Just as Sackville and several New Brunswick communities were cleaning up a day after their homes and businesses were flooded, master of science candidate Emily Phillips fittingly used the flooding event as a backdrop to defend her master of science thesis on "Navigating Sustainability in the Wake of Climate Change: Transforming knowledge to Action in Sackville, New Brunswick."
Images of rising water levels across parts of flood-ravaged New Brunswick were still fresh in people's minds and being played across the media as Phillips spoke on her research. The flooding events that unfolded here hit close to home, especially since Sackville's homes, roads and business are protected by dykes that hold back water in the Bay of Fundy, a body of water that experiences the highest tides in the world.
Rising sea levels brought on by climate change are an imminent threat in the community. Over the past 25 years, the frequency of storm surges on the Bay of Fundy has tripled and the height of sea level has risen. As climate change progresses, its effects are projected to contribute to the further rising of sea levels and frequency of intense storms placing the community further at risk of an intense flooding event.
Phillips, who is a recent graduate of Mount Allison University from the department of geography and environment in Sackville has been active in different roles within the community. Upon graduation, she was hired to work as the RCE’s (Regional Centre of Expertise) main coordinator while she completed her Master’s in Environmental Science at Mount Allison. She also took on an administrative role within the Sustainable Sackville Steering Committee. The committee's primary role is to enact the Sackville Sustainability Plan.
Focusing on sustainability science and regional adaptation to climate change in her Master's research she was able to examine how the Sackville community is dealing with climate change on the interface between human, social, and global environmental systems, and how holistic research across these areas is necessary. She used the emerging discipline of sustainability science as here framework and applied it to a real world community dealing with climate change. Over the course of her research she conducted interviews and lead science cafes to understand the views of community leaders and the broader citizen viewpoints. She was able to identify Sackville's strengths, weaknesses threats and opportunities associated with climate change.
Phillips research found that the community is inherently capable to confront and avoid the increasing flood risk. She also found that while citizens clearly understand local climate change impacts but they were less likely to discuss individual and social contributions to global environmental change, indicating a lack of balance amongst sustainability interrelationships.
Because sustainability is never static and always evolving as Phillips pointed out in the defense of her thesis, individual and municipal mitigation adaptation strategies are necessary, as are higher levels of stakeholder education, networking and collaboration in order to navigate sustainability in the wake of climate change. Her supervisor, Ian Mauro, also pointed out that while the focus on climate change is almost always on adaptation, mitigation also must me emphasized. We cannot just simply protect ourselves without addressing the issues that are causing climate change here and elsewhere.