communicate during climate emergencies, when other technology may not be available. During the lead up to the workshop, it was promoted by the CBC through interview with EOS and members of the WestCumb Amateur Radio Club. The workshop itself included a tutorial by members of the Club as well as a presentation by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) meteorologist Bob Robichaud. More than 40 people participated in the workshop which took place, October 22nd, 2018, at the Sackville Legion. People came from across the region including a group of 12 Scouts and their Scout leaders.

For a detailed summary of each of the four events as well as other actions taken, please see the full case study, linked in the Resources section of this page.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

At each workshop, participants were invited to complete an event evaluation form. In addition to asking if they learned something new, how likely they were to engage in the topic area after attending the workshop, and what they planned to do with the information learned, we also asked if they felt more or less at ease about climate change as a result of participating in the workshop. While ratings varied from workshop to workshop, each was generally well received by the community and appetite for additional workshops were expressed.

In terms of the events’ effects on levels of climate related stress, evaluation forms from the Mi’kmaq Medicinal Plants and Wild Edibles; and Ham Radio events provided the clearest insight. Many respondents from the former noted that their climate change related stress remained however, a new appreciation of nature’s resilience was gained. For instance, one attendee noted “I am still worried about climate stress, but it seems Mother Nature is in decent shape here”. Some evaluation respondents at the Ham Radio event felt more at ease after learning more about the technology and its uses to support weather monitoring and emergency procedures. Others found comfort in learning how extensive a volunteer network supported Ham radio-based weather monitoring. Others noted that their stress remained unchanged.

Next Steps

In concluding the report, the project team lays out a multitude of next steps related to both climate change adaptation and mitigation in the community. Many concrete next steps most directly related to coping with climate related stress came after the completion of the fourth and final event (How to Cope with Climate Stress) in EOS’ event series on the topic. These next steps include two additional workshops on climate stress which provide targeted support and tools for particular populations. Themes suggested for future workshops were:

  • Parenting through climate change
  • Climate change anxiety for Mount Allison University Students
  • Climate change anxiety for environmental professionals

Furthermore, an online Facebook Group will be started to keep connected with participants and provide resources for more climate conversations. EOS is also seeking additional funding for ongoing support-group meetings citing a need amongst the community to help residents cope with the stress, grief, trauma, and anxiety of living in human caused climate change.

Resources